ST. LOUIS -- A day after watching Seth Maness allow a pair of runs in the 12th inning of a 5-3 loss to the Brewers, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny reiterated his confidence in the 25-year-old reliever while also acknowledging that the club needs to help him find his form.
Maness, who was scored upon in just six of his first 27 appearances in his rookie season, has allowed a run in five of his first nine outings this year. He has fought command and, most glaringly, is not getting his usual heavy dose of ground balls. Maness induced 16 double plays last year (most among National League relievers) and had a ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio of 5.50. This year, it has dropped to 1.90.
"What we're dealing with is a guy who [is struggling] -- [something] every single one of them is going to go through at some point or another if they're around for very long -- and trying to get it back," Matheny said. "It's not gone. It's just not available right now. He's just got to get it there."
The Cardinals have altered Maness' role this season, though it's tough to see a correlation between that and his command issues. Last season, he became Matheny's go-to pitcher to get the team out of a jam. This year, Maness is mostly coming in to start an inning.
Matheny confirmed that Maness is not dealing with any physical ailment, and that the Cardinals have not found any glaring issues with his mechanics.
"We're talking about a guy who has always relied on pinpoint control," Matheny said. "And that pinpoint control is rare, even at this level. I think a lot of it comes down to him trusting himself that he can make those tough pitches and be able to inch the ball off the plate or inch it down in the zone. Down is going to be the key for him. He's made a lot of mistakes up, as you've seen with these fly balls."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.