The delivery that was once "flailing," in Trevor May's words, is now smooth and precise.
The 2008 Kelso graduate continues to strike out tons of batters, but is walking fewer and fewer.
More and more of those strikeouts are hitters caught looking at knee-high, corner-painting fastballs, as opposed to chasing heat up in the zone.
The change-up pitch May built from scratch is no longer a project, but a weapon of choice on two-strike counts.
All of that progress has not gone unnoticed.
The Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday named May the best pitcher in their minor league system for 2011. May, a right-handed starting pitcher for Single-A Clearwater, and shortstop Freddy Galvis of Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, were named the winners of the Paul Owens Award. The Paul Owens Award was instituted in 1986 in honor of the late Paul Owens, a scout, farm director, general manager, manager and senior advisor in the Phillies' organization for 48 years.
It is given to the best pitcher and best player in the Phillies' minor league system
"It's a very big honor, especially in the Phillies' organization," said May, who is living in Seattle during the offseason. "Paul Owens is a very highly thought of figure in Phillies history. I feel like our organization is full of very good talent on the mound. To receive an award named after (Owens) that is given to who the organization feels had the best season, that's a huge accomplishment.
"I'll move forward with the confidence that the organization sees me going up quickly," he added. "Hopefully, I'll be pitching at Citizens Bank soon."
"Trevor's strikeout totals in the Florida State League were very indicative of his progression in our minor league system," Philadelphia Assistant General Manager Benny Looper wrote in a press release. "(Galvis and May) have very bright futures."
May struck out 208 batters in 151 1/3 innings this season, third-most in all of minor league baseball. He was 10-8 with a 3.63 ERA, held opposing batters to a .221 average and was the first Phillies minor leaguer with at least 180 strikeouts in a single season since 1985.
May posted seven double-digit strikeout games, tying his career high with 14 strikeouts on June 22 against the Tampa Yankees. He was twice named FSL Pitcher of the Week and earned Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month honors in June.
Even though May slashed his walks-per-nine-innings ratio dramatically, he's still dissatisfied with his strike-zone command. In 2010, May walked 61 batters in 70 innings - "An astronomical, awful number," he said.
He issued just 67 free passes in 150 innings this year.
"It's almost comical to me. I cut (walks) in half, and they are still too high for own taste," May said. "I'm getting there, and I'm getting there quickly. I made huge strides this year. With the exception of my last couple starts, I had a very consistent and solid season."
May's velocity has never been an issue. By constantly refining his mechanics, he continues to harness it.
"Every year, I seem to smooth out more of the movement," said May. "In high school, I was flailing around, leg kicks, moving my head. It made repeating what I did on a daily basis not easy, and now that I throw so many pitches, it made fatigue an issue.
"I've quieted the leg kick. It's very short now," he added. "I don't move my hands as much. I've gotten the ball down. So many more strikeouts are looking, with fastballs that are down, spotted. I've got guys frozen with pitches on the lower outside corner who are used to seeing belt-high fastballs."
May's change-up has supplanted his curveball as an out pitch, going from "being a pitch under construction to just as good as a curveball."
"I would even say that it was my go-to, more than my curveball," May added.
May was drafted on June 5, 2008 by Philadelphia in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball Draft, 136th overall.