As struggles continue, Maness searches for solution

Cards reliever seeks advice from Wainwright on rough night for 'pen

As struggles continue, Maness searches for solution

PHOENIX -- As the Chase Field visiting clubhouse slowly emptied following Monday's 12-7 loss to the D-backs, Cardinals reliever Seth Maness remained in front of a computer and next to Adam Wainwright, whom he had specifically sought out for advice after another tumultuous appearance.

The bad habits that Maness masked with his athleticism over the past two seasons have been exposed this year, and after groping for command in a sixth inning that unraveled for the Cardinals' bullpen, Maness went back to the drawing board. For him, that meant digging into the archives for video from his 2013 rookie season.

When the 30-minute session ended, Wainwright boldly noted: "We got him figured out."

"I know something has been off for a while," Maness later acknowledged. "You think it's normal and you take your mechanics for granted and get into a rut and repeat those. I feel like I have been able to get away with a little bit because I'm athletic. I can correct it a little bit spot on. But over the course, it's taken a toll. And it's showing."

Mechanically, Maness identified several discrepancies between now and then. On film, he sees how his mechanics have loosened, how his body is flying open and how that's causing his arm to drag. Instead of featuring the late action that so often helped Maness induce ground balls, his pitches are flat and catching too much of the plate.

He allowed another four hits in 1 2/3 innings Monday, including a pair of doubles. That's eight extra-base hits allowed by Maness, a figure that averages to one for every five batters he has faced. In '15, he averaged an extra-base hit allowed every 13 batters. In '14, it was every 16.

A pitcher who carved a niche with his ability to extinguish others' messes is now complicating his own innings. In only one of his eight appearances this month has Maness not allowed a baserunner.

"That's how I know something has been off, because usually I can pinpoint when I'm throwing," Maness said. "The misses have become a lot bigger, and I'm giving up more hits and a lot more solid contact."

A drop in velocity is muddying things further for Maness, who is averaging 2 to 3 mph less on his four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball and slider this season. That's grabbed the organization's attention, especially given that Maness is coming off a career-high 76 appearances in '15.

But he insists he's healthy, and medical tests have corroborated as much.

"He's measuring out strength-wise, and we don't see any red flags health-wise," manager Mike Matheny said. "Just right now it's where he's putting it more than anything else."

The Cardinals have looked for opportunities to use Maness in lower leverage spots as he works out some kinks, though the club didn't have that luxury Monday. With Jonathan Broxton and Seung Hwan Oh unavailable due to recent usage, Matheny summoned Matt Bowman after starter Jaime Garcia allowed the first two runners to reach in the sixth with St. Louis holding a 5-2 lead.

Bowman retired one of three batters faced. Kevin Siegrist, the team's most rested reliever but also one still recovering from the flu, didn't retire any of his three hitters. And by the time Maness closed the inning, Arizona had scored nine runs off the four pitchers, who altogether threw 57 pitches in the frame.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.