FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Righthander Tom Koehler found it difficult to keep his head clear in 2011. He had turned in a strong campaign at Double-A Jacksonville the year before and had graduated to Triple-A New Orleans.
A big league callup could come at any moment.
Koehler's first season for the Zephyrs reflected that, and the call never came. So when he repeated the Pacific Coast League this season, he looked ahead no further than his next start. The numbers reflected that.
Koehler lowered his walk rate from 4.7 to 3.6 batters per nine innings, while enhancing his strikeout rate from 6.9 to 8.2 per nine. The Marlins rewarded him with a September callup, albeit for sporadic work out of the bullpen.
"This year I was really focused on just controlling what I could control," said Koehler, 26. "Last year I felt like I had to live up to a lot of expectations with the year I had in Double-A. Instead of welcoming that challenge, I think I kind of let it get to me when things went bad."
An 18th-round pick in 2008 out of Stony Brook, Koehler went 16-2, 2.61 at Double-A in 2010, striking out 145 and walking 46 in 159 innings. In 2012 he regained the aggressiveness he lost a year earlier.
"I worked on some mechanical stuff, but real little things," Koehler said. "It's not like I can say I changed my grip on this pitch or I put my hands somewhere different."
He said the key to his turnaround was working ahead of batters so that with two strikes he could throw his curveball out of the zone as a chase pitch.
Koehler has given the Marlins something to think about for 2013: Do they keep him in the rotation or give him a shot to make the club as a reliever? He struck out 13 in his first eight relief outings for Miami.
"Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do," Koehler said. "I'm not a 22- or 23-year-old prospect anymore.
"You get your feet wet, and it's great to be here," Koehler said. "Now you want to put yourself in a position to stay here."
• The Marlins switched short-season New York-Penn League affiliates from Jamestown to Batavia. Jamestown had been a Miami affiliate since 2002.
• Righthander Jacob Esch represented Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic qualifier. The 2011 11th-round pick split He split the 2012 season between Jamestown and low Class A Greensboro.