Paul Clemens Continues Making Strides For Braves

ATLANTA—Much was made over the Double-A Mississippi rotation at the start of the 2011 season. Little, however, was said about righthander Paul Clemens, who has made as much progress as any pitcher in the Atlanta organization over the past two slates.

As the campaign neared the midway point, Clemens, a seventh-round pick from 2008, ranked third in the Southern League with 67 strikeouts, fourth with 752⁄3 innings pitched, and fifth with a 3.33 ERA.

"I think it's maturity and better command of three pitches that allows me to set up hitters," Clemens, 23, said of his success. "I can really pitch and execute what I have now. When I first signed, I was only a thrower."

Inconsistency highlighted Clemens' career at Louisburg (N.C.) JC, but Braves scout Billy Best was enamored with the righthander's mid-90s fastball with plus movement. Clemens admits his curveball and changeup were all but nonexistent upon reporting to the Braves after signing, pitches he threw simply to give hitters something else to think about.

In 2009, his first full season, Clemens went 6-5, 5.91 while splitting his time between starting and relieving at low Class A Rome. In addition to improving the quality of his secondary pitches, he says he thought more about his mechanics than retiring batters. Finally in 2010, when he twirled in both the South Atlantic and high Class A Carolina leagues while working out of the rotation and bullpen, Clemens was able to gather all of the knowledge and put it to use.

The final step has come in 2011. For the first time as a pro, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Clemens feels comfortable with his role and is entrenched in the rotation. He believes his personality is better suited as a starter, especially now that he has learned to pitch on more of an even keel after giving in to his emotions earlier in his career.

"I want to be a horse that the organization can count on from start to finish," Clemens said. "Now if I can continue to make adjustments and maintain my command, I feel I can be a guy the organization trusts and can help them when I'm needed."

Wigwam Wisps

• Rome righthander Caleb Brewer and first baseman Jakob Dalfonso were selected to the South Atlantic League all-star game. Dalfonso, an 18th-round pick in 2009 out of Middle Georgia JC, has been a pleasant surprise. He led the R-Braves with nine homers while ranking among the team leaders with a .293 average.

• Lynchburg was the only Carolina League team to have two position players—third baseman Joey Terdoslavich and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, both 2010 picks,—named starters for the loop's annual all-star game against the California League.