Maloney targets Reds' rotation spot

Maloney sets focus on rotation spot

CINCINNATI -- Reds left-handed starter Matt Maloney liked pitching in Louisville so much that he decided to make his full-time home in the Kentucky city.

While living in Louisville has been blissful, Maloney hopes his days of pitching there for the Reds' Triple-A team are behind him -- permanently.

"I don't want to play there again. But if you're going to play in Triple-A, that's the place to be," Maloney said before the 2009 season ended.

The 26-year-old Maloney has his offseason goal firmly fixed on opening the 2010 season in the fifth spot in the Reds' rotation.

In seven starts this year over the first two stints of his big league career, the 26-year-old Maloney was 2-4 with a 4.87 ERA. The results were mixed but Maloney had his best outings in the final stretch of the season.

Over his past three starts, Maloney was 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA. He pitched a career-high seven innings for a 10-4 win in his final outing against the Astros on Sept. 25. The success came despite being bothered much of September by a blister on his left middle finger.

"It's huge. I got up here and put together some good starts," Maloney said. "I had some rough ones too. It's been a learning experience. I've been fortunate to have thrown to a couple of different guys. I've had a bunch of my former teammates in Louisville playing behind me and it's been a really good experience. I've learned a lot about figuring out different pitches. Hopefully I can carry that over into next year and earn that fifth spot in the rotation."

The biggest change for Maloney in between his big league callups were two newly developed pitches. At the urging of former Reds pitching coach Dick Pole, Maloney added a sinker and a cut fastball to his mix.

"I had been working the last couple of years trying to figure out a way to make the ball sink," Maloney said. "I just couldn't figure it out for the life of me. I just started moving the ball around one day. I think that's something that can definitely change my career for the better.

"I've put up good numbers my whole career. I just wanted to get ground balls. I had heard about Cincinnati's park. Up until this year, I hadn't seen it firsthand. The ball definitely carries more there and you have to find a way to get them to hit the ball on the ground. It's helped me out in situations with guys on base, getting that ground ball when I really need it. It's been the biggest thing for me by eliminating the big inning."

Maloney has a big offseason ahead of him on the personal side. This month, the Sandusky, Ohio, native is marrying his high school sweetheart, Kaylee, and the two are buying their home in Louisville.

By Dec. 1, the winter throwing program will commence and Maloney already has his workout site figured out. He will be at the University of Louisville and will work with head coach Dan McDonnell, who was his assistant coach in college ball at the University of Mississippi.

While the Reds have four spots on their rotation seemingly locked up, the fifth slot appears wide open. Maloney could have the inside track heading into spring.

"Now that I've had a good taste of it, I know I can pitch here," Maloney said. "I'm ready to be up here and help the team."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.