10/29/12 7:52 PM ET
Cards' Blair rights ship with Fall League stint
After missing most of season, Surprise righty owns 0.68 ERA in four starts
By Jonathan Raymond / Special to MLB.com
If the results are any indication, he can be a pretty dangerous pitcher when healthy.
The Cardinals righty was solid for a fourth straight AFL outing on Monday, scattering a run on five hits and two walks while striking out three over four innings to earn the victory as Surprise topped Mesa, 7-2, on Monday.
Blair (2-0) was working a bullpen session in April when he felt some pain in his middle finger while throwing a fastball. He brushed it off, but the pain was intolerable the next morning when he woke up. X-rays revealed a benign tumor in the finger that had caused multiple microfractures.
The tumor was removed and he had a bone graft placed in the finger to fix the issue, but the whole process basically caused him to lose the entire season. He managed to return in late July to make two rehab appearances with the Rookie-level GCL Cardinals and five starts with Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
The Fall League has been the first real opportunity for the 23-year-old to hit his stride. After Monday, he's posted a 0.68 ERA in 13 1/3 innings for the Saguaros, striking out 18 and walking eight.
"When I first came back I couldn't put much pressure on my middle finger, I had a hard time being consistent with offspeed pitches," he said. "After the season I had a few more weeks to strength up and get back and now I don't see it as an issue at all."
The Cardinals' 2010 first-rounder out of Arizona State University added that, after recording a 5.40 ERA and walking 14 in 16 2/3 innings in the Florida State League, his AFL performance was a better indicator of what he's really capable of on the mound.
"This is pretty much the season for me," Blair said. "The end of the year at Palm Beach was like Spring Training for the Fall League. When I was pitching there I didn't have enough time to get ready the way I wanted to, wasn't able to execute my pitches consistently and you could see it in my stats. I feel good now, right where I want to be.
"When you miss a few months, miss almost a full season, a lot of it is getting back into the rhythm that you need to [be effective]."
On Monday, Mets center fielder Darrell Ceciliani went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs and a walk while leading off for Surprise (10-7). Chris McGuiness (Rangers) also drove in two with a pair of sacrifice flies.
Tigers' top prospect Nick Castellanos had his third multi-hit game of the Fall League season for Mesa (4-13), going 2-for-5. Dodgers infielder Rafael Ynoa finished 2-for-4 with an RBI as well, bringing his AFL average to .333 in 14 games for the Solar Sox.
Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.