Former undrafted free agent Max Bain made his third start for the South Bend Cubs against the Dayton Dragons Wednesday night and I was impressed with how he held his own. It can’t be easy to go undrafted, then retool your body and the way you pitch while going from the D2 level in college to debuting in high-A.
In his first start, Bain gave up a walk and home run to open the game and then proceeded to calm down over the next three frames. In Beloit last Thursday, Bain went 4.2 innings and allowed three runs. He looked good for most of that outing but struggled in the 4th when he got a little wild.
Heading into Wednesday night, I wanted to see continued improvement in the form of a lengthy start and better offspeed/breaking stuff.
He needed just 11 pitches to get through the 1st. They weren’t the prettiest 11 pitches, but they worked. After getting the leadoff hitter to fly out to left, Bain gave up a double and the runner was thrown out by Bryce Windham trying to steal third. Bain ran the count full on the third batter before inducing another fly to retire the side.
I really liked his fastball up in the zone as it has enough movement not to be squared up. I also like the fact that he is going mostly fastball the first time through the order and keeping his breaking and offspeed stuff in his back pocket for a while. He did struggle some down and away, just missing outside a few times, but that can be perfected.
A single and an error by Jake Slaughter put men at first and second with none out to open the 2nd inning. Not rattled, Bain was efficient in getting Michael Siani on this beauty of a fastball up in the zone.
Max Bain Is at his Best up in the zone. I love how this fastball leaks back over the plate for strike three pic.twitter.com/NFIBevXd6Z
— Todd ⚾️🐻🦌 (@CubsCentral08) May 19, 2021
A short grounder to third got the second out, then Bain got a sharply hit ball to a perfectly placed Josue Huma behind second base. The big righty worked his way out of the inning and needed only 14 pitches — most of which were again fastballs — to get it done. He also generated two grounders, something he had not gotten a lot of yet. And just like the first inning, it was mostly fastballs.
Bain got two quick outs on a pop up to center and grounder to short while breaking out his 12-6 curveball in the 3rd. After an infield single on a high hopper, Bain got out of the inning with a series of breaking balls down in the zone that resulted in a flyout to right. He finished the inning with 43 total pitches.
The 4th inning opened with his second strikeout of the night before he gave up a single and then got another K on a foul tip. After working the count full to the next batter, Bain issued his first walk of the night to put men on first and second with two out. The very next pitch resulted in a fly to center to end the threat.
Bain was still throwing 95-98 mph in that inning, proving he can sustain high velocity into a game. Even more encouraging is that he actually does pitch. He had runners on base all night, but he didn’t get rattled and was able to work his way around potential trouble. It was also nice to see him shift from a fastball-heavy approach to incorporate more secondaries.
At just 61 pitches, Bain headed out for the 5th and what I presumed would be another 10-15 pitches. After a groundout, he walked his second hitter of the night. A long plate appearance resulted in his second walk in a row and Bain’s pitch total then sat at a season-high 77 pitches. He was able to get a force at second that put men at first and third, then a grounder to third closed the frame.
Bain ended up shutting his opponents out on four hits and three walks on a total of 81 pitches, 48 for strikes (59.3%). His seldom-used slider still needs some work, but it’s a relatively new addition. He can also improve when it comes to locating his fastball down in the zone. That said, five shutout innings are five shutout innings and Bain improving with each start is a sign that he’s still got plenty of upside.
If he keeps up at this pace, opposing hitters are not going to stand a chance by season’s end.