Scuffles keep popping up for sinkerballer Maness

April 17th, 2016
Seth Maness has allowed eight hits in 4 1/3 innings this season, including two doubles Saturday. (AP)

ST. LOUIS -- While the offense continues to answer any early-season questions positively, another unexpected concern has popped up for the St. Louis Cardinals. What's wrong with Seth Maness?

Known for his sinkerball and knack for inducing timely double plays, Maness has earned a critical role in the bullpen in recent years. But the right-hander is still searching for his form this season.

Maness was hit hard again in relief of the struggling Adam Wainwright in the sixth inning of the Cardinals' 9-8 loss to the Reds on Saturday. Maness gave up a pair of doubles and issued an intentional walk, allowing two inherited base runners to score and was charged for an earned run in one-third of an inning.

His ERA ballooned to 8.31.

"He's always been that kind of pitcher where he needs to make quality pitches all the time," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He's going to need to be down so he can get his ground balls, he's going to have to expand at times and be able to live on the corners and make his secondary pitches in tough counts. With the ball going up in the air as much as it is, you can tell it's just coming up a little more than what he's looking for."

Particularly troubling are the doubles, which were hit in the air.

"I'm a contact pitcher," Maness said. "How hard they hit it, it wasn't the best contact but it wasn't weak contact. ... I've just got to ride it out and see what happens."

The struggles are a vast departure from Maness' body of work. Between 2013-15, Maness made 215 appearances for the Cardinals and posted a 15-8 record with a 3.15 ERA.

Matheny hasn't seen any physical red flags in Maness, and he has confidence that the reliever will find his groove.

"He's going to get opportunities, he's going to have to get some big outs for us," Matheny said. "He knows that it's going to happen typically on the ground. To be on the ground you have to be in the bottom of the zone and not in the middle of the plate. ... Most of it comes down to confidence. Confidence and execution, those go hand in hand also."