Two years ago, the scouting report on Chaska High School pitcher Brad Hand said: "A strong southpaw who's more of a thrower than a pitcher right now."
Now in his third season of professional baseball, he is working to change that description.
Hand, who was selected in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2008 draft, is pitching for the Florida Marlins' Jupiter farm team in the Class A Florida State League. He's almost two calendar years into a process many youngsters will start on Monday when their names are called during this year's MLB draft.
"I'm learning how to pitch," said Hand, who was the highest-drafted Minnesota high school player since Joe Mauer in 2001.
After signing with the Marlins in 2008 (bypassing a scholarship offer to pitch for Arizona State), Hand went 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA with two rookie-level farm teams.
He spent the 2009 season with Greensboro of the Class A South Atlantic League, where he went 7-13 with a 4.86 ERA.
On Thursday night, he gave up only two hits in six innings in an 8-0 victory over Brevard County. Hand improved to 3-2 with a 3.82 ERA this season.
"Last year was rough," he said, "Our pitching coordinator told me: 'We want to see you struggle. We don't care about wins and losses and ERA.' Over the season, I started to learn to be a pitcher instead of just throwing. I pitched pretty well over the second half of the season."
In his first eight starts in 2009, he went 2-5 with a 7.68 ERA. In 34 innings he gave up 43 hits and 23 walks. But over his past 19 starts, he had a 3.84 ERA.
"This year, I picked up where I left off," Hand said. "The key is throwing strikes and cutting down on walks."
Last year, he walked 66 batters in 127 2/3 innings. This season, he has walked 21 in 61 1/3 innings.
Hand said he has benefited from the advice he has gotten from his manager -- former major league catcher Ron Hassey.
"He's been a big help," Hand said. "He's the only guy in major league history to catch two perfect games. He really knows how to call a game and has taught me about pitch selection and what to do."