It was just last week when Eric Fornataroâ€™s spot in the New Britain Bees starting rotation looked as though it was in question. It appears he only needed to get comfortable in his new role.Â
On Saturday against the Sugar Land Skeeters, the right-hander had one of his best outings in a Bees uniform. In 5 1/3 innings on the mound, Fornataro surrendered just two runs while striking out a season-high four and walking one. The innings pitched were the most he has thrown with New Britain and his innings he has thrown since the 2011 season.
â€śI feel good,â€ť Fornataro said. â€śI have my routine down in the bullpen before the game. I feel pretty happy with how Iâ€™m handling the starting role, nothing is too overwhelming. I feel comfortable.â€ť
The Bees ultimately fell 3-2, but Fornataro proved more than capable of pitching against a tough lineup and it was not until the 10th inning that the Skeeters squeaked out the win. Of course, it did not help that New Britain left nine runners on base.
It had been a struggle for Fornataro in the early part of the season and after his first two starts, it looked as though a return to the bullpen might be the best option moving forward. After lasting just four innings in each of those two starts, his ERA sat at 9.00 and opposing lineups had gotten six and seven hits off him respectively.
â€śAs a manager, you have to put players in roles theyâ€™re going to have success in,â€ť Bees manager Stan Cliburn said following Fornataroâ€™s start on May 1 against the Somerset Patriots in which the team lost 12-1. â€śThis is a decision Iâ€™m going to have to look at because I want the young man to have success. I like Eric Fornataro. I like what heâ€™s about. Heâ€™s a hard worker.
â€śItâ€™s just a matter of him maybe starting to mix his pitches a little better and if he does that, heâ€™ll have success. If not, heâ€™s going to have to go back to where heâ€™s had success and thatâ€™s in the bullpen. But time will take care of that. Weâ€™ll figure it out.â€ť
Fornataro decided to make the change from a reliever to a starter in order log more innings to show scouts he is worth signing back to affiliated ball.
The 29-year-old was signed by the Baltimore Orioles organization before last season even began, only to find himself in New Britain after only 10 games. He finished out the season in the bullpen and the last time he started on a consistent basis was back in 2011 in High-A with the St. Louis Cardinals organization when he logged 24 starts.Â
After his outing in Sugar Land, Fornataro might have quieted any doubts about what his role on the pitching staff might be - at least for now. While still not great, his ERA is now almost three points lower at 6.75.
â€śI approach [starting] the same way as coming out of the pen,â€ť Fornataro said.
â€śIf you give up a few singles, it happens sometimes. Sometimes they stack up fast and you have to stay calm and not let the game speed up too fast and keep pitching down in the zone.Â
â€śI remember when I used to start, the hardest inning was always the first. From there, I just have to stick to my plan and keep progressing.â€ť
That progress will be key for both Fornataro and the Bees moving forward.
David Glovach can be reached at or On Twitter: @DavidGlovach