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The answer, was it in his arm? Nope, thought Robby Rowland, my right arm feels stellar. Maybe it’s my body? Nope, I’m not tired. I’m only 22 for pity’s sake. Maybe it’s my stuff? Nope, the fastball goes 90, the curveball curves, the splitter dives. Ah, wait a minute. Now I got it. It’s my mind. It’s wound tighter than a Swiss watch. I have more tension inside of me than a hostage negotiator. I have so many thoughts flying around inside my head it feels like a beehive in there.

On Aug. 7, 2014, Rowland was having this conversation with himself, a conversation he thought he would never have. Four years before that he was selected in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft. Arizona loved him. What was not to love? He had a 7-1 record and a 0.32 earned-run average his senior year at Cloverdale. He had 117 strikeouts in 65 innings. He threw two no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game. He was All-State in basketball. He had skills, you know.

Now it’s Aug. 7, 2014. The Pittsburgh Pirates informed Rowland they were releasing him. In 2012 the Pirates had traded for Rowland. Now, for the first time in his life, Rowland was without a baseball team. It felt like he was without his right arm.

“I kind of thought maybe I’d go to the JC (in Santa Rosa) and play basketball,” Rowland said. “I didn’t feel like quitting. I still knew I could play. But it might take me a little time.”

Took longer than he thought. August passed. And September and October and November. His agent, Adam Karon, kept hearing the same thing: Gosh, kid, we like you but our roster is full and if it was up to me and blah . . . blah . . . blah. Rowland’s numbers made it a tough sell: In four years in the minors, never pitching higher than Class A, Rowland was 23-36 with a 5.28 ERA.

“This is gonna take longer than I thought,” Rowland thought to himself.

Into his life Rowland was thrown a life preserver. His name was Zach Mortimer.

“I owe everything to Zach,” Rowland said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without Zach.”

Mortimer was an area scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. He had known of the Rowland legend. “Robby was a consensus third-rounder,” he would say. Consensus third-rounders are marquee talents. They usually don’t just disappear into a 5.28 ERA.

Come to the baseball field at UC Davis, Mortimer told Rowland. Show me what you got. Physically, Rowland showed him this: “Robby had a loose arm. I thought he still could have more velocity in his pitches. He had a plus-fastball. He was confident he could use both sides of the plate with it. He had a splitter. He was an athlete.”

That was the assessment of Rowland’s body. Now came the tricky part. Towns all across America have former minor league pitchers who have loose arms and plus-fastballs. What Mortimer needed to see was the mind behind the talent, the disciplined mind to corral that talent, to develop, nurture and ultimately extract every physical gift on every pitch.

“Robby said one thing that really impressed me: ‘I need to get back to where I was in high school. I need to be confident and aggressive again,’ ” Mortimer said.

An avowed perfectionist, Rowland also is an avowed people pleaser. It can be a maddening and potentially dysfunctional combination. In the four years with the Diamondbacks and Pirates, Rowland listened to every suggestion and tried to please everyone. He threw with his arm at this angle and that angle. His lead leg landed here and there. Eventually so went his mind, here, there and everywhere.

“Felt like I was in quicksand,” Rowland said. “The harder I tried, the deeper I sank. I just started worrying. Do they like me? What if they don’t? What happens next?”

Rowland had lost himself. It was a journey of self discovery, a maturation of ego you might say. From afar Cloverdale helped him.

“When I was in high school, and I want this to come out the right way,” Rowland said, “I didn’t necessarily go through the (opposing) lineup for strength and weakness.”

It was that kind of confidence Rowland wanted to recapture, that he had the right stuff. Coupled with this maturity: Now it’s time to study hitters 1 through 9. “The (pro) game can speed up on you in a second.”

Rowland went to the Cardinals’ spring training last February. He was sent to Peoria in the Midwest League. He became a relief pitcher. He became an All-Star. He had a 2.40 ERA there, then was promoted for a few cups of coffee at Palm Beach (High A) and Springfield (Double A). His fastball hit 92-94 mph constantly with a few 99s thrown in there.

The Cardinals were so impressed they paid Rowland the ultimate compliment.

They sent him to the Arizona Fall League.

“Sixty-five percent of the players in our league play in the big leagues in two years,” said Paul Arbelo, the league’s baseball operations coordinator. “Players aren’t sent here just to be sent here. These are all highly-considered prospects.”

Arizona — as opposed to winter ball in the Caribbean — is the preferred location for MLB prospects. Easier to monitor and cheaper to house, the Arizona Fall League is quite unique. Pitchers are asked to throw pitches in situations they wouldn’t usually; instead their club wants them in Arizona to work on a pitch and to throw in game conditions. For Rowland, pitching for the Surprise Saguaros, that means working on his split-finger fastball.

So fat ERAs and low batting averages don’t sound the alarm. At this writing Rowland’s ERA is 9.00 but there’s not a peep coming from him. For one thing Rowland is under contract with the Cardinals through the end of the 2016 season.

For another thing: At this time last year Rowland was without a team.

“The game really molds you,” said Rowland who turn 24 years old Dec. 15. “I’ve always been happy-go-lucky but the game will put you through the ringer. I kind of let it show. It affected my performance. I wore my emotions on my sleeve. To be honest, getting released was the best thing that could have happened to me. I got to be too proud. I needed to fail.”

Rowland still is a free spirit — he has shaved his head and grown a beard because “my hair kind of left and I let the other thing (beard) loose.” He still is spontaneous — at the Midwest League’s All-Star Game last year he’s smiling while his rendition of singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” might scare cats.

But a little bit of the kid has left Rowland. He misses him but he knows some of him had to go. He knows this when he looks to home plate. There’s an adult getting paid to stand there with a bat, ready to launch. I have to remember Babe Ruth is dead. This is a kid’s game but it doesn’t feel like it right now. Darn, this is complicated. Yes it is. That’s why it is so much fun. That, Robby Rowland says to himself, is what I must remember.

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.