Ask any baseball player and the only thing they really want is to play.

Ask any baseball player and the only thing they really want is to play.

After a limited freshman campaign in 2009 at Sonoma State University, Jon Flinn didn't exactly have that opportunity this past spring after the school welcomed in five Division I transfers.

"My coach said I was just as good as them but since they were older and they came from schools at a high level, he said he was going to go with them first," Flinn said of being asked to redshirt this past season.

While many would've perceived that as a slight and focused solely on the negative, Flinn accepted the challenge and now has his mind set on coming back stronger and better for next season.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound pitcher is using this summer with the Southern Oregon RiverDawgs as his stepping stone into next year, and already has shown promise despite his one-year hiatus from competitive baseball. Flinn boasts a 2-0 record and 2.31 ERA heading into a weekend series against the Folsom Pioneers.

"I feel like he's getting stronger and his composure is getting better," said RiverDawgs manager Chris Wolf. "He seems to be very focused right now on what he needs to do."

That focus didn't come easy, however, for the 19-year-old right-hander.

"It sucked at the beginning but I made sure I worked hard to keep getting better," Flinn said of the early stages this past spring. "It was a growing experience not being out there and I had to be patient, but I think it'll be good for me, though."

As a positive offshoot of the decision, Flinn was able to focus more on his fitness. His weight hovered around 235 to 240 pounds when he pitched for the RiverDawgs last summer, but the time away from competition allowed him to shed some unwanted pounds.

"It was just kind of weight that I didn't really need," he said. "I ended up losing some of the baby fat that I had. I probably lost about 15 pounds of weight I wanted to lose and now I'm trying to get it back in muscle."

He's already noticed a big difference from this season compared to last thanks to his hard work in conditioning.

"Losing the weight made me throw a little harder and I feel a lot faster, especially when I'm making plays off the mound and have to cover first base or use my mobility to go get bunts and stuff," said Flinn.

The key to all this is that Flinn won't turn 20 until the beginning of the school year, so his body is still developing and he has three more full seasons in which to improve his stock as a baseball player.

"He'll still be growing and getting bigger," said Wolf, "and he'll also get stronger mentally as he matures. He's got a good future if he stays focused."

Flinn said being in Medford for the summer and in the RiverDawgs program certainly has helped with that focus.

"Coming up here, I don't really have a lot of friends except for the guys on the team and my host family is a great family," he said, "but other than that, I don't have school to worry about so I can go get in the gym twice a day, come out here and work hard on the field and just keep getting better. That's my goal, to get better every day."

To wit, Flinn has been working on developing a sinker for his repertoire. He already owns a changeup that can be thrown at any time in the count, a hard slider and a fastball in the upper 80s, but he sees this new pitch as a valuable weapon if he can get it mastered.

"Working on a sinker has been huge for me so far," he said. "I think it's going to be a good pitch for me because I've been getting a lot of groundballs and strikeouts with it. It'll be a good pitch that I can throw inside to righties and have them swing right over the top of it."

The only thing he's noticed with the sinker, and all his pitches for that matter, is that they begin to flatten out as he loses steam. With no real extended bullpens during the spring, he essentially came into this summer with limited endurance and has steadily tried to increase his pitch count from 60 to 80 over the past three weeks. Against the Sonoma Seals last Saturday, Flinn was in complete command through three innings before gradually losing effectiveness over the next three innings.

Once all that gets ironed out, however, Flinn expects to take the ball deep into the summer games for the RiverDawgs.

"I feel good for what I've been going through," he said. "Hopefully it keeps getting better."

"My goal is to play professional baseball and hopefully I can make it happen in the next few years," added Flinn. "I think I've got the right tools, I just need a chance to play."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com