Nick Kingham pitched his first game today against the New York Yankees minor league system. Kingham started the Double-A game, going two innings while allowing three runs on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts. The right-hander ran into some trouble in the first inning, getting hit around and having some trouble with his fastball command. After a visit to the mound from pitching coach Justin Meccage, Kingham responded with two quick outs, including striking out the last batter of the inning.
“He just said attack,” Kingham said of what Meccage told him. “Go get the hitter, don’t try to trick him, or do anything, or falling behind and trying to use too much off-speed. Just go ahead and get the fastball, attack with that, and establish that, and work off that.”
The right-hander noted that he had some trouble locating his fastball today, which made it harder to establish the pitch and use his other offerings. One thing that did stand out was his velocity. Kingham was sitting 93-95 MPH throughout his two innings, hitting 95 pretty frequently. In the last two years he’s seen his velocity slowly creep up to the mid-90s. When I saw him in State College in 2011 he was 90-93 MPH in the early innings. Last year in Spring Training he was 92-94, touching 95 a few times. He was touching 95-96 throughout the year. Today he was consistently 93-95.
“I definitely feel like I’m getting stronger every year I come back for Spring, and with a little more [velocity],” Kingham said.
A few weeks ago I spoke with Larry Broadway about Kingham. Broadway praised Kingham’s work to get control of his body.
“He’s done well from a physical standpoint,” Broadway said. “He’s maturing. He’s strong. He’s leaned up. From a pitching standpoint he’s got really good control of his body right now. All of these guys, when you take risks on big, long, tall, lanky high school guys, it takes a while to get control of the body. He’s done a great job of that. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he goes about his work very seriously. You watch him throw his throwing program, you watch him throw in the pen, and there’s a sense of professionalism that he’s starting to gain and going about his work every day. And it carries over on to the field.”
One problem Kingham has had in the past is that he hasn’t been able to hold his velocity after the first few innings. The velocity always tends to drop a few MPH after 3-4 innings, sometimes as low as the upper 80s. It’s too early to tell if that will be the case for Kingham this year, since he’s only to the point of throwing two innings in a start.
Kingham is a very promising pitcher. Normally his fastball is on, and he throws it down in the zone with good velocity and movement. The added velocity over the years — going from low to mid 90s — only makes that fastball better. He also has a curveball and a changeup which both can be above-average pitches. He has the frame to be a 200 inning per year workhorse. All of that combined gives him a chance to be a number three starter one day. The right-hander will most likely start the 2013 season in Bradenton.
Brian Esposito Signed
Matt Eddy of Baseball America reported yesterday that the Pirates had signed catcher Brian Esposito. I confirmed today that Espositio was coming in as a player coach, meaning he’s probably not going to be playing for any of the affiliates.
**Vic Black came on in the 9th inning of the Triple-A game and dominated. He started out with a strikeout on a 97 MPH fastball at the knees. That came two pitches after an 83 MPH slider at the knees, which was borderline and went for a ball. Black was consistently throwing 95-97 MPH today, working with his fastball and slider combo.
**Zack Dodson pitched two innings after Kingham, giving up one run on three hits, with a walk and two strikeouts. His curve has always been a good pitch, and it was on today. His first strikeout was from his curveball, and the second was on a fastball looking. Dodson was mostly sitting 88-90 MPH with his fastball.
**Mike Colla came on to pitch an inning in relief in the Triple-A game, and was 89-91 with his two-seam fastball.
**Ethan Hollingsworth got the start in the Triple-A game. I didn’t get to see much of him since I was focused on Kingham and Dodson. Hollingsworth pitched 2.2 shutout innings, allowing three hits, no walks, and striking out two. He was 87-89 MPH with his fastball.
**David Bromberg was 87-90 MPH with his fastball. The Pirates added him as a minor league free agent over the off-season. He’s got a really jerky delivery, which could add some deception.
**One sleeper reliever to watch is Emmanuel DeLeon, who was throwing 94-96 MPH. That’s typical for DeLeon, although it was interesting that he was throwing in the Double-A game, since he only has 39 innings above shot-season ball. He threw a shutout inning, allowing no hits, one walk, and striking out one.
Position Player Notes
**Stefan Welch had a hard hit ball down the first base line today for a double. Welch has shown some power in the minor leagues, hitting 13 homers in 440 at-bats between high-A and Double-A last year. He also homered in the World Baseball Classic.
**Andy Vasquez was playing center field in the Double-A game, and showing some nice range. He made an easy play running back to catch a ball that was hit pretty hard near the wall in deep center. Vasquez has played mostly infield in his career, but is athletic enough that he can play anywhere. Still, his upside seems to be a utility player in the upper levels of the minors, since he doesn’t do much with the bat.
**Charlie Cutler, who has been catching for the Triple-A team the last few days, hit a grand slam today. Cutler will probably return to Altoona this year as the backup catcher, but could spend some time as a backup in Indianapolis.
**Jerry Sands and Clint Robinson were playing in the Triple-A game today. Both had a few hard hit balls.