INDIANAPOLIS – On May 7, 2015, Nick Kingham went down with elbow pain in his last start in Triple-A Indianapolis. He would later require Tommy John surgery, putting him out of action for the rest of the 2015 season, and rehabbing for the 2016 season. After making his final rehab start with the Bradenton Marauders last night — throwing five shutout innings with one hit allowed — he has arrived back in Indianapolis, joining the team this afternoon and making it back to where he was before the injury.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Kingham said of returning to Indianapolis. “The only difference would be probably going up to Pittsburgh. It is so unbelievably awesome to be back here. I’m not saying that to be cheesy. Two years and five days — but I’m not really keeping count — to the day when I left here. I’ve had that date in my mind ever since, and I’ve been trying to get back here ever since. It’s unbelievable to be back here. It feels really good.”

Kingham said that he’s full go and doesn’t believe he has any restrictions. The only reason he didn’t start the season in Indianapolis was due to an ankle injury in Spring Training that forced him to build his innings back up from scratch. Since that put him out for a month and a half, it’s unlikely that he will need to monitor his innings in his first full season back.

He threw last night, he won’t be available to start until Tuesday. The Indians have a double-header that day, so that is currently expected to be when he makes his official return to the level.

The next step will be making it up to Pittsburgh. Neal Huntington has talked about him as an option for the Pirates later in the season. He worked out with Jameson Taillon during the offseason to try and repeat what Taillon did when he made his MLB debut. But in terms of getting up to the big leagues, the comparisons to Taillon end with the workouts.

“I think the biggest thing is now it’s time to be myself. Do what I’m capable of doing, don’t try to be like anyone else,” Kingham said. “Me and Jameson would push each other in the weight room, but when it comes to on the field stuff just know who I am. Know what I’m capable of. Just stay within myself, perform like I need to perform, just get people out the way I know how to do it, and things will take care of themselves.”

One encouraging sign is Kingham’s command in his build up this year. He only issued one walk while building up in extended Spring Training, and didn’t have a walk in five innings last night in Bradenton. He wasn’t a guy who issued a lot of walks throughout his career, but saw his control fade just before his injury. Kingham doesn’t know if this was related to his elbow, but is glad he’s back to throwing with good control again.

“I don’t think it had any correlation, but maybe it did,” Kingham said of the control problems. “Maybe my arm was not feeling that great and I just didn’t realize it. Overall, coming into this, the control has been fine. I’ve only had one walk. I had one full count last night, and I’m just attacking, throwing strikes. I feel good with where all of my pitches are right now. I feel real confident in where all of my pitches are right now, that I can throw my pitches in any count. I’m happy to be in the position that I am right now, coming in full stride.”

The Pirates have a few other candidates in the Triple-A who can help the MLB rotation this year, with Steven Brault and Drew Hutchison as short-term options, and Clay Holmes and Tyler Eppler as long-term options. When Kingham’s game is on, he’s got the chance to be the best of the group, rivaled only by Holmes. If he returns to the pitcher he was before the surgery, he could make it to Pittsburgh in the second half.

Bostick and Moroff Return

Players have 72 hours to report to their minor league assignment after being optioned from the majors. It only took Max Moroff and Chris Bostick a few hours. By the time the move was made official that they were sent down, both players had already reported to Indianapolis, eligible to be active for tonight’s game.

The assignment for both players was always going to be short, ending when Adam Frazier and David Freese came off the disabled list. The opportunity allowed for Moroff to get his first hit, and Bostick to make his Major League debut.

“It was really cool,” Bostick said of the experience. “Pretty historic place, Dodger Stadium. A lot of people there. More people there than I had ever seen. It was a lot of fun, and hopefully I can get more opportunities.”

Bostick is in his first full season in Triple-A this year, and putting up some impressive numbers with Indianapolis, hitting for a .320/.347/.495 line. He credits the results to doing a better job with pitch recognition, and having good at-bats with good pitches to swing at. While his debut was short-lived, he could be an option for the Pirates moving forward if they need depth, and it might be easier for him the next time.

“I think throughout the years in the minor leagues for everybody it’s kind of waiting for that opportunity,” Bostick said. “It’s almost kind of a pressure taken away from you. You know what it’s like, you’ve been there for a couple of days. Kind of come back here and get back to work and do whatever you can to get back.”

Moroff had his MLB debut last year, but was mostly an emergency option. This time around was different.

“It was pretty sweet,” Moroff said. “I got my first hit, obviously, and I got some starts, which was pretty cool to play with those guys. I felt good man. I was comfortable. It was a lot of fun.”

Moroff said that he didn’t know what to expect going up, and was surprised to see he was in the lineup right away. He has also been hitting well in Triple-A, with a .258/.345/.546 line in 97 at-bats. That includes eight home runs, tying his season total last year. While the home runs are good to see, the Pirates don’t want Moroff trying to be a home run hitter.

“They want me to focus on gap power,” Moroff said. “Not try to do too much, and stay within myself. They don’t want me to try doing anything that I’m not capable of doing. Just keep doing what I’m doing down here and hopefully get up there soon.”

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I live in Arizona, so I’m watching the Fox Sports Arizona broadcast, and they advertised tomorrow’s game as, “The DIamondbacks take on Jose Osuna and the Pirates.”

    I’m sure certain members of this commentariate would appreciate that.

  2. Serious question. With the way Glasnow, Kuhl and Williams have been pitching of late, should the Pirates consider carrying 2 long guys in the BP? Not the 2 inning long guys they have, but guys that can step in and throw 4+ innings when needed?
    Please don’t try to reason with me and tell me how Glasnow went 6+ innings in each of his last 2 starts, because in reality, those are looking more and more like outliers. Even in those starts, his pitch count wasn’t incredibly efficient, and I think you could find a point in each of them where you an look and say that if 1 or 2 pitches/batted balls went the other way, those 2 decent starts could have been just as disastrous as the others have been.
    As for Kuhl, his 2 seamer does what every other 2 seamer does, it travels almost directly into a left handers swing path. That is the one thing about a 2 seamer, if a lefty is a good low ball hitter, he will destroy a 2 seamer, the ball does not move off of the swing path. Without an effective offspeed pitch, a lineup with multiple lefties is going to give him trouble. His 4 seamer comes in at the same speed, so there isn’t even a change in speed for the hitter to adjust to. So in essence, if his curve/slider(not sure which he throws) and change aren’t working, he is going to struggle against left handed hitters. This is not a knock on him, his 2 seam fastball is his best pitch, but with no deception, it just isn’t good enough right now at this level.
    Williams is only a fill-in, but is a less hard throwing version of Kuhl.

  3. Why would a team tell a player not to try to hit for power? I have never really understood this. Do they mean, don’t add loft to the swing? Don’t get pull happy? Don’t overswing? I do not understand telling players, that clearly have the capability, don’t try to hit homeruns. I am not condoning trying to turn Moroff into a huge HR guy, but I continue to see the Pirates tell this same thing to every single player. Someone, out of the 8 hitters they have in the lineup, someone needs to be able to hit home runs. As we have seen over the last season plus, it is very difficult to string together enough singles and walks to have big innings, and when opposing teams don’t issue walks to the Pirates, it is nearly impossible for them to score runs.

    Great to see Kingham back in Indy, hope he impresses enough to get to Pittsburgh soon. IMO, currently there are 2 available spots in the major league rotation and when healthy, he is better then the 2 currently filling those roles.

    • There are perhaps a couple ways to look at it. From a mental or development standpoint, even classic power hitters are told not to swing for the fences, just to get good wood on the ball, since their natural power will lead to home runs. It’s also reasonable to teach young players not to overswing or get too pull-happy since that would lead to bad habits. And a smaller guy like Moroff just doesn’t have the natural ability to reach the fence as often.

      But the interesting thing about a lot of modern ballplayers — and we’re seeing more of this even in the last five years — is that they are more often swinging with a decidedly more power-happy launch angle. This usually means sacrificing batting average and strikeout rates in favor of extra base hits, but it’s also probably a factor in the reason why we are seeing more home runs right now. I’m not sure whether it’s the right approach, but it’s obviously the trend — at least outside of Pittsburgh.

      • What did the gaps used to be called before they were gaps? When I was growing up they called them power alley’s, because that is where the hitter should have to most power. Just seems silly to me to tell players to hit to the area where their power should be greatest, but not hit for power.

            • They’ve always said that they consider power to be more than just home runs, and consider gap power and extra bases to be power.

              They want Moroff hitting for power, but they don’t want him trying to hit for home runs. That’s not the type of power that works for his game.

        • Today, they tell players to ” stay within themselves, don’ try to do too much “. Or, try to ” hit for gap power.” When I was growing up, players were often told ” don’t try to kill the ball “, or ” quit trying to pull everything “. Same thoughts, different terminology. Is that easier for you to figure out ?

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