Being a starting pitcher has taken Max Kranick far.
In his professional career, up until 2022, Max Kranick has had 75 total appearances. Of those, all except four saw him as the starting pitcher. He made nine starts with the Pirates last season.
This campaign has a completely different vibe for the righty. Kranick had three starts on a rehab assignment to kick off 2022. However, he is being used currently exclusively as a reliever.
On May 7, Kranick made his 2022 big league debut as a reliever, in the role of the 27th man in a doubleheader. He saw some ups and downs, but recorded six outs while allowing one hit. Kranick did walk two, but struck out three.
“I had a lot of adrenaline,” Kranick said after the appearance. “I need to be better at controlling that, but it was my first appearance of the year. I don’t think that will be an issue. It was exciting, it really was, to get the call in the bullpen and trot in. I need to execute better from pitch one, but overall I was happy with it.”
Kranick’s success and improved velocity also caught the eye of Pirates manager Derek Shelton.
“The velocity was there,” Shelton said after the first relief appearance. “He was a little erratic with his command. The fastball was up, but he was able to come back and execute pitches. The one punch out with the breaking ball was a really good pitch. I think we know Max has good stuff.”
Kranick impressed so much as 27th man, he officially rejoined the big league squad a couple of days later for a three inning appearance, before going back down to Indianapolis the next day.
Not only is Kranick in a new role out of the bullpen, he is seeing higher leverage situations. In the first game, the Pirates were only up two runs in the sixth when Kranick took over.
On Wednesday, Kranick followed Dillon Peters and provided three scoreless innings. His command was much better, as he walked just one. He also mixed in his slider and curve much more often. This is an approach that Kranick sees as an advantage as a reliever.
“[The feeling] is a little bit different,” Kranick said. “As a reliever, you need to be ready from pitch one. As a starter, not that you don’t need to be ready, but you can feel it out to use less pitches and that kind of thing. You can hide some until the second or third time through. You have to be ready with your weapons as a reliever. That will be something to adjust to.”
With the move to the bullpen this season, Kranick’s fastball has played up into the upper 90s. As for the improvements, Kranick credits some hard work on his mechanics during the offseason.
“[I have changed some] mechanical stuff, like keep my direction a little bit better,” Kranick said. “It was some offseason work that I took some pride in. It seems to be translating to the field, which is always exciting.”
With the improved fastball velocity and the freedom to work with his breaking pitcher more often, Kranick is a different pitcher in 2022. Additionally, it appears that his new role is perfectly suited for him to thrive.