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November 14, 2012
Kristy Robinson attended Kent State University for Broadcasting and the Fashion Institute of Design Merchandising for Fashion Design and Communications. Robinson has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates for the past two seasons as a beat reporter. Robinson grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio.
Despite pitching in a hitter-friendly league, right-hander Kyle Kaminska has looked very good in the Arizona Fall League. He quietly put together solid numbers after coming over to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization (along with Gaby Sanchez for Gorkys Hernandez and a draft compensation pick) at the trade deadline in 2012, and while his name may not have topped the list of prospects when the AFL kicked off on October 9, he’s beginning to make quite a name for himself.
“We’ve liked Kyle for a couple of years as a projectable pitcher based on his body, arm, and pitch package,” Pittsburgh’s General Manager Neal Huntington said. “As we looked for a fit in our trade with Miami this summer, we felt like he offered us some upside to go along with Gabby to balance out the deal.”
Kaminska, who turned 24 last month, was on the road in Mobile, Alabama when he received a phone call from Miami’s Farm Director Brian Chattin that his six-year minor league career with the Marlins organization was now over. While initially shocked by the news, the 25th round pick out of Naperville (Illinois) Central High School has gotten a fresh start in a new farm system.
“I was sitting in my hotel room when I found out,” Kaminska recalled of being traded. “It was pretty shocking, but it’s a business, so you kind of have to go where people tell you to go. It’s part of the job. I was really excited, and it’s a great opportunity. I’ve enjoyed it so far. It’s been a good thing.”
His numbers with Triple-A Jacksonville and Double-A New Orleans before becoming a Pirate weren’t eye catching. After a combined 2.70 ERA across 13 relief appearances in May and June, his ERA ballooned with a rough July (9.49). Kaminska made his Pittsburgh debut at Double-A Altoona in August, where he went on to make three relief appearances before being sent down to High-A Bradenton to be converted back into a starter.
Kaminska was reunited with a few familiar faces in Bradenton, where he also made minor adjustments that appear to be paying off in the AFL. “A lot of it was it’s a fresh opportunity,“ Kaminska said. “I’ve been reunited with some people that I’ve worked with in the past when I had a lot of success when I was younger. I think that helped, too…Scott Mitchell [Pirates Minor League Pitching Coordinator] used to be with the Marlins. I remember back three, four spring trainings ago when I signed, I always enjoyed working with him. Mike Steele, the pitching coach in Bradenton, he recruited me at Michigan State when I was in High School. Coming over, I was very comfortable. It was a pretty easy adjustment for me. I felt like I fit in very well from the get go.”
“The adjustments that I’ve made are just things that I did in the past. Its minor changes really from what I was doing. Those minor changes have made quite a difference in my pitching the last three months. I got to kind of tip my hat to the Pirates organization for giving me those things back and getting me back on track to what I need to do.”
The transition from relieving to starting was a smooth one. Having spent his first four professional seasons primarily as a starter, an injury during the 2010 season pushed Kamiska into the bullpen the following year. He finished with a 2.58 mark, and entered 2012 in the same role.
“[The Pirates] wanted me to be turned back into a starter,” Kaminska said. “In 2010, I got hurt as a starter. I came back healthy, but in 2011 with the Marlins, they didn’t really have a starter spot open where I was at, so I started out in the bullpen. I had a really strong season as a reliever in 2011.”
“In 2012, they wanted me to keep doing the same thing. I was successful at it. I was having a pretty good season until July rolled around, and I didn’t have a really good month as a reliever then. Turning back to a starter was a good thing. I’ve got three pitches and I’m pretty efficient, so starting for me is a good thing since I work quick and I’m efficient with my pitches.”
The right-handed sinkerballer finished strong, allowing just one earned over six frames in his final outing during the regular 2012 season at Double-A. He’s carried that success over into the AFL while playing with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Entering game action on Monday, Kaminska sports an impressive 1.61 ERA over six outings, which ranks first among all starters in the AFL. His 28 innings is also ranked first, while his minuscule 0.93 WHIP is among the best in the league as well. Joining six other Pirates prospects with Scottsdale, the 24-year-old has shown solid control, walking just four batters (three of which were in a five-inning, one-hit no decision against the Mesa Solar Sox on November 5) while whiffing 21.
“I’ve just been making my pitches, and it’s worked out really well,” Kaminska said of facing some of the biggest prospects in the minor leagues. “I’m having a lot of fun, just going about my business, getting my work in. It’s really laid back and a pretty cool experience. All these teams are really tough. Every guy in the lineup, they’re good hitters. Nobody is bad here; I’ll just put it that way.”
“Since he’s gotten over here, he has shown some arm strength, the ability to put the ball on the ground, and an improving feel for his secondary stuff,” Huntington said. “His ability to develop those other weapons will probably ultimately determine his future role. We’re pleased we have him and his potential upside.”
Saturday was likely Kaminska’s final start with the Scorpions, who are 1.5 games back in the AFL East. The regular season wraps up on November 15. He was able to finish strong, tossing five frames and allowing just one unearned run on four hits while walking none and punching out four. That strung together a five-game streak during which he allowed just one earned run (or fewer). The righty will head into the offseason Rule 5 re-eligible, but perhaps his showcase since donning a Pirates jersey in Arizona will earn him a spot on their 40-man roster. Pittsburgh will need to protect him by November 18, when rosters have to be set for the Rule 5 draft, or they risk another organization claiming him. Knowing that those decisions are completely out of his control, Kaminska focuses on what he can—getting better every day.
“As a player, you know about that sort of thing because you’re aware of it,“ Kaminska said of being Rule 5 eligible. “When I go out though, I don’t worry like, oh, I got to make this pitch to prove I belong on the 40-man. I’m just going to go out and do my job and do what they ask me to do. Whatever happens happens. I just want to get to the big leagues. That’s all that matters. That’s the goal.”