Kirk Having Solid First Season

Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Austin Kirk has a lot of individuality. Kirk entered the Cubs organization out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma after being selected in the third round of the 2009 draft.

Kirk had been in the starting rotation for short-season Class Low-A Boise since the Hawks opened Northwest League play in June, and during his time there the organization saw promise in the 22-year-old left-hander's pitching.

As such, the Cubs recently promoted Kirk to Class-A Peoria.

"He's left-handed, he's competitive and willing to learn, (and) he's a kid that wants to go out there and do his best," Hawks pitching coach and former major leaguer Jeff Fassero said of Kirk.

Hailing from Owasso, Kirk impressed scouts in his senior prep season, leading his team with a 9-1 record and a 0.45 ERA.

During his team's run to the Class 6A state title last year, Kirk amassed 111 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.

Afterward, he was taken in the third round as the first pitcher chosen by the Cubs. Kirk was sent to Arizona right away to begin his pro career and appeared in seven games, going 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA (6 ER/13.2 IP) and 15 strikeouts.

Like most young pitchers, setting foot on the mound for the first time as a professional athlete was an eye-opening experience for Kirk.

"It was definitely a big awakening for me going down to Arizona for the first few weeks," Kirk recalled. "The game was a lot faster. A lot of the bigger guys, they swung at the ball faster, they hit it harder and all of the sudden, a 90 mph fastball isn't that big of a deal anymore."

Kirk has suddenly found himself not far removed from high school state championship days to playing against some of the best prospects in Low Class-A ball.

"You've got to be able to manage yourself and manage your time," he said. "It's a business. You either find a way to get the job done or they're going to find someone else to do the job for you."

For now, Kirk is getting the job done just fine. He was 4-5 with a 3.31 ERA in 12 appearances with Boise prior to his promotion to Peoria.

In his last start for the team on Aug. 18 against the Everett AquaSox, Kirk pitched five innings and scattered one run on four hits. He struck out three without allowing a walk for the second consecutive start.

For the season, he has 48 strikeouts to only 12 walks.

"I'm working a lot on getting ahead of hitters and getting a more consistent secondary pitch to throw off the hitters a little bit, especially as a starter and seeing them two times or three times," Kirk said.

Fassero said most of the work with Kirk has been on mechanics.

"We've been changing his mechanics for about the last year and a half trying to get them ironed out," said Fassero. "It's the biggest thing for him trying to get less herky-jerky. In baseball, there are not that many left-handed pitchers. It's big being a left-hander."

Kirk is working on the changes the Cubs have put in place for him while keeping his sights set on advancing through the system.

That started with the promotion to Peoria.

"My goal is to continue to get better and just show that I can continue to stay strong through a full season," Kirk said.

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