Michael Hrynio: Finding his Niche on the Mound

Drafted in the 12th round in 2001, Michael Hrynio made the switch from infielder to pitcher last season. Now at Mid-A Wisconsin, the middle reliever is learning on the fly trying to leave a positive impression on the Mariners organization. InsidethePark.com's Kevin Damask talked with Hrynio recently to learn more about his ability to adapt to life on the mound.

Michael Hrynio of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers could be described as a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the game of baseball. A former third baseman and catcher, Hrynio is now taking to the mound to meet another challenge, trying to make the major leagues as a pitcher.

Growing up in Dover, N.J., Hrynio was used primarily as a pitcher at Dover High School. The 6-foot 2, 190-pounder was a great all-around athlete in high school, having played football and track along with baseball. He received offers from NCAA Division II and III colleges to play football, but turned them down. He had already signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Rutgers University.

However, in June of 2001, when the Seattle Mariners drafted Hrynio in the 12th round of amateur baseball draft, the opportunity was too much to pass up. The New Jersey native opted to pursue a professional baseball career and was sent to the Peoria Mariners.

It was at Peoria that Hrynio was able to use his athleticism to play many different positions in the infield.

"I was everything, they played me at first, second, third and then they tried me as a catcher," said Hrynio.

In his rookie season of 2001, Hrynio played just 20 games, 15 at third base. The following season, he played 35 games as a third baseman and was beginning to perform well at the plate. Hrynio hit safely in nine out of 10 games for Peoria from July 15 to August 2, raising his batting average to .246.

Just as Hrynio was becoming comfortable as an infielder, Peoria noticed his strong arm and moved him behind the plate to play catcher in 2003. But before long, the team took a look at his arm strength and the previous experience he had as a pitcher, and decided to throw another challenge his way; pitching.

Peoria decided that Hrynio would be used as a middle reliever, and it was in that role that he had a pretty good season in his first go-around as a pro pitcher. He compiled a 2-3 record, had 20 strikeouts and 9 walks and a 4.07 ERA in 14 games.

This season with the Timber Rattlers, Hrynio has been used exclusively in the same middle relief role, and pitched in 11 games. During that time, he's gone 11.0 innings and limited opponents to a .189 average. That's the good news. The bad news? He has allowed seven runs off seven hits, and walked more (8) than he's struck out (7).

Hrynio feels that the biggest thing he needs to work on is his mechanics.

"I didn't realize how much different pitching was in the past as compared to now," Hrynio said. "Now I have to work on things like command, location and mechanics, and that's my biggest problem."

Hrynio says that the transition he made by going back to pitching wasn't very hard. The biggest difference, he says, is the down time a pitcher has between throwing. While position players need to work constantly on their hitting and fielding, pitchers must work on their pitches but do so in a routine fashion that gives their arm time to rest.

Hrynio is content being a pitcher, but he misses those days where he could look forward to stepping into the batters box.

"Every now and again I'll get the urge to swing," he said. "I'm happy where I'm at now, but I miss playing third base."

Wisconsin pitching coach Brad Holman says Hrynio needs to get more comfortable on the mound in order to become more consistency. Thus far, Hrynio has struggled to develop a plan of attack while pitching, and Holman emphasizes that Hrynio should be successful if he utilizes his fastball and breaking ball. His velocity has improved and his fastball was clocked at a blazing 93 miles per hour during his last outing.

"I see him eventually as a setup pitcher and potentially a closer if he keeps displaying the type of velocity he's displayed," said Holman.

Holman believes the success rate of a converted player like Hrynio depends on the individual. He mentions Seattle Mariners pitcher Rafael Soriano, a former outfielder who has enjoyed incredible success as a pitcher, as a best-case scenario. Players who may be struggling as hitters but have a good arm may sometimes thrive in a role as a pitcher, he says.

"It's kind of a last-ditch effort, but it's better than releasing a player and you end up never knowing," said Holman. "At this level of baseball, you're not allowed four or five years to learn how to pitch. It's something that (Hrynio) has got to grab hold of pretty quickly."

Michael Hrynio has seen himself moved to every position in the infield, but it looks like he just might have finally found a home on the mound.

Back to his high school days, back as a pitcher.

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