Perfecting Pitches is Key for Kunz

The Mets' top overall pick in this year's draft headed to Arizona after an up and down summer with Brooklyn. Known for his heavy sinking fastball, Eddie Kunz was inconsistent at times in large part due to his secondary pitches. During the fall league, it will be his priority to further develop both his slider and changeup, getting them ready for the spring which he knows will come soon enough.

After much build-up, Eddie Kunz reported to Brooklyn on July 27 with the luster of being the organization's top selection. The Mets used their top choice on a pitcher who usually spends only one inning at a time on the mound, a move seemingly unorthodox to many fans and observers.

The 6-foot-5 closer is not a fireball-throwing closer in the traditional sense, blowing away opposition with high-90s four-seam fastballs, but rather a closer of a new mold. Kunz has plenty of velocity as he boars in on hitters with his diving two-seam fastball that sits 95-96 MPH, but his approach is all about making hitters pound the ball into the turf. In 12 innings pitched this year, Kunz induced nearly 8 ½ groundouts for every fly out. After joining the Cyclones later in the season, observers wanted to see results right away, but for Kunz it took some time and adjustment to find his comfort zone.

"I think when I was first there, in the first outings I had, I noticed that my body was a little tired," he said. "I knew had a lot more games to go and I wanted to prove to everyone that I can still come out and play well because there were plenty of guys who had a long college season and were out there too."

He struggled in his first two professional appearances in early August, giving up three earned runs, three hits and two walks over 1.1 innings pitched. But for a determined Kunz, he knew a strong mindset and close work with pitching coach Hector Berrios would turn his fortunes.

"Hector and the other guys on the team really allowed me to settle in and pitch my game," he said. "They treated me like I had been there from the start like the rest of them. They didn't look at me as this new guy, or the late guy. That's when I stepped it up in my head and starting throwing better. I wanted to show these guys and everyone else what I can do."

With a relief corps of effective arms, Brooklyn manager Edgar Alfonzo and Berrios could have let Kunz work through his problems in the bullpen, but instead they threw him right back into the fire, making him learn and execute during games, and not during bullpen sessions. The very next game after his three-run outing, Kunz was back on the rubber, starting a streak of five straight scoreless appearances in which his groundball ratio really spiked and he surrendered just one hit.

"With my fastball, if I just throw it over the plate it's going to move enough for me. I just need to make sure it's always down in the zone and I'll get the groundballs. Not too many guys are going to be able to lift the ball and hit it far, usually if guys get under it, it will just be a pop up or flair. The only times it will get hit far is if I make a mistake and leave it up, and I was leaving my fastball up way too much early on. But as I got more time [in Brooklyn], I was definitely a lot more consistent with my fastball, and things starting coming together."

Yet, not every piece of his repertoire was where it needed to be. During the season, he had issues maintaining consistency on both his changeup and slider, the latter being his traditional out-pitch. He struggled to throw it for strikes with his slider, usually leaving it down out of the zone or off the plate too much.

"I had my slider in the past as a put-away pitch but then I started to struggle throwing it for a strike. Working on my slider was probably the biggest part of my summer, because if I just keep showing guys the fastball they will get used it. I need my out-pitch on point at the least just to mix things up," he said.

He also needs his changeup which he lost the feel of at times during the season. He has good arm speed on the changeup, but his problem was with location as he left the ball over too much of the plate. For the pitch to be as effective as can be, it needs to be well-located on the corners of the strike zone.

"The changeup was off early in the year, but it developed a lot more as the season went on. I can now throw it for strikes on both sides of the plate, and throw it for a strike when I want which helped me out a lot."

The two pitches and the command of the strike zone will be his focus during the Arizona Fall League season. Kunz gave up nine runs in four outings this year; the glaring problem in each of those appearances was walks. He issued seven of his eight walks when knocked around for runs and allowed just one walk in his other eight scoreless frames.

"My biggest thing will be not to walk many people and get that first pitch strike. Hector showed me in Brooklyn that if I started guys off with a strike, their batting averages against me went way down because I got to work with my pitches. It was when I got behind in the count that guys started hitting me really well," he explained.

Certainly winning each time he takes the mound is a goal, but for Kunz, Arizona offers him an opportunity to put the team pressure aside and concentrate and improving his game.

"Coming here, I'm going to work on my stuff, and of course we want to try to win this league, but with 20 pitchers on the roster, I may only get to pitch a couple times a week so each outing is really important for me to work on what I need to. Fall ball really well let me just work on my game,' he said.

Kunz has endured a very long season. He pitched to the NCAA's final game in a championship season at Oregon State that preceded Brooklyn, but he is energized at the opportunity to wrap up his rookie season and prepare himself for spring training, which by the end of the AFL season will be a mere two and a half months away for pitchers.

"I think I learned a lot more about the game when I got professional baseball and both Hector Berrios and Rick Waits were very important in my development. Those guys helped me out so much with the mental part of the game. They saw that I already have the ability of a short memory and that I don't carry things into the next game which is what I need to do if I'm going to continue to save games next season and beyond,' he closed.

Kunz was roughed up in his first AFL appearance, giving up four earned runs in the fourth inning of Wednesday's night game versus Peo Saguaros. He took the loss and the blown save


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nAfter much build-up, Eddie Kunz reported to Brooklyn on July 27 with the luster of being the organization's top selection. The Mets used their top choice on a pitcher who usually spends only one inning at a time on the mound, a move seemingly unorthodox to many fans and observers.
\r\n
\r\nThe 6-foot-5 closer is not a fireball-throwing closer in the traditional sense, blowing away opposition with high-90s four-seam fastballs, but rather a closer of a new mold. Kunz has plenty of velocity as he boars in on hitters with his diving two-seam fastball that sits 95-96 MPH, but his approach is all about making hitters pound the ball into the turf. In 12 innings pitched this year, Kunz induced nearly 8 ½ groundouts for every fly out. After joining the Cyclones later in the season, observers wanted to see results right away, but for Kunz it took some time and adjustment to find his comfort zone.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think when I was first there, in the first outings I had, I noticed that my body was a little tired,\" he said. \"I knew had a lot more games to go and I wanted to prove to everyone that I can still come out and play well because there were plenty of guys who had a long college season and were out there too.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe struggled in his first two professional appearances in early August, giving up three earned runs, three hits and two walks over 1.1 innings pitched. But for a determined Kunz, he knew a strong mindset and close work with pitching coach Hector Berrios would turn his fortunes.
\r\n
\r\n\"Hector and the other guys on the team really allowed me to settle in and pitch my game,\" he said. \"They treated me like I had been there from the start like the rest of them. They didn't look at me as this new guy, or the late guy. That's when I stepped it up in my head and starting throwing better. I wanted to show these guys and everyone else what I can do.\"
\r\n
\r\nWith a relief corps of effective arms, Brooklyn manager Edgar Alfonzo and Berrios could have let Kunz work through his problems in the bullpen, but instead they threw him right back into the fire, making him learn and execute during games, and not during bullpen sessions. The very next game after his three-run outing, Kunz was back on the rubber, starting a streak of five straight scoreless appearances in which his groundball ratio really spiked and he surrendered just one hit.
\r\n
\r\n\"With my fastball, if I just throw it over the plate it's going to move enough for me. I just need to make sure it's always down in the zone and I'll get the groundballs. Not too many guys are going to be able to lift the ball and hit it far, usually if guys get under it, it will just be a pop up or flair. The only times it will get hit far is if I make a mistake and leave it up, and I was leaving my fastball up way too much early on. But as I got more time [in Brooklyn], I was definitely a lot more consistent with my fastball, and things starting coming together.\"
\r\n
\r\nYet, not every piece of his repertoire was where it needed to be. During the season, he had issues maintaining consistency on both his changeup and slider, the latter being his traditional out-pitch. He struggled to throw it for strikes with his slider, usually leaving it down out of the zone or off the plate too much.
\r\n
\r\n\"I had my slider in the past as a put-away pitch but then I started to struggle throwing it for a strike. Working on my slider was probably the biggest part of my summer, because if I just keep showing guys the fastball they will get used it. I need my out-pitch on point at the least just to mix things up,\" he said.
\r\n
\r\nHe also needs his changeup which he lost the feel of at times during the season. He has good arm speed on the changeup, but his problem was with location as he left the ball over too much of the plate. For the pitch to be as effective as can be, it needs to be well-located on the corners of the strike zone.
\r\n
\r\n\"The changeup was off early in the year, but it developed a lot more as the season went on. I can now throw it for strikes on both sides of the plate, and throw it for a strike when I want which helped me out a lot.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe two pitches and the command of the strike zone will be his focus during the Arizona Fall League season. Kunz gave up nine runs in four outings this year; the glaring problem in each of those appearances was walks. He issued seven of his eight walks when knocked around for runs and allowed just one walk in his other eight scoreless frames.
\r\n
\r\n\"My biggest thing will be not to walk many people and get that first pitch strike. Hector showed me in Brooklyn that if I started guys off with a strike, their batting averages against me went way down because I got to work with my pitches. It was when I got behind in the count that guys started hitting me really well,\" he explained.
\r\n
\r\nCertainly winning each time he takes the mound is a goal, but for Kunz, Arizona offers him an opportunity to put the team pressure aside and concentrate and improving his game.
\r\n
\r\n\"Coming here, I'm going to work on my stuff, and of course we want to try to win this league, but with 20 pitchers on the roster, I may only get to pitch a couple times a week so each outing is really important for me to work on what I need to. Fall ball really well let me just work on my game,' he said.
\r\n
\r\nKunz has endured a very long season. He pitched to the NCAA's final game in a championship season at Oregon State that preceded Brooklyn, but he is energized at the opportunity to wrap up his rookie season and prepare himself for spring training, which by the end of the AFL season will be a mere two and a half months away for pitchers.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I learned a lot more about the game when I got professional baseball and both Hector Berrios and Rick Waits were very important in my development. Those guys helped me out so much with the mental part of the game. They saw that I already have the ability of a short memory and that I don't carry things into the next game which is what I need to do if I'm going to continue to save games next season and beyond,' he closed.
\r\n
\r\nKunz was roughed up in his first AFL appearance, giving up four earned runs in the fourth inning of Wednesday's night game versus Peo Saguaros. He took the loss and the blown save
\r\n
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