Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Kea Kometani

After reaching Double-A Frisco in his first full season in professional baseball, right-hander Kea Kometani has begun his second season with the RoughRiders. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the native Hawaiian.

One of the best under-the-radar pitching prospects in the Rangers' minor league system is Frisco right-hander Kea Kometani. While he doesn't have overpowering stuff, the native Hawaiian has put up nice numbers at each of his stops in the minors.

Kometani was drafted by the Rangers in the 15th round of the 2005 draft after his senior season at Pepperdine University. He had the best season of his college career as senior, when he went 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA. Kometani is well-rounded, as he was an All-West Coast Conference academic performer while in college and a standout volleyball player while in high school.

After signing with the Rangers, Kometani dominated at short-season Spokane and was promoted to Low-A Clinton after just eight innings. While at Clinton, Kometani helped the Lumberkings reach the playoffs as he went 3-2 with a 2.40 ERA in 56 1/3 innings.

Kometani's 2006 season wasn't quite as successful statistically as his debut season, but he still posted good numbers in both High-A and Double-A. He went a combined 12-7 and a 4.13 ERA between the two levels.

Kometani has been used mainly in the starting rotation as a professional, but because he currently lacks a consistent third pitch, he profiles as a middle reliever in the major leagues. He has struggled early this season with his command and is averaging only 0.63 groundouts to each flyout. This is quite a change from last season, when he averaged 1.35 groundouts per flyout. Kometani only works in the upper 80s with his fastball and has never been a big strikeout pitcher, so he will need to revert back to his 2006 form if he hopes to reach the major leagues.

In five starts this season with the RoughRiders, Kometani has a 1-1 record with a 5.76 ERA. He has struck out only 11 and walked 13 in 25 innings. His problems with his command have caused him to be very hittable, as opponents are hitting .321 against him compared to .275 when he was in Frisco last year.

Lone Star Dugout caught up to Kometani after a recent game and found out about growing up in Hawaii, going to college at Pepperdine and whether he likes starting or relieving the best.

Lone Star Dugout: Describe what pitches you throw.

Kometani: I use mainly fastballs, sliders and my splitter. Most of the time I pitch off of those three pitches right there.

Lone Star Dugout: You have pitched mainly as a starter since the Rangers drafted you, how much experience do you have as a relief pitcher?

Kometani: I pitched in relief my freshman and sophomore year. My freshman year I was a regular reliever and my sophomore year I was the closer. It has been a while since I was a reliever. Right now I feel good starting, but I think I could pitch in either place.

Lone Star Dugout: You've been promoted quickly since signing. How has that gone for you?

Kometani: I pitched in Bakersfield to start last year and Frisco last year for about half the year. It is a lot more comfortable here this year. I have already been to all the places and seen all the things.

Lone Star Dugout: Growing up in Hawaii, how did you end up going to school in Malibu at Pepperdine?

Kometani: Well, I wasn't going to stay home. I looked at USC and Pepperdine and a couple of other schools, and Pepperdine was the best fit. I wasn't able to play at USC, but I was able to walk on at Pepperdine and it was definitely the best all-around choice.

Lone Star Dugout: Another player from Hawaii who has been playing very well in the minor leagues is Kurt Suzuki, did you play with him or against him any growing up?

Kometani: Well he grew up on Maui, but I played in a senior showcase event with him one time. I played against him a lot more in college when he was at Fullerton since we were in the same conference, and then I played against him last year when he was in Midland.

Lone Star Dugout: What is your favorite ballpark to pitch in?

Kometani: I really like playing at our place, and Springfield is also a fun place to play at because of the crowds there and the new stadium.

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