Kiker enjoys winning atmosphere in Clinton

With a 3.09 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 32 innings, left-handed pitcher Kasey Kiker is off to an oustanding start to his first full professional season. Lone Star Dugout recently spoke with the former first-round pick after a start against the Kane County Cougars.

Just two weeks after firing five innings of one-hit, shutout ball against the Kane County Cougars, Clinton starting pitcher Kasey Kiker struggled against the division rival, giving up four earned runs on five hits in five innings.

"It wasn't a very good outing," said Kiker of his start. "I struggled with my command a little bit. My curveball was half-and-half, my changeup was ok, but the fastball command had to be better."

Despite the tough outing, the Clinton offense nearly rallied back to win the game in the ninth inning. With one run already in, the LumberKings loaded the bases with nobody out, trailing by one run.

However, right fielder K.C. Herren popped out and Mauro Gomez grounded into a routine double play.

"The team picked me up a little bit and almost pulled it out at the end," he said.

After posting a dismal 45-94 record just one season ago, the L-Kings have righted the ship. The club clinched a playoff spot with an outstanding first half that included 41 wins. With a 3-1 start to the second half, Clinton is just one win away from matching their win total from all of last year.

Though Kiker has only been with the club for a little more than a month, he believes the team chemistry is something special.

"We've got a great team," said Kiker. "I've never seen a team play as well together as our team does."

But as with any successful minor league club, players that are performing well are bound to get promoted. The 19-year-old went on to talk about the difficulties of losing players, such as fellow starting pitcher Mike Ballard, in mid-season.

"It's a Catch-22," explained Kiker. "[Ballard] loved our team. The pitchers and position players all hang out. But that's the next step and you have to move up. You have to be happy for them, but I wish our team could all move up together."

The lefty also believes his team's success on the mound helps to give him confidence.

"I'm just trying to go out there and compete with the rest of our starters," he said. "If you're hanging with them, you are going to do just fine. Everybody has done pretty well this year."

Aside from his team's success, Kiker has been happy with his overall performance with the LumberKings, but feels he must become more consistent.

"I'm happy, but I've just got to get more consistent with my starts," said Kiker. "I'll have two good starts and then two bad starts. I'm just trying to stay steady and consistent."

Kiker, who became known for his Dontrelle Willis-like leg kick in high school, went through some mechanical changes in extended spring training. The Rangers elected to cut out most of his high leg kick in an effort to help him hold baserunners. The Alabama native believes the adjustments are working, with the help of manager Mike Micucci.

"The baserunners aren't getting good jumps and my catchers have been able to throw them out," said Kiker. "I've actually read a couple of baserunners stealing. My manager, Mike Micucci, is helping me call picks at the right times. It has been pretty clutch."

He also believes the modifications have helped him stay around the strike zone, keeping his walk totals and pitch counts to a minimum.

"[The changes] are helping me stay lower in the zone and it's making me stay on top of the ball," he said. "I'm throwing a lot more strikes."

Although Kiker is enjoying his time in Clinton, he was also happy to get a few days of rest during the Midwest League All-Star Break.

"I went back home to Alabama and just recharged the batteries a little bit," said the pitcher. "I didn't tell anybody but my grandpa and my brother, so it was nice to surprise everybody."

Future Rangers Top Stories