Name: Kea Kometani
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: December 24, 1982
The 2007 season was one of adjustments for right-handed pitcher Kea Kometani. Though he had been a starting pitcher through his first two professional seasons, the Rangers elected to move Kometani to the bullpen after he made six starts at Double-A Frisco.
Prior to joining the Rangers organization, Kometani spent four years at Pepperdine University. The native of Honolulu relieved for two seasons and started for two while in Malibu.
"I pitched in relief my freshman and sophomore year," said Kometani last May. "My freshman year I was a regular reliever and my sophomore year I was the closer. It has been awhile since I was a reliever."
The Rangers chose to convert Kometani into a reliever after he scuffled through six starts in April and May. Kometani's season-ending ERA of 4.27 wasn't totally indicative of his year as a reliever, as it was slightly inflated from his six starts.
Kometani admits the move to the bullpen was beneficial in a variety of ways.
"I think it's just a little less thinking when you're in the bullpen," he said. "I just go out there and give it everything I've got for one or two innings. When I was starting, I was thinking too much. I was holding back for some innings, trying to pace myself. Maybe I should have just gone all out until I ran out of gas."
The former Pepperdine Wave worked with a four-pitch arsenal early in the 2007 season, but that changed shortly after he became a reliever.
"I was kind of working on a changeup that was so-so," replied the 25-year-old. "I didn't throw it in a game too much, but that has kind of been cancelled now that I'm in the ‘pen."
Although he is technically a three-pitch pitcher, Kometani says he generally works off his fastball and splitter.
"I still have my slider," said Kometani, "but I haven't thrown it as much. The majority is fastballs and splitters."
Kometani pitched in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, where he was one of the league's most dominant relievers. Kometani surrendered just two runs on five hits in 10 innings of work. He walked two and struck out 17. Even more impressive was Kometani's success against right-handed hitters. In 5.2 innings against righties, Kometani struck out 12 without giving up a single base hit.
Repertoire: Fastball, Splitter, Slider.
Kometani worked with a four-pitch repertoire as a starting pitcher, but he has modified it slightly since moving to the bullpen. The Hawaiian was working on a changeup early last season, but he stopped throwing it shortly after becoming a relief pitcher. Though Kometani still throws a slider, he uses it less often. The righty generally works off a solid fastball-splitter combination that allowed him to be successful out of the ‘pen in '07. Kometani's fastball generally sits between 88-92 MPH and the move to the bullpen has given it some extra zip. His splitter is a plus pitch and makes him a candidate to become a reliable big league relief pitcher.
Projection: The 6-foot-4 right-hander will pitch his second season as a reliever in 2008. With two above-average pitches, the role is one that fits him well. Kometani profiles as a middle reliever/seventh-inning man in the majors. Of course, if Kometani – who fanned 12 of the 18 right-handed hitters he faced in the Arizona Fall League – picks up where he left off this past fall, he could possibly work at the back end of a big league bullpen.
2008 Outlook: Over the past two seasons, Kometani has logged over 166 innings at the Double-A level. After pitching well out of the ‘pen in both the regular season and Arizona Fall League last year, Kometani should make the jump to Triple-A Oklahoma in 2008. Now a full-time reliever, Kometani will work out of the bullpen for the club. Because of his aforementioned fastball-splitter combo, the 25-year-old should get a chance with the Rangers if he pitches well with Oklahoma.