Kurcz Brings Heat And Attitude

PORTLAND, ME - Last September the Boston Red Sox suffered the worst meltdown in Major League history. The fallout from this catastrophic collapse included the firing of Manager Terry Francona and the subsequent loss of their GM Theo Epstein to the Chicago Cubs. Part of the compensation package from Chicago for Epstein was a young relief pitcher, hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, Aaron Kurcz.

Kurcz, who is listed generously at 6-foot tall and 175 pounds, doesn't have the imposing presence that some of his teammates have on the mound but toes the rubber with a mid-to-high 90's fastball and an attitude.

Last year with the Cubs' High-A Daytona squad Kurcz appeared in 32 games posting a 3.28 ERA, a WHIP of 1.22, and 91 strikeouts [9.9 per nine innings].

Typically, making the jump from Single-A to Double-A is a tough one for young players but it appears that Kurcz is up to the challenge. So far this year the 21-year old is leading all Eastern League relievers with a 13.9 SO/9 ratio with 38 strikeouts through only 27 innings.

"It's a live arm," pitching coach Bob Kipper said. "Here is a guy that can top 97 mph and you look at the kid and say, ‘where does it come from.'"

Over the offseason Kurcz went home to Las Vegas where he worked with a personal trainer on getting stronger.

"This offseason I worked with a trainer in Vegas," Kurcz said. "The workouts are pretty tough and I feel like that really helps me get ready for the season. This is my second offseason doing it and it has really helped me, strength-wise, going into the season and trying to keep that strength throughout the season."

In his first season in the Red Sox organization, Kurcz has impressed the coaching staff.

"We are impressed with his arm," manager Kevin Boles said. "Obviously he has got fastball velocity, he is starting to develop a feel for his slider, and he's got pretty good arm speed with his changeup."

"He is really progressing nicely," Kipper said. "The kid has got a great work ethic. He comes to the ballpark everyday ready to work and tries to improve in all areas; physical, fundamental, and mental."

So, how is it that the slight of frame fire-baller has racked up a league leading strikeout per nine ratio and maintained a 3.33 ERA so far this season? According to Kurcz, it is the attitude that he brings to the mound.

"I go out with a little bit of an attitude like, ‘you're not hitting this ball' and if they do, oh well," he explained. "My fastball has been my biggest pitch this year. Showing my slider and changeup has helped me play off my fastball but having that attitude, for me, has changed my game and allowed me to go out there with a confidence that I need to get through each batter."

Kevin Boles reinforced the idea that Aaron's success has a lot to do with the way he approaches the game.

"He has been very confident," Boles said. "He goes after guys. He doesn't have any fear of the hitter or of contact, he just goes after them. When the ball comes out of your hand that well it is hard not to be confident."

While he has done nothing but impress since coming to Portland, as with any Double-A baseball player, Kurcz still has a lot he would like to improve on. His fastball, according to both Boles and Kipper, is an exceptional one so Kurcz is working on developing his secondary pitches to make the fastball even more effective.

"He is working on his ability to legitimize his secondary pitches," Kipper explained. "He has come a long way with his slider and his changeup."

Kurcz readily admitted that his secondary pitches were still in the developmental stages.

"The biggest thing that I need to work on right now is my slider," he admitted. "I struggled a little with it last year. It is starting to come around for me but that is one thing that I need to work on, throwing the slider for strikes in any count."

It will be interesting to see, as the season progresses and Kurcz continues to develop those secondary pitches, just how good the youngster will be. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to improve on a stat line like his but with the high 90s fastball and the no fear approach it would be difficult to bet against him. One thing is for certain, he will be fun to watch.


Diehard Magazine Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nKurcz, who is listed generously at 6-foot tall and 175 pounds, doesn't have the imposing presence that some of his teammates have on the mound but toes the rubber with a mid-to-high 90's fastball and an attitude.
\r\n
\r\nLast year with the Cubs' High-A Daytona squad Kurcz appeared in 32 games posting a 3.28 ERA, a WHIP of 1.22, and 91 strikeouts [9.9 per nine innings].
\r\n
\r\nTypically, making the jump from Single-A to Double-A is a tough one for young players but it appears that Kurcz is up to the challenge. So far this year the 21-year old is leading all Eastern League relievers with a 13.9 SO/9 ratio with 38 strikeouts through only 27 innings.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's a live arm,\" pitching coach Bob Kipper said. \"Here is a guy that can top 97 mph and you look at the kid and say, ‘where does it come from.'\"
\r\n
\r\nOver the offseason Kurcz went home to Las Vegas where he worked with a personal trainer on getting stronger.
\r\n
\r\n\"This offseason I worked with a trainer in Vegas,\" Kurcz said. \"The workouts are pretty tough and I feel like that really helps me get ready for the season. This is my second offseason doing it and it has really helped me, strength-wise, going into the season and trying to keep that strength throughout the season.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn his first season in the Red Sox organization, Kurcz has impressed the coaching staff.
\r\n
\r\n\"We are impressed with his arm,\" manager Kevin Boles said. \"Obviously he has got fastball velocity, he is starting to develop a feel for his slider, and he's got pretty good arm speed with his changeup.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He is really progressing nicely,\" Kipper said. \"The kid has got a great work ethic. He comes to the ballpark everyday ready to work and tries to improve in all areas; physical, fundamental, and mental.\"
\r\n
\r\nSo, how is it that the slight of frame fire-baller has racked up a league leading strikeout per nine ratio and maintained a 3.33 ERA so far this season? According to Kurcz, it is the attitude that he brings to the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"I go out with a little bit of an attitude like, ‘you're not hitting this ball' and if they do, oh well,\" he explained. \"My fastball has been my biggest pitch this year. Showing my slider and changeup has helped me play off my fastball but having that attitude, for me, has changed my game and allowed me to go out there with a confidence that I need to get through each batter.\"
\r\n
\r\nKevin Boles reinforced the idea that Aaron's success has a lot to do with the way he approaches the game.
\r\n
\r\n\"He has been very confident,\" Boles said. \"He goes after guys. He doesn't have any fear of the hitter or of contact, he just goes after them. When the ball comes out of your hand that well it is hard not to be confident.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile he has done nothing but impress since coming to Portland, as with any Double-A baseball player, Kurcz still has a lot he would like to improve on. His fastball, according to both Boles and Kipper, is an exceptional one so Kurcz is working on developing his secondary pitches to make the fastball even more effective.
\r\n
\r\n\"He is working on his ability to legitimize his secondary pitches,\" Kipper explained. \"He has come a long way with his slider and his changeup.\"
\r\n
\r\nKurcz readily admitted that his secondary pitches were still in the developmental stages.
\r\n
\r\n\"The biggest thing that I need to work on right now is my slider,\" he admitted. \"I struggled a little with it last year. It is starting to come around for me but that is one thing that I need to work on, throwing the slider for strikes in any count.\"
\r\n
\r\nIt will be interesting to see, as the season progresses and Kurcz continues to develop those secondary pitches, just how good the youngster will be. It is hard to imagine anyone being able to improve on a stat line like his but with the high 90s fastball and the no fear approach it would be difficult to bet against him. One thing is for certain, he will be fun to watch.
\r\n
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