RC Interview with Matt Kniginyzky

Matt Kniginyzky converted from reliever to starter this season, and the results have been outstanding. In 103.1 innings pitched this year for Burlington, Kniginyzky boasts an 8-3 record with an ERA of 3.22. RC sat down with Kniginyzky after his start on Wednesday evening to discuss his repertoire, his recent injury, and his conversion to the starting rotation from the bullpen.


Royals Corner: Thanks for talking with us, Matt. How did you feel about tonight's effort? Did you have command of all of your pitches?

Matt Kniginyzky: I went out there, and I was on a pitch count tonight – a 75-pitch count, because I'm just coming back. I just tried to make as many pitches low in the zone and locate my fastball as consistently as I could. I had pretty good control of the fastball tonight. I think I had about three walks. I just got out of sync with some mechanical stuff that we've been working on. But I got that down a little bit and felt good about it. The curveball felt good tonight, and I didn't throw too many change-ups, but that felt good tonight too. It felt good getting back into it though, and I felt a little smoother tonight.

RC: Was that your normal distribution of pitches? It did look like you were throwing about 80 percent fastballs. Is that what you normally do?

MK: The Royals stress fastball command a lot, so yeah, if you can establish your fastball, all the other pitches work better. I probably should have had a few more change-ups in there, but the situations didn't really call for them tonight, and I just tried to be consistent and low in the zone. I'm just happy we got a win out of it tonight.

RC: You mentioned your injury. We understand you strained your lat about a month or so ago. Are you fully recovered now? How's that going?

MK: There are no problems with the lat anymore. They're working me back into it, and erring on the side of caution. It was a lat strain, and I actually had some knots in there because I strained it, and it just really tightened up on me. I was having problems, and it was really hurting me trying to get through and finish my pitches, so we decided to shut it down before something more serious happened. It was definitely the best thing to do.

RC: So the pitch count was essentially just to build your arm back up?

MK: Yeah, I had about three weeks off. I probably could have come back a little sooner, but the Royals wanted to err on the side of caution. It was definitely the best thing for me, because now there are no problems at all, and I'm starting to feel good again.

RC: Could you talk a little about your repertoire? Is it mainly the fastball, curve, and change we saw tonight? And also, do you throw both a four and two-seam fastball?

MK: We work on pretty much just the four-seam command right now. Dayton Moore really stresses command of the four-seam fastball – that's pretty much what you need to have. Velocity-wise, I'm usually sitting at about 90-92 mph, but I can get it up to 93-94. Tonight, it was good to see that the velocity came back. It's been coming back a little bit more and more throughout each start, and it was about 89-92 tonight, and sitting at 90-92. It's good to feel a little bit of the smoothness coming back, and hopefully I can continue to build on that and get back to where I was before.

Kniginyzky throws a fastball, curveball, and change-up

RC: Among your pitches, which one do you feel lags behind the others the most? Which one needs the most work?

MK: The change-up is still a new pitch for me, so I probably need to work on commanding it the most. I love that pitch, now that I can actually throw one. Commanding that pitch a little more in the strike zone would definitely help. More fastball command is also a big thing. Just look at the guys in the big leagues – they all have good fastball command, so those are the things I need to work on the most.

RC: Do you throw or circle-change, or do you have a different grip on that pitch?

MK: I just kind of bury it in my hand. I guess it would be closest to a circle-change, but I just bury it and hold it with four-seams, and just try to keep a real loose grip on it. That seems to work the best for me. I developed it last year in Instructional League with a coach who was here last year – [Andy] Hawkins. He really worked on it with me, and I'm sticking with it. It's been a good pitch for me.

RC: Let's talk a little bit about your transition to a starter this year. We know you relieved a lot in college, and you were a reliever last year. How's the transition going, and do you prefer starting or relieving?

MK: Definitely now I prefer starting. I love the closer role, and I think it's a lot of fun to have all that pressure on you – I kind of like that. The problem with me starting before was always my mechanics. I was always just a "grip it and rip it" guy, and I never had great mechanics, so I was always burning out in about the fourth inning. But now that we've really worked on my mechanics, I've become a lot smoother, and I'm able keep my velocity up and my pitches lower in the zone, and my pitch counts have been lower. It's been a fun transition, and I really like the starting role.

RC: When did you first learn that the Royals wanted you to start?

MK: It was in Spring Training. I never worked out of the full wind-up at all during the off-season. I talked about it with Mike Mason a little bit, but nothing too serious, and I wasn't too sure what was going to happen. I came back into mini-camp in Spring Training, and they let me know that I would be starting this year. I was a little nervous about it at first – well, maybe not so much nervous – but I had some problems with starting in the past. But I let the mechanics take over for me, and I've just been a lot better ever since.

RC: The rotation here in Burlington has been outstanding this year, and it seems to be stacked with pitchers having great seasons. What's it like pitching in a rotation like this, and do you guys feed off each other and compete with each other?

MK: Definitely. We push ourselves a lot. When a guy like [Carlos] Rosa goes out and has a great outing like he had last night and the outing before, it's kind of like everyone's trying to one-up each other. I think that's really good for our competitiveness in general, and trying to go out there and do the best job possible. [Chris] Nicoll has been pushing everyone all year. He's got great command of all of his pitches, and he's just been dominating all year long. [Michael] Penn, too, before he was injured. And with [Erik] Cordier and [Mario] Santiago coming in…Cordier's been doing great. We all push each other, and I think that really helps.

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