The Texas Rangers have claimed left-handed relief pitcher Mike Kickham off waivers from the Mariners on Tuesday. Subsequently, the club has optioned him to the team's Triple-A affiliate at Round Rock. To make room for Kickham on the 40-man roster, the Rangers transferred outfielder Ryan Rua to the 60-day disabled list.
The 26-year-old former San Francisco Giants' prospect has 30 innings of major league service as a reliever over 2013 and 2014. His 10.98 ERA, 2.7 HR/9 and 16 H/9 in that role pretty much sums up how that worked out.
And this season with the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate at Tacoma, Kickham has been struggling with his control to the tune of an 7.29 ERA, with 28 walks over 21 innings while striking out 12. That calculates to a 12 BB/9 and a 5.1K/9.
So why is Kickham worth claiming? The first reason is because, even though most of his major league time has been spent as a reliever, almost all of his minor league time has been spent as a starter, and he's been a pretty good one. In six years in the minors he's worked 544 innings over 104 appearances -- 100 of them as a starting pitcher -- and carried an aggregate 4.10 ERA, 7.9K/9 and 0.6HR/9. For the Pacific Coast League (PCL), those numbers are pretty solid. And the second reason: His 131 strikeouts last year were tied for fourth most by a pitcher in the PCL.
The Rangers have got to be hoping a change of scenery and a mechanics adjustment will reverse those strikeout and walk numbers so they can turn him into a useful swingman who more closely resembles the competent starter from the Giants farm rather than the out of control reliever the Giants turned him into.