Koerner, last year's 17th round pick out of Clemson University, had one of the more solid debut seasons last year, tallying a combined 3-1 record with eight saves, a 1.23 ERA, and serving up just one home run.
He not only spent his entire debut season last year out of the bullpen but wound up closing games for both short-season Pulaski and later low-A Charleston. It was a new experience for the twenty-two year old and although his season was short he used a lot of his experiences to help enhance his game moving forward.
“I enjoyed closing," Koerner said. "It was something I’ve never done before and I had to learn to calm myself down. You get in that situation where your heart is running 100 mph, but I got kinda used to it towards the end of the year, and I just really enjoyed closing."
Given the quality of his pitches, however, his days trotting out of the bullpen wound up being short-lived as the Yankees quickly decided even before this past offseason's Instructional League to transition him into the starting rotation for the 2016 season [at minimum].
With his impending transition in mind and the additional workload he was sure to accumulate in his first full season, the biggest thing Koerner learned during the offseason was how to take care of his arm correctly and how to keep himself in the best physical shape possible.
“The stuff we do in between outings that no one really notices, that’s what was really important to me because I’ve never done it before,” Koerner said.
Koerner also grew a lot during the offseason mentally as a player. Learning the ropes last year of the Yankees organization really helped Koerner develop a consistent flow in which he now knows what to be aware of out on the field.
“To have that short-season under your belt you know what to expect…so it’s easier to approach this season,” he added.
It seemed to help out this season too as he got off to a fast start in low-A Charleston this year, posting a 1.74 ERA with just a 0.77 WHIP ratio and a strikeout per inning pitched in his first three starts before earning the quick promotion to the Florida State League.
And just as he did in Charleston earlier this season, Koerner is quickly opening some eyes in Tampa after his first two starts, including Tuesday's quality start against the Clearwater Threshers where he allowed just two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, his third start of the year pitching at least seven innings.
“He works really fast," Tampa manager Pat Osborn said. "it’s awesome. It keeps you in the game, you stay in rhythm, and there’s action all the time."
Although Koerner didn’t spend much time in Charleston, the book was clear that this kid is something special. He possesses four pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup, and a curveball -- and not only has the pitches but knows how and when to use them, and he throws a ton of strikes.
“He’s aggressive," pitching coach Tim Norton said. "He can do of a lot of things, he’s not just a one, two-pitch kind of guy. He’s got a steady mix of quality pitches."
Despite having an array of pitches to choose from there is one pitch that seems to be light years ahead of the rest -- his sinker -- and it's yet another reason why the Yankees felt so comfortable getting him into the starting rotation. Koerner’s sinker is his go-to pitch, one that often stops batters dead in their tracks at the plate, like on his debut night for the Tampa Yankees.
During his debut Koerner, who allowed just one run on four hits in six innings against the Dunedin Blue Jays, was “chewing up those righties with his sinker,” according to Norton.
However, moving forward the coaching staff would like to see Koerner develop more consistency of the zone with his offspeed pitches. Improving his other pitches are going to be a major factor in the progression of his overall game and a key component in his advancement.
“As he moves up that slider and changeup are going to be very important to continue the success as he moves up the ladder,” Osborn said.
Koerner’s solid performance through two starts just gives the Tampa staff reassurance of the reports they received from Charleston. Koerner is a type of pitcher who is always thinking while he’s on the mound, and formulating his next move according to Norton.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders, he’s pretty steady Eddy, and he’s good out there," Norton said. "He’s comfortable out there. He knows what he’s good at and overall he’s just got a really good game plan."
As the season continues, Koerner’s confidence continues to build as he becomes accustomed to his new surroundings in the starting rotation.
“I feel over time I go out there I have a good chance of getting to win the game and go deep in the game,” Koerner concluded.