Kontos has put all concerns about his college control problems behind him. He has walked just 17 in 72 1/3 innings this season. Meanwhile, he has showcased his overpowering stuff, striking out 77, which ranks second in the NY-Penn League. Kontos' two plus pitches coming out of college, his fastball and slider, have remained his bread-and-butter this season.
"The whole year, my slider's been my best pitch," Kontos said. "So I've been trying to get ahead with fastballs and then try to get people out with sliders. When I fall behind the count, I use fastballs in and out. My two-seamer's been working real well. I throw it a little bit faster than my four-seam and it's been a good one. It has a late sink. Those two pitches have pretty much been my go-to pitches."
The difference in the level of success has come from locating the fastball and improving his changeup, which Kontos said was still in the developmental stages in early July.
"He's going after guys," pitching coach Carlos Chantres said, explaining Kontos' dominance. "He's locating his fastball very, very well and he's got a big league slider. That's his pitch. He's developing a changeup, which is coming along. It was a little hard when he got here, and now it's getting below, about 10 to 12 miles per hour off his fastball speed."
"But the main thing is he goes out there and he's aggressive and he doesn't go up there nit-picking or scared to be hit," Chantres continued. "He doesn't worry about that. He just goes up there and gets outs."
Kontos' changeup has come a long way in the last two months and being able to show hitters that off-speed pitch has made his fastball and slider more effective.
"The past couple of weeks there's been a huge improvement," Chantres said of the changeup. "He's throwing it for strikes now. The velocity's down. We've worked on a couple of grips there and he found one that he feels comfortable with and he's sticking to that."
"When I came in here, my changeup was pretty much non-existent," Kontos said, "And we've been working on it, Carlos and I. He's been suggesting a bunch of different grips. I've been trying them and we finally have come to one where I'm throwing it now and I've been working on it the last couple of weeks, and it's definitely starting to show signs that it can become a pretty good pitch."
"I'm real confident controlling it," Kontos continued, "My big thing right now is just getting it from 78 to 82, instead of 80 to 85. A couple [Monday night] were a little bit harder, but a couple were also pretty good. I felt I threw them pretty well."
The pitch has developed nicely, but improving it to the point where he can throw it in any count will come with more time. Right now, he uses the change to set-up his other pitches.
"More early in the count or if I'm ahead in the count, 1-2, 0-2 to a lefty," Kontos said of when he throws the change. "I won't throw it too much to righties. But to lefties early in the count is when I feel most comfortable throwing it."
"He uses it more now just to get ahead and show them, and get a feel for it," Chantres explained before Monday's start. "I'm not going to say he can't do it [throw it in other counts]. Maybe tonight he does it, but right now, he's using it early in the count, when he needs to show it to righties and lefties."
Kontos understands the importance of his changeup. With two plus pitches, scouts had projected him as a reliever, but Kontos wants to master the changeup and remain a starter.
"In my opinion, and I'm sure Carlos [Chantres] will tell you the same thing," Kontos said, "That pitch is the key to me being a starter down the stretch. It's being able to master that pitch and throw it for a strike or for a ball, wherever I want to throw it. And I think I'm definitely on the right path."
Coach Chantres also believes perfecting his ability to locate his fastball will help Kontos reach the bigs.
"He does a good job of throwing it for strikes," Chantres said of the fastball, "but commanding it. Hitting certain spots in certain situations. He's got a good slider and he's got to be able to get to that slider to put guys away. That's just the main thing with him. He's got to get ahead and stay ahead."
Kontos has made enough progress this year that he does not have to work much in the off-season. Between college ball at Northwestern and this year's Staten Island campaign, Kontos has thrown 167 2/3 innings this season and his pitching coach believes he needs to rest more than anything.
"He's got a hundred-something innings between college and now," Chantres said, "So the main thing for me, he's got to rest. You know, work out and keep running, but arm-wise, he needs to rest. He shouldn't be throwing that much so he can be ready next year wherever he may start. Being around him, I know he doesn't want to be around here, in the minor leagues, too long. He wants to pitch in the big leagues and he's got the stuff to pitch up there."
"Once the season is over, I'm going to Instructional ball," Kontos said of his plans for the end of the season. "And once that's done, I'm going to take a couple of months off. I'm starting to get up there in innings. But I'm going to keep running, lifting, doing my arm stuff, doing some dry sides."
Staten Island would like him to keep pitching for them through their final 10 games, and hopefully a few in the playoffs, before that well-deserved rest. After that breather though, Kontos expects to move up a few levels next season.
"Hopefully upon returning, I'd like to start in high-A next year," said Kontos. "That's my goal, right now. I definitely think it's possible. I've done real well. So we'll see what happens."