Kontos Getting Comfortable In Double-A

Last year George Kontos had an ERA over 4.00, which could easily deceive onlookers into thinking he had an unsuccessful season at Tampa. However, after taking a closer look at his 2007 peripherals, one quickly becomes aware of his strong strikeout and solid hit rates. After a tough start to his 2008 Double-A campaign, Kontos is looking to settle in as a solid member of the Trenton rotation.

The jump from high-A to Double-A is widely recognized as the most challenging jump in professional baseball, particularly for starting pitchers. It is the litmus test which can reveal pretenders or catapult hot prospects into the big leagues.

For George Kontos, the jump was a sobering challenge as he began the season with some underwhelming performances. His first three starts saw Kontos compile 14 innings, allowing 7 earned runs on 16 hits.

The most alarming statistic, however, was an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kontos, whose prowess is as a strikeout pitcher, showed an uncharacteristic tentativeness by walking eight and striking out only five batters over his first three starts.

However, during his last two starts, the pitcher whom scouts and hitters have grown accustomed to seeing, reemerged as he logged 11 1/3 innings, struck out ten, walked three and allowed three earned runs on nine hits.

Thanks to his last start on Thursday, Kontos finally saw his strikeout total exceed his walks allowed, consequently creating a boost in the 22-year-old's confidence level.

"Ever since my first game, my starts were slowly but surely getting better," Kontos said, "and [Thursday] was the one where I really felt confident and had some good results.

"You go through your side work and your preparation for the games and as you get more comfortable, the game becomes a little bit easier to you. When you feel prepared, you feel more comfortable and when you feel more comfortable you feel more confident.

"I think overall it's just being comfortable out there.," Kontos explained when asked what the difference had been over his last two starts. "My first start I was pressing a little bit, trying to be little bit too fine, giving maybe the hitters a little too much credit. But [Thursday] I just went out there and tried to locate my fastball, locate my pitches and rest of it took care of itself."

The boost in his confidence came as Kontos recaptured the command of his pitches, particularly his plus fastball. His heavy fastball ranges from 90-94 mph with good movement in on right handed hitters. His best secondary pitch has always been a hard, biting slider which dives away from righties and bores in on lefties, with velocity in the mid-to-high 80s.

However, the most important factor in Kontos having success in the Eastern League and beyond may revolve around his ability to mix in his other pitches, namely a developing changeup and curveball.

His ability to "pull the string" on hitters after showing a heavy fastball may dictate whether Kontos has a future in the big league rotation or bullpen.

"I threw a couple curveballs and I think I threw about ten or twelve changeups," Kontos said of his two developing offspeed pitches. "The changeup was very big for me [Thursday]. It gave hitters a little bit of a different look besides a first pitch fastball or a first pitch slider.

"My big thing was I threw a couple of first pitch changeups to the righties and it kind of caught them off-balance a little bit and if I can throw it for strikes, it's definitely a pitch that I'm going to surprise some hitters with and maybe catch them with first strike looking."

Kontos primarily throws his change in the low 80's with good arm-speed and it shows above-average movement, though his propensity to leave it elevated would be punished in the majors.

He does not currently have as much feel for his curveball as his changeup and only goes to it a few times in a start. However, the curve has shown flashes of becoming an above-average offering which generally runs 73-77 mph with tight downward action.

Kontos described the changeup as a key factor in his development this year and admitted "last year I worked on the changeup," but now believes he's developed the pitch enough to "where [he] can use it effectively." He went on to explain that the reliability and quality of his changeup will be "a big thing" for him this year.

The higher level of competition Double-A hitters provide for Eastern League starters forced Kontos to refine his complimentary pitches or cope with poor results. Only taking part in his third week of Double-A ball, Kontos described the new challenges Eastern League hitters offered him.

"The hitters are a little bit more disciplined," Kontos commented. "Back in Tampa I could get away with throwing a pretty good slider in the zone and out of the zone and they'd chase it. [Double-A hitters] recognize it a little bit sooner and they'll start to swing but if it's in the dirt they'll hold up.

"These guys are a little bit more patient and a little more disciplined so we're trying to mix up pitches and not give hitters the same pitches their second or third time around and get into habits."

There is little doubt Kontos has the talent and toughness to succeed at Trenton. The only question is whether he can harness his electric stuff by commanding his pitches and developing his changeup. If Thursday night's performance is any indicator, Kontos has already taken the first step towards such success.

"I think I'm finally pretty set and everything's been getting better each start," Kontos claimed. "[Thursday] was my best start so hopefully next time we can keep building on it and take it from there."

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nThe jump from high-A to Double-A is widely recognized as the most challenging jump in professional baseball, particularly for starting pitchers. It is the litmus test which can reveal pretenders or catapult hot prospects into the big leagues.
\r\n
\r\nFor George Kontos, the jump was a sobering challenge as he began the season with some underwhelming performances. His first three starts saw Kontos compile 14 innings, allowing 7 earned runs on 16 hits.
\r\n
\r\nThe most alarming statistic, however, was an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kontos, whose prowess is as a strikeout pitcher, showed an uncharacteristic tentativeness by walking eight and striking out only five batters over his first three starts.
\r\n
\r\nHowever, during his last two starts, the pitcher whom scouts and hitters have grown accustomed to seeing, reemerged as he logged 11 1/3 innings, struck out ten, walked three and allowed three earned runs on nine hits.
\r\n
\r\nThanks to his last start on Thursday, Kontos finally saw his strikeout total exceed his walks allowed, consequently creating a boost in the 22-year-old's confidence level.
\r\n
\r\n\"Ever since my first game, my starts were slowly but surely getting better,\" Kontos said, \"and [Thursday] was the one where I really felt confident and had some good results.
\r\n
\r\n\"You go through your side work and your preparation for the games and as you get more comfortable, the game becomes a little bit easier to you. When you feel prepared, you feel more comfortable and when you feel more comfortable you feel more confident.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think overall it's just being comfortable out there.,\" Kontos explained when asked what the difference had been over his last two starts. \"My first start I was pressing a little bit, trying to be little bit too fine, giving maybe the hitters a little too much credit. But [Thursday] I just went out there and tried to locate my fastball, locate my pitches and rest of it took care of itself.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe boost in his confidence came as Kontos recaptured the command of his pitches, particularly his plus fastball. His heavy fastball ranges from 90-94 mph with good movement in on right handed hitters. His best secondary pitch has always been a hard, biting slider which dives away from righties and bores in on lefties, with velocity in the mid-to-high 80s.
\r\n
\r\nHowever, the most important factor in Kontos having success in the Eastern League and beyond may revolve around his ability to mix in his other pitches, namely a developing changeup and curveball.
\r\n
\r\nHis ability to \"pull the string\" on hitters after showing a heavy fastball may dictate whether Kontos has a future in the big league rotation or bullpen.
\r\n
\r\n\"I threw a couple curveballs and I think I threw about ten or twelve changeups,\" Kontos said of his two developing offspeed pitches. \"The changeup was very big for me [Thursday]. It gave hitters a little bit of a different look besides a first pitch fastball or a first pitch slider.
\r\n
\r\n\"My big thing was I threw a couple of first pitch changeups to the righties and it kind of caught them off-balance a little bit and if I can throw it for strikes, it's definitely a pitch that I'm going to surprise some hitters with and maybe catch them with first strike looking.\"
\r\n
\r\nKontos primarily throws his change in the low 80's with good arm-speed and it shows above-average movement, though his propensity to leave it elevated would be punished in the majors.
\r\n
\r\nHe does not currently have as much feel for his curveball as his changeup and only goes to it a few times in a start. However, the curve has shown flashes of becoming an above-average offering which generally runs 73-77 mph with tight downward action.
\r\n
\r\nKontos described the changeup as a key factor in his development this year and admitted \"last year I worked on the changeup,\" but now believes he's developed the pitch enough to \"where [he] can use it effectively.\" He went on to explain that the reliability and quality of his changeup will be \"a big thing\" for him this year.
\r\n
\r\nThe higher level of competition Double-A hitters provide for Eastern League starters forced Kontos to refine his complimentary pitches or cope with poor results. Only taking part in his third week of Double-A ball, Kontos described the new challenges Eastern League hitters offered him.
\r\n
\r\n\"The hitters are a little bit more disciplined,\" Kontos commented. \"Back in Tampa I could get away with throwing a pretty good slider in the zone and out of the zone and they'd chase it. [Double-A hitters] recognize it a little bit sooner and they'll start to swing but if it's in the dirt they'll hold up.
\r\n
\r\n\"These guys are a little bit more patient and a little more disciplined so we're trying to mix up pitches and not give hitters the same pitches their second or third time around and get into habits.\"
\r\n
\r\nThere is little doubt Kontos has the talent and toughness to succeed at Trenton. The only question is whether he can harness his electric stuff by commanding his pitches and developing his changeup. If Thursday night's performance is any indicator, Kontos has already taken the first step towards such success.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I'm finally pretty set and everything's been getting better each start,\" Kontos claimed. \"[Thursday] was my best start so hopefully next time we can keep building on it and take it from there.\"
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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