By Matt Schneidman
August 1, 2014
In the middle of the season, head coach Mike Roberts asked Jeff Kinley (Michigan State) to try and convert from a late-inning reliever to a starter.
He wasn’t ready.
Then Roberts asked him to reconsider later in the summer.
In his first two starts, Kinley has dazzled, allowing only one earned run in 11 innings of work. After Thursday’s six-inning shutout performance in a win against Hyannis, Kinley could be Cotuit’s go-to arm to start games come playoff time.
“My last start was in high school I think,” Kinley said. “I haven’t thrown that many pitches in a while.”
In his junior year of college, Kinley had blood clotting in his right arm that granted him a medical redshirt. It restricted his number of innings, but now that he’s overcome that setback, he said he’s capable of going five or six deep in games.
In his last two starts for the Kettleers, Kinley hasn’t showed any signs of fatigue, as he’s only issued three total walks and had spot-on command of all of his pitches.
“Stay behind the baseball, go north to south, kind of trying to do that,” Kinley said. “That creates a little movement.
“I feel like my arm strength is back and everything from prior to the injury.”
Now that Adam Whitt (Nevada) has shown on multiple occasions he can go several innings to close games, the need for Kinley to throw one late inning isn’t as high as at the beginning of the summer.
For a Cotuit team that has struggled at times getting quality starts and giving its bats a chance to get a lead early on, Kinley has provided a brief respite from those struggles.
“I think he’s done a wonderful job,” Roberts said. “I hope the coaches at Michigan State are okay with it.”
And although it is still up in the air whether he’ll return to his typical closer role with the Spartans, the remainder of Kinley’s appearances with Cotuit will most certainly be starts.
After the Kettleers’ pitchers allowed 10 runs against the Harbor Hawks on Wednesday, Kinley shut down Hyannis on Thursday. For a bullpen that has been used early and often this summer, it was a much-needed day of rest and one that will pay dividends heading into the final stretch of the season.
“It was good to rest the bullpen up for the next three games,” Kinley said. “It was nice to give them a little break, a little day off. Hopefully they’ll be ready for the next few games.”