Kiker Article

From the Spokesman-Review ... note - Kiker's ERA is actually 4.50, not 5.09 as stated in the article - last Friday's box was finally corrected and the reporter probably filed before could update Kiker's stats - anyway ...

Indians pitchers throw and grow

Kiker, Garr take similar steps despite different mound backgrounds

Somer Breeze
Staff writer
August 3, 2006

When the Spokane Indians' major league parent club, the Texas Rangers, chose Kasey Kiker as its No. 1 draft pick, the Kiker family went to the mall and bought out a store of its Texas caps.

But Kiker has been sporting an Indians hat this summer, becoming familiar with the professional level straight out of high school.

When the Rangers drafted Brennan Garr in the ninth round, he simply took off his third baseman hat and put on his pitching hat.

Both Kiker and Garr are on the same level now and Indians pitching coach Danny Clark said the pitching staff is progressing despite its league-high 4.90 earned run average.

"All of them have improved," Clark said. "Maybe not showing in a game situation, but they've improved and learned the basics of being a professional."

Before the season began, just three Indians pitchers had professional experience.

"The big thing is repetition. We don't really tinker a lot with mechanics at this level," Clark said. "We let them go out and pitch for a while, because obviously they succeeded somewhere to get to this point."

Kiker, a left-hander, posted a career record of 31-6 with a 0.91 ERA at Russell County High School in Alabama. In the No. 1 slot for the Indians' starting five-pitcher rotation, Kiker is 0-3 with a 5.09 ERA.

Clark is impressed with the improvements Kiker has made this summer, even if his record doesn't show it.

"The biggest thing with Kasey is just getting him more acclimated to the professional game," Clark said. "He's come a long way. He's taking a step every day toward his goals."

One of the 18-year-old's goals is to make it to the big leagues before he turns 21.

"It might be a little difficult, but you have to set your sights high," Kiker said. "If I fall a little bit and I'm 22, it'll still be fine."

Clark said there is a collection of things that Kiker needs to improve on, but thinks he has done well this season adjusting to his surroundings.

"Kasey is the high-profile guy," Clark said. "He's got a big future and a lot of money invested, but he's making strides every day in different areas."

The pressures of being the "high-profile guy" got to Kiker in the beginning, but he soon realized he was in the same boat as the rest of the Indians roster.

"At first it was getting to me a little bit because I wasn't doing good," he said. "All the players on the team talked to me and were like, 'Once you get here, it doesn't matter where you were picked, first or 15th round, you're here to play and everybody's equal.' So I don't put any extra pressure on myself."

Coming straight out of high school with a $1.6 million signing bonus, Kiker has had to learn different strategies of the game from the mound, such as paying attention to the base runners.

"In high school I just left them on base and wouldn't worry about them," Kiker said. "I'd just try to get the batter out."

Kiker said he has been working on his pitching location and focusing on every pitch. If he wants to make it to the big leagues in three years, Kiker knows what he has to do.

"I just have to continue to progress and get better every day," he said. "Me and (Spokane manager Mike) Micucci have a goal to try and get better every day."

Kiker throws a curveball, a change-up and a fastball in the 90s, which Clark calls a "solid average major league pitch."

Kiker gives Garr the credit for having the zippiest fastball on the team. Garr was a closer for the University of Northern Colorado but mostly played third base.

"I pitched a little bit, but I had more experience as a hitter in college and I had to learn the pitching side," Garr said.

Clark and Micucci have worked with Garr to help him with making plays off the mound, instead at off third base like he's used to.

"He's a guy with very limited innings in his position (when he was in college)," Clark said. "He's really acclimated himself to the program."

Garr is 2-0 with a 3.57 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 innings. The more innings he pitches, the more comfortable he feels on the mound, he said.

"For the first couple of appearances, a challenge was slowing down the game because it was playing pretty fast," Garr said. "The game has slowed down for me and it's working out so far."