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Waldrop grinds it out as pro
Ex-Ad Waldrop enjoys early success as pitcher in rookie league, but isolation is a new challenge


Though still adjusting to life as a professional baseball rookie barely six weeks removed from high school ball, Kyle Waldrop is taking up where he left off for the mighty Farragut Admirals.

Despite facing substantially stronger hitters in every at-bat than he’s ever come close to facing prior to late June, Waldrop’s “early returns” as as a Class Rookie league pitcher are impressive.


In four starts for the Gulf Coast League Twins of Fort Myers, Fla. — 20 total innings though Monday — Waldrop has allowed only three earned runs (1.35 earned run average) with 14 strikeouts and only two walks with a 2-1 record.

“I’m real pleased with how I’ve done so far, and how I’ve handled certain situations,” said Waldrop, an All-State pitcher at FHS, who was taken by the Twins’ organization as the 25th overall pick in the first-round of June’s Major League draft. “I have one of the best ERAs on the team right now.

“But it’s definitely different facing these hitters, it’s like you never get a batter off with the good hitters down here,” the 18-year-old added. “The next guy that comes up is almost bigger than the one before, which is definitely different. Just seeing how physically mature these guys are ... they’re a lot older than me, twenty-one, twenty-two, and a lot bigger.”

You can’t let up.

“You’ve got to be focused every pitch down here,” Waldrop said. “That’s probably the biggest thing, how much more you have to focus on hitting your spots. In high school you could get away with missing a spot. But now if you miss a spot they’re going to hit the ball pretty hard.”

Waldrop said one key to his success “is not trying to strike everybody out, but just getting ground-balls and setting the pace of the game. I think I’ve done a good job in that perspective.”

Held to a 50-pitch count in his first outing, Waldrop threw three innings. “I was a little shaky on throwing a lot of strikes,” Waldrop said. “But I’ve been getting ahead of hitters real well, throwing a lot of strikes. The past two times I’ve started (the coaches) have praised me for setting the tempo of the game, and giving us a chance to win.”

That pitching count went up to 70 pitches for his next two starts, one a five-inning stint, the other six.

“They don’t want you throwing too many pitches down here,” Waldrop said.

However, “I think since they’ve spent a good deal of money on me, they want me to go out there and pitch more.”

IMPROVEMENT

As for how he’s improved, “I’ve learned a good deal, but coming from a program like Farragut with (head) coach (Tommy) Pharr, he really knows what he’s doing pitching-wise,” Waldrop said. “That’s helped me coming in here.

“But I’ve definitely learned some more fundamental work, and how to get more power out of your lower body, and just some mechanical stuff that I’m starting to work on during games and in the bullpen,” he added. “They’re not really changing too much, just some small mechanical stuff.”

BIG BONUS, NO FIELD OR BAT

Despite his $1 million signing bonus, Waldrop makes only $850 per month — a standard amount.

That’s less than $2,000 total for the 16-team league’s 60-game regular season that runs from late June to Aug. 28 prior to the playoffs.

“It’s definitely a lot of hard work down here,” Waldrop said. “It’s a tough job, but I’m having fun with it.

“It’s definitely different, because I was used to playing on a daily basis, playing out in the field. But it’s an adjustment that I’m making and that I’m doing OK with. But I do miss swinging the bat a little bit.”

CHANGES OVERALL

Previously having friends and teammates with him on long baseball trips, “I think these past couple of weeks it’s definitely just started to really hit me hard and sink in because you’re kind of out here on your own, which is a big change for me,” Waldrop said. “It’s just something that I’m getting used to over the past couple of weeks.

“But it’s fun, because when you go out to play every day you can say you’re playing the Boston Red Sox or the Cincinnati Reds,” he added. “That’s definitely neat.”

 

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