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Waldrop inching closer to Majors?

For Fort Myers Miracle pitcher Kyle Waldrop, keeping realistic goals is an important part of being a minor league baseball player.

The former Farragut Admiral standout and 25th overall pick by the Minnesota Twins in the 2004 draft has had his share of ups and downs while playing professional baseball.

But his motivation is as high as ever.

After starting the 2006 season in Low-A Beloit (Wis.) with a 6-3 record and 3.85 earned run average, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound pitcher was called up to High-A Fort Myers midway through last season where he compiled a 3-2 record and 3.57 ERA. “I ended where I wanted to, which was in Fort Myers, and that was the goal that I set out at the start of the year — to try to finish the season there,” Waldrop said. “I had a pretty successful year, so I was pretty excited about that.”

With moving up to Fort Myers the main goal last season, Waldrop accomplished his secondary goal as well. “I have been working on getting a little bit more consistent with all my pitches,” Waldrop said. “That was one goal I had at the beginning of the season. So overall I feel it was a success even though I had some ups and downs here and there.”

With his fastball, breaking ball and change-up, “I think his strong thing is he throws strikes, he’s got a great walk ratio per innings pitched,” said Jim Rantz, Twins director of minor league operations. “His stuff is more of a command and control. Right we think he’s going to improve on the velocity.”

One of Waldrop’s main goals this past off-season was to improve the velocity on his 93 mile-per-hour fastball. After spending time in the weight room trying to get his lower body stronger and extra time long-tossing, he feels his velocity will increase this upcoming year.

“I want to try to throw a little bit harder so I worked out pretty hard on everything, trying to gain more power with my lower body,” Waldrop said. “That’s the main thing, but just the same every year, and that’s trying to be more consistent with my off-speed pitches.”

Waldrop has made one appearance in a game this spring training and feels that he is ready to get the season underway.

“I’m going to start the season in Fort Myers because I didn’t get quite enough innings in for them to send me up, so I’m going to start the season down here and build on some of the things I’ve worked on in the off-season,” he said. “Just to be able to finish the season in Double-A [New Britain, Conn.] is what I would really like to do, and I think that is a very realistic goal.”

So does Rantz. “He’s a good competitor, ... right now he’s in the mix for Double-A,” Rantz said. “His game right now is right about where we think it should be.”

Waldrop added, “It’s something that if I have a good year it is probably going to happen, so I don’t want to set goals too high for myself and come up a little short. So I think that is very realistic.”

After the 2008 season the Twins organization has the option to put Waldrop on the 40-man roster, which would protect him from other teams trying to obtain him.

If the Twins opt not to do so, other teams have the option to pick up Waldrop’s contract. “This is a big year for Kyle,” Rantz said.

Added pressure? “There is only so much I can control, I go out there every five days and try to pitch and try to do what I can,” Waldrop said. “... there is always a little added pressure from being a top draft pick. But I try to throw that off to the side because once you get in here everybody is the same.”

Rantz added, “He’s got size ... he’s stayed healthy. And he’s a super kid, a good teammate. He’s everything you’re looking for to be a pro.”


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