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Pirates minor league notebook: Kingham cruising since promotion to Triple-A

Indianapolis Indians
Since being promoted to Triple-A, pitcher Nick Kingham (2-0) has a 0.44 ERA in 20 2/3 innings over his first three starts, allowing one earned run.

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By Brian Peloza
Saturday, June 28, 2014, 9:10 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indians pitching coach Tom Filer was going to give Nick Kingham three or four starts before offering too much advice, instead letting the 22-year-old adjust to the Triple-A level.

Filer probably doesn't have too many glaring issues to discuss with the organization's eighth-ranked prospect.

Kingham (2-0) has a 0.44 ERA in 20 13 innings of work over his first three Triple-A starts, allowing just one earned run. He has given up 11 hits, while striking out 15 and walking three. The only game of the three Kingham didn't win was his debut, when he pitched seven scoreless innings.

Problems are few, but a scouting report is becoming complete: The 6-foot-5 Kingham attacks hitters with a fastball that reaches 94 mph and uses a sinker when needed, while his changeup and curveball are both above average, Filer said.

“You put those three things together and you really have a pitcher,” Filer said, “and you have someone who can help us at the major league level soon.”

After being selected in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Kingham has steadily progressed through the Pirates' minor league system. He split last season between High-A Bradenton and Double-A Altoona.

Kingham opened this season in Altoona with what looks like an awful 1-7 record, but he had minimal run support as his ERA was a respectable 3.04.

“I'm happy with how things are going and obviously not where I want to be, but I'm making strides in the right direction,” Kingham said. “I can't complain, but I'm definitely working my butt off to get to Pittsburgh as soon as I can. I won't be satisfied but a little more grateful and will have to keep my foot on the pedal once I get there.”

Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor could sense Kingham had some nerves prior to his Triple-A debut, but was impressed with how he worked around those.

“He really competed and that's what you want to see from him,” Treanor said.

Kingham admitted feeling nervous, anxious and jittery prior to his first start with the Indians. But he went to the mound and kept it simple.

“I just trusted myself and went right after the guys,” he said. “I always want to get ahead of them and get them out as fast as I can. I know that's a little broad, but I want to put the hitter on their heels and go right after them and try to be the aggressor.”

The promotion to Indianapolis does more than put Kingham one step away from the major leagues. It also brings the benefit that comes playing for a winning team. The Indians are 47-34 and have the International League's second-best record. By comparison, Altoona is 29-50 and has the worst record in the Eastern League.

“It makes coming to the field a whole lot more enjoyable,” Kingham said. “In the winning environment and losing environment — it's just a different feeling. And it's not because anything was being done wrong there, but it's just something you can feel.”

‘Hit collector' finding stride

Matt Hague, the two-time International League hits leader, has found a regular spot in the lineup and is producing for the Indians with a league-best 51 RBI this season.

Hague played in just 18 of the team's first 30 games, due mainly to a logjam caused by Andrew Lambo getting time at first base and designated hitter. Lambo has been on the disabled list since May 7 and the promotion of Gregory Polanco created a regular spot in the lineup for Hague.

“Roster situation is always a factor,” Treanor said. “(Hague's) last month has been very good and very productive for us. I think he's taken a hold of that cleanup spot and wants to run with that. It's going to be hard to keep him out of the lineup.”

Sanchez's extra work

Prior to every game, catcher Tony Sanchez spends about 15 to 20 minutes receiving pitches, as he works to fine-tune his setup.

“The biggest thing for me is showing an early target and keeping that target there,” Treanor said. “When he got here it wasn't good enough, early enough target for me. We've addressed it and he's on board with that. We need to make sure that's cleaned up so when he does go back up (to Pittsburgh) he has a solid foundation and a solid base.”

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