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Pirates

Upper St. Clair product sparkles for Twins

| Thursday, June 18, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - Even when Kevin Slowey was a scrawny high school kid, he knew how to pitch like a major-leaguer.

"He was 6 feet (tall), maybe 160 pounds in high school," recalled former Pirates reliever Kent Tekulve. "Not overpowering. He was not an all-state pitcher. But one thing I do remember, he was a good student of the game.

"The most important thing is to throw strikes. He had the ability at a very young age to do that. He was one kid, even then, who understood about pitching inside - and he could do it. He'd jam guys, even with (them using) aluminum bats."

When Slowey was at Upper St. Clair High School, he played on a fall-league team coached by Tekulve. Slowey was smart and steady, albeit not flashy, on the mound.

A decade later, after a growth spurt and a stellar college career, Slowey is blossoming into one of the top pitchers in the American League.

The Minnesota Twins right-hander is 9-2 with a 4.23 ERA and has the second-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (6 to 1) in the AL. In just his third season in the bigs, Slowey could be bound for the All-Star Game.

Not bad for a guy who was ignored by college scouts when he graduated from high school.

"I would've loved to have gone to someplace like Pitt or Penn State, but the coaches weren't really interested," Slowey said.

Slowey scored 1420 on his SATs and got an academic scholarship to Winthrop College. Three years later, after setting school records for career strikeouts (331) and victories (29), he was off to the pros.

"I put on 20 pounds and got bigger and stronger," Slowey said, then laughed. "I lived next to the cafeteria."

Putting on some muscle helped Slowey take his skills to the next level. He also figured out the mental side of pitching.

"All of the pieces came into place," Tekulve said. "He was able to maintain all those skills he had earlier. He never lost those 'little guy' skills, the ones he had when he was young. A lot of guys lose those skills when they get older and bigger."

The Twins drafted Slowey in the second round in 2005. That year's heralded MLB draft class included Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Andrew McCutchen and Justin Upton.

"Beyond just the draft part, it's neat to see guys who I played against in the minor leagues - guys like Ryan Braun, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie - in the majors," Slowey said.

Since his 2007 debut, Slowey is 25-14 with a 4.21 ERA in 53 starts for Minnesota. He's a contact pitcher who rarely beats himself as is evident from his strikeout-walk ratio.

"I don't need to have a lot of strikeouts to make it a good ratio," Slowey said. "For me, the only way I've been able to survive as a pitcher is to not walk guys.

"I'm going to give up hits. I don't overpower guys. If you can keep the home runs to solo homers and force teams to string two or three hits together instead of giving up a walk and a hit and another walk, you're going to be successful."

Additional Information:

THE SLOWEY FILE

• High school: Upper St. Clair

• College: Winthrop

• Drafted: 2005 second round (73rd overall)

• Pitches: Low-90s mph fastball, plus changeup, curveball, slider

• Why he's so good: Pinpoint control, calm demeanor

• What Pirates fans think: We drafted Brad Corley instead of this guy?

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