Q&A with Grizzlies LHP Mike Kickham

Conner Penfold-Giant Potential

What has been the key in these last 5-6 starts when you've been so hard to hit?

"Keeping my fastball over the plate, and when I do miss with it, miss down and over the plate. And then I can adjust instead of missing arm-side which is something I’m used to. Then I play my slider off the two-seam sinker and it’s a pretty good combination if you think about it because one pitch goes [left] and one pitch goes [right] so you keep them guessing and set guys up a certain. You look how they’re taking a pitch and read their swings and we’ve gotten better with that. I’ve had the benefit of some older guys on the team and we help each other out as a staff. Last month has been really fun and there’s no reason to let that end with the month. We’re going to try to carry that into July."

Can you describe some of those tips you're getting from the older guys?

"It’s more from an approach, like paying attention to the guys swings when I’m in the dugout and especially when I’m charting. I like sitting back there because you get a good perspective and you can see a lot more stuff happening with the way the ball is coming in and how the hitter is acting up there. So I guess not really specific things, like a community thing where we just talk and I just pick out things here and there. Also just putting work in on the side sessions and some adjustments I’ve made with mechanics that our pitching coach has helped out. Controlling the body. I had a problem where I’d be leaking forward with my body and then my arm is late. So just getting a balance and staying in and then driving instead of leaking and having to catch up."

Did you notice anything in particular that you struggled with during those few rough outings?

"I think back to that game against Omaha. The box score was not an indication to how I felt or how that game went because I was getting high chopper after high chopper. There’s been a couple times I’ve been asked about that outing. When you look at the box score, and I know not everyone can watch the game. It was just one of those days, one of those PCL days where guys were just hitting it off the hard ground, you know, beating infield hits out. Once the ball leaves my hands I have no control on where the ball ends up getting hit. Definitely not a thing where I panic or think I have to change something, I just keep that same approach and it’s going to work 9 times out of 10."

That's interesting because then you had such a great outing in Las Vegas where the ground is notorious for being rock hard and difficult for pitchers and infielders.

"One thing about this league, everyone says it’s a hitters league and that’s true, definitely from a pitcher’s perspective just some weird things that go on but I look at it as a chance to learn. If you can pitch in a place like Vegas or Reno and get groundballs, then you can pitch in any big league park. So I just look at it as an opportunity to learn and just develop from a pitcher’s persepctive even though maybe the odds are stacked against you because of the playing surfaces or dimensions. The other guy you’re facing is facing the same thing. There’s been shutouts thrown at every PCL park, I’m sure if you look it up. I don’t worry about where I’m throwing or what the conditions are."

Do you enjoy getting a chance to work with Edwin Escobar as a fellow young left-hander?

"We kind of throw different but there’s defintiely things we can relate to. We both throw a slider but our arm angles and delivery are kind of different. He’s definitely way ahead of where I was at his age so he’s doing a great job. I know he’s had some struggles here in the league but he’s shown flashes. But for a young guy in this level and in this league that’s great if you can see some flashes of things he can do. There’s going to be a learning curve and he’s going to have to pay his dues but he’s done a great job. And we help each other out as lefties."

Can you think of one major thing you've learned from last year until right now?

"Just the importance that’s always harped on of strike one and getting ahead in the count. That’s one thing I’ve really thought about and concentrated on. When I threw in New Orleans I had a pretty good one and in the first couple innings it seemed like I had everyone 2-0 and I was missing with sinkers down over the plate so I wasn’t getting hurt by them. So I remember thinking back just make a little adjustment and come up a little and you’re fine and then I cruised for the rest of the game. Just establishing the fastball, and that’s one thing I’ve done more effectively this year than I did in year’s past. So just showing it and kind of that approach of pitching where you’re backing a guy off the plate and then throwing away. Mixing it in and out but not trying to do too much. There’s been times where I try to do too much instead of keeping it simple. Keep the ball down and work in and out."

Do you feel comfortable throwing inside on both left-handers and right-handers?

"Yeah I’m getting better and there’s always room for improvement. I definitely think I’ve gotten better in that regard but that’s definitely something I’m going to have to keep working on and keep polishing because the job’s never done and there’s always little improvements you can make. That’s the beauty of pitching is that the work is never done. There’s always opportunity to improve and develop."