Tacoma Rainiers reliever Andrew Kittredge is on the verge of making a rare jump from organizational pitcher to pitching prospect.
The Spokane native pitched for Tacoma in 2013 and 2015 as an emergency fill-in, coming up from lower levels in the Mariners farm system to provide insurance when Tacoma’s staff was taxed due to injuries or major league promotions.
A slight mechanical change has caused Kittredge’s velocity to jump up, and now his status in the organization is rising. His fastball velocity has improved to 95 mph, and he has improved the movement on his slider.
The way the adjustment occurred was a bit unusual.
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“I was having a conversation in Double-A earlier in the year with my teammate Emilio Pagan, and he noticed something (while playing) catch about something I was doing mechanically,” Kittredge said. “I made a pretty small adjustment with my mechanics and took it into the game.”
Kittredge, a right-hander, has appeared in 10 games for Tacoma, posting a 2.21 ERA over 20 1/3 innings. He has struck out 27 batters, and walked three.
“I always tried to create a lot of angle on my fastball, and it kind of caused me to bend over a little bit — it kind of sounds weird,” said Kittredge, who pitched for the University of Washington from 2009-2011. “I’m just standing more upright now, standing taller, and it’s allowing me to stay behind the ball a little better. It’s something I had always known that I did, but I didn’t really notice how much it affected me until (Pagan) pointed it out.”
The Mariners have noticed the improvement, and have changed Kittredge’s role. Tacoma manager Pat Listach is using him in the seventh and eighth innings to set up closer Blake Parker.
Kittredge has even picked up two saves when Parker has been unavailable.
A base stealer in Double-A
Mariners infield prospect Tim Lopes is having a solid season for Jackson, stealing bases at a strong clip in his first season at the Double-A level.
The second baseman is hitting .274 with a .343 on-base percentage, and he has gone 19 for 22 on his stolen base attempts.
Lopes, 22, has been percolating in the lower levels of the Mariners farm system since he was drafted as a 17-year-old high school senior in 2012. Seattle selected him in the sixth round out of Edison High School in Huntington Beach, California. Lopes spent two full seasons at the Advanced-A level before being promoted to Jackson this season.
He is not related to former Dodgers great Davey Lopes, who played second base and stole a lot of bases.
Tim Lopes does have an older brother, Christian Lopes, who plays in the Toronto Blue Jays system.
Mike Curto is the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rainiers.