In the eighth inning of the O’s 5-0 loss to the Mariners yesterday (Brad Bergesen didn’t have his usual control, walking four, but it wouldn’t have mattered much as Jarrod Wahsburn one-hit the Birds) – long after I’d fallen asleep – right-handed reliever Kam Mickolio made his first appearance of 2009. He was called up to take the place of Chris Ray, who was put on the DL with “right biceps tendinitis” after being relatively ineffective this year out of the pen (possibly, partially, because he was hurt). Kam threw a perfect inning, getting a couple of groundballs and striking Ichiro(!) out on three pitches(!). Mickolio has been a strike-out pitcher throughout his career, with 9.89 K/9 in Triple-A this year, 9.39 K/9 in his brief (7.2 IP) stint with the O’s last year, and 10.35 K/9 and 9.39 K/9 in Triple-A and Double-A respectively in the minors in 2008. Control has been an issue, with walk-rates ranging from 4.05 BB/9 to 5.17 BB/9 at three levels last year, but so far in ’09 things have improved to 3.21 BB/9. I had been under the impression that Mickolio threw a hard sinker, but looking at his Pitch/FX from FanGraphs it looks like it’s actually a riding four-seam fastball.
He throws it often (over 80% of the time) and the throws it pretty hard (94-95 mph on average), and then mixes in a slider that drops straight down instead of having much horizontal break. I seem to remember that Mickolio had good GB% numbers in the minors, but FirstInning.com is down so I can’t check. Perhaps that was more of a result of throwing on a downward plane with a 6’9″ frame than the sink on his fastball itself. Due to his cross-fire type delivery, Mickolio is likely to be a good deal more effective against righties than lefties (his platoon split was reversed last year in the majors, but that was a tiny sample size), but I think he should be a pretty good relief pitcher. More of a 6th or 7th inning guy than a set-up man (or closer), but a useful piece to the bullpen puzzle. And how can you not cheer for a guy with a nickname like that?