GENEVA, Ill. - Rob Kaminsky’s handshake is decidedly firm and his gaze piercing. He is a young man who knows what he wants and treats opposing batters as the ones standing in his way.
The Peoria Chiefs’ left-hander started the year with questions whether, as he put it, “my stuff would play here.” He no longer has any doubt.
“How did he do? Well, he won eight games for us and we probably blew three or four more (that he could have won). He’s a bulldog. He goes right after the hitters, very solid,” said Chiefs’ skipper Joe Kruzel.
Kaminsky got the ball for the season finale against the Kane County Cougars, who at 91-49 won both halves of the Class A Midwest League. Kaminsky treated them like they stole his lunch money. After a bizarre first inning in which two errors led to three runs, the left-hander from Englewood Cliffs, NJ kicked it into what pitching coach Jason Simontacchi called “an extra gear.”
His velocity picked up markedly from the mid-high-80s to the low-90s, running heavy fastballs in to right-handers before changing speeds to thwart their timing. When it was over, he surrendered just one more run and kept his team-leading ERA to 1.88. Unlike some other pitchers on the Chiefs’ staff, Kaminsky got stronger as the year went on, finishing 5-1 over the last 10 starts with an ERA that barely budged above 2.
“He showed me a couple of things this year,” said Simontacchi. “When there are runners in scoring position, he can dot the corners. He can really spot the ball well. He’s also got excellent arm speed with his change up.”
“I feel really strong,” the likeable lefty said. “I learned a lot from Simo about the mental side of pitching; how to handle failure and how to approach hitters. I have to go with my strengths, not try to exploit their weaknesses.”
From an interview early this season until the finale in September, Kaminsky has matured immeasurably. “I picked Simo’s brain a lot. He taught me how to throw the change up. I threw a change up, but I really didn’t have a change up if you know what I mean.”
What one thing is he going to work on in the off-season?
“One thing?” he asks incredulously. “I’ve got a lot to learn. I think I want to get my curve back to where it should be and continue to develop my pitches.”
For the season, Kaminsky’s line was very impressive; 8-2, 1.88 ERA with 100 innings pitched, 71 hits, 31 walks and 79 strikeouts, a line that should land him in Palm Beach for the 2015 season.