As Brandon Kintzler delivered his 12th pitch of the at bat to Memphis Redbirds shortstop Tyler Greene Tuesday, he had to be frustrated. He's noticed quite a difference in his 4.1 innings since being promoted to AAA Nashville.
"They don't want to strikeout up here for some reason," Kintzler said.
It has been quite a difference from his time as closer in AA Huntsville where hitters could do little but swing and miss. In 22.1 innings there, Kintzler struck out 23, while walking just one batter. He converted every one of his 10 save opportunities there and has started to show up on the Brewers radar. I'm sure his 0.40 ERA in 22.1 AA innings doesn't hurt either.
However, the road to a possible big league promotion for Kintzler hasn't always been so smooth.
Kintzler was drafted in the 40th round of the 2004 amateur draft by the San Diego Padres. He went onto pitch in two seasons for the Padres minor league affiliates before being released because of health concerns.
"They said they were getting impatient with me and basically cut me loose," Kintzler said. "I tried rehabbing it for six months and ended up having to have surgery."
From there, Kintzler was open to just about anything that could keep his career going. That including a trip to the Northern League in a place Kintzler wasn't too familiar with.
"I didn't even know Winnipeg even existed, let alone where they were," Kintzler said. "They said it was kind of near North Dakota, so I said alright. They told me I needed a passport, so I hopped on a plane. I ended up getting rookie of the year and had a so so year the next. I saw a lot of guy weren't getting picked up there, so I asked for a trade."
Kintzler noticed the majority of players who were signed by teams were playing in the United States, so he requested a trade and found himself in St. Paul, MN.
"I knew the Saints were essentially the Yankees of Independent ball, so I asked to be traded there," Kintzler said. "It worked out well for me."
After the Independent League all-star game, Kintzler caught his break when the Brewers came knocking.
"They sent me straight to Double-A, which was kind of a shocker," Kintzler said. "I had never even pitched above Low-A, so I was pretty excited about that chance they gave me."
During his brief tenure under Brewers control, he has impressed. Kintzler finished the 2009 season with Huntsville, striking out 32, while only walking nine in 35.1 innings. His success only continued to impress while closing games this year, but he felt his only walk was questionable.
"That was one walk was a strike by the way, it shouldn't have been a walk," Kintzler said.
He's also combined that solid K:BB ratio with an ability to keep the ball on the ground. Last season, his GO/AO (ground outs/air outs) ratio was a very solid 1.4:1. This year, those numbers have only gotten better. In 26.2 innings between Huntsville and Nashville, Kintzler has upped that ratio to 1.67:1. That probably helped lead to opponents batting just .149 off him.
"I was kind of nibbling when I got to Double-A last year," Kintzler said. "My mentality is just to attack hitters. If I can keep the ball down, they are just going to hit groundballs anyway."
With his solid numbers so far this season, if Kintzler is able to stay healthy, he could be yet another option to look at from the Nashville Sounds bullpen. John Axford, Kameron Loe and Zach Braddock have all made positive appearances after their callups. It's quite a story for a pitcher who found his career all but over a couple of years ago.