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The Journal Gazette

Monday, April 23, 2018 4:00 pm

Former IPFW pitcher back with TinCaps

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps shook up their bullpen Monday, sending a pair of pitchers to extended spring training and promoting two right-handers to take their place. One of those who received a promotion to the Midwest League is 22-year-old Evan Miller, who pitched for IPFW for two seasons in 2015-16 and has spent parts of the last two years with the TinCaps.

Miller, a LaPorte native, set a Mastodons record for strikeouts with 94 in 80 innings as a freshman in 2015 and pitched well enough as a sophomore for the San Diego Padres to select him in the 22nd round in the 2016 draft. In his two years in pro baseball, he's bounced between short-season Tri-City and the TinCaps, putting up solid strikeout numbers in low-A, while excelling at suppressing hard contact at both levels.

Miller's fastball has touched 94 mph and he'll move in to a Fort Wayne bullpen that has struggled in recent weeks. The two pitchers the organization sent to extended spring training Monday are two of those who had contributed most to those problems in relief. Right-hander Henry Henry and left-hander Fred Schlichtholz each have ERAs above 11 in five appearances, with Henry's sitting at 19.89. Both have struggled to throw strikes, walking more hitters than they've struck out. Henry walked nearly two hitters for every inning he worked. 

Of the two, I expect Henry to be back sooner rather than later. He had some of the best stuff of any TinCaps reliever, with a live fastball and a smooth delivery. It's possible there's some relatively simple mechanical fix that can get him back to throwing strikes, because he hasn't had these issues with command at any other level in his pro career.

The other pitcher joining the TinCaps from extended spring training is 22-year-old Nick Kuzia, who will be making his first appearance in the Midwest League. Kuzia was undrafted out of UMass-Lowell in 2017 and will be jumping directly to Fort Wayne from the Arizona League without making a stop in Tri-City. His ERA was over 4 in all three of his seasons in college, but he showed a penchant for missing bats in rookie-ball last year, striking out 24 hitters in 20 2/3 innings. He also struggled with free passes, however, walking 12 and finishing with a 4.35 ERA.

The TinCaps start a seven-game road trip tonight with a matchup against the Great Lakes Loons at 6:05 p.m.