Development in the minor leagues is never linear. Case in point: Kyle Twomey of South Bend is putting up some interesting numbers as a starting pitcher. On Sunday, he had what I think was his best start of the year against first place West Michigan. He went 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, struck out one, and only allowed one run. With that win South Bend moved back into first place with two weeks left in the first half of the season.
Twomey spent most of spring training in a piggyback starter and relief role. He was quite good at it, too. When camp broke, however, he was assigned to South Bend while Oscar de la Cruz stayed behind. This meant that, eventually, Twomey would get a shot at starting.
His first two appearances were in relief and, to no one’s surprise, he was excellent in that role. He went six innings total, gave up one earned run, and struck out nine. On April 16, he made his first start against Fort Wayne. It did not go well. He gave up 5 earned runs in 4 innings, walking 4 and gaving up 7 hits in the short outing. Five days later, he faced Fort Wayne again. Rinse and repeat – 10 hits and 6 runs in 5 IP.
In the first start, most of the damage was done in the 3rd. In the next, he gave up 5 runs in the 5th. Ah, the big inning. It is the scourge of pitchers everywhere, but particularly in low A-ball where they truly learn to pitch out of jams.
Twomey was highly thought of as a college pitcher at USC. He drew praise from Jim Callis of MLB.com after the 2014 Cape Cod League, a summer wooden bat league. Callis’ plaudits included the following:
Twomey’s stuff essentially is the same as it was when he came out of high school, as he works with an 88-92 mph fastball and a quality changeup but needs to improve his loopy curveball. He commands and manipulates his fastball well, cutting it and sinking it and spotting it to either side of the plate. Twomey has an easy delivery, touches 94 mph on occasion and could do so more regularly once he fills out his 6-foot-3, 170-pound frame.
The Cubs don’t just pick pitchers and let them go out and do what they’ve always done. The organization tweaks, they adjust, let the pitcher mature, help them fill out physically, and help them to adapt at each level, often several times over the course of a season.
All that said, one thing about Twomey that was not going to change was his arsenal. The fastball/changeup combo works well, though he does need to continue to tighten the curveball. Coming into this season at South Bend, he needed to cut down on his walks, avoid the big inning, and work on his command of all his pitches.
Since April 29, Twomey has had a 3.35 ERA over seven starts. That’s actually pretty good. His season ERA went from 7.20 to 4.38 during that run, but it’s not as though the young pitchers just flipped a switch. It was more like two steps forward, one step back. By that I mean, he’d give up one earned run for two starts followed by four the next, and so on.
Likewise, his strikeouts are all over the map. One game he might ring up six batters, the next just one, and then none at all. But the flip side is that Twomey is staying in the zone and isn’t allowing walks. Since April 29, he has walked only 11, nine of which have come in two of his seven starts.
I like Twomey. I like that when he pitches he is all arms and legs flying all over the place, which is very deceptive. I always thought his future role was as a back of the rotation starter or a long reliever, though that doesn’t to be decided at this time. For now, let him start. Let him work on that curve consistency. Let him learn how to avoid the big inning. Because in the big leagues, that is what he is going to have to do.
I am really looking forward to his next start on Sunday at Bowling Green. Hopefully, it will be his third step forward.