Syracuse Chiefs right-hander Josh Wilkie gets another rare start tonight against Gwinnett in Georgia. He has been very impressive for the Chiefs this season. In 23 games, the George Washington University product has a 2-3 record with a 1.95 ERA, 29 strikeouts and only 11 walks, with just 7 earned runs allowed.
More amazing for the 6-2, 190 pound rightie is he hasn’t allowed an earned run in 9 of his last 10 appearances, including the start June 8.
He pitched well last week against Louisville, but the biggest news was Wilkie’s base hit and run scored.
Great start, Josh, but it’s every pitcher’s other dream to get a base knock, let’s break down that at bat:
“It was sick. It was my second pro at bat because we rarely face national league teams. He started me off with a fastball at 94 MPH so I was like ‘okay, it’s going to be like this.’ 0-1. Then I took a ball, 1-1.
The next pitch was a fastball and I slapped it right up the middle for a base hit. There were two outs in the inning and the hit broke the tie. So we had men on first and third and his next pitch, a curve ball was in the dirt. I raced to second base and came around later in the frame to score.”
As for the outing, Josh went three innings with 40 pitches. They didn’t want him to go too long because the Chiefs value him as a reliever in several situations. They use him as a long reliever that can give them multiple innings, so when they need a spot starter, Josh can fit the bill.
“I am feeling great out there. I am getting outs and eating up innings. That is my job. I try to get early contact.”
They are telling me I am doing well, whether it is (Manager) Trent (Jewett) or (pitching coach Greg) Booker. They have told me to keep doing what I am doing.”
“Look at the past 15 years in the majors, bullpen guys at the Triple-A level have a good shot of making the majors.”
So one of your biggest strengths is your versatility as a pitcher?
“I feel that way. I can be a spot starter, like last week, or I can come in for a couple of guys, to pick up one of our relievers like I did last night, getting a couple of guys to strike out. I don’t mind a set slot (to come in) or batter by batter. Whatever situation they need me in, the goal is to get the guy out.”
Josh says it is exciting to see what is happening with the Nats pitching and their bullpen. “Last year they really cleaned house. When they were really struggling, every one who started at the Triple-A level made it to the Nats bullpen by year’s end.
“But this year has been incredible with Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard as mainstays on the pitching staff.
When guys are doing well at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, you can really feed off that success and it is easier to catch on. When you are on a winning team, the bullpen really becomes a cohesive unit.”
Josh remains confident in his ability, but knows how much work it takes to get the call to the show.
“It will make it that much sweeter if I make it because I worked so hard to get there and I paid the price. And when I do make it I will keep working hard to keep the spot and I know what it takes to get there.”
“I have my two-seam fastball at 88-89 MPH with good movement, down and in to right handed hitters, arm side. My changeup, as you know, is my money pitch. My cutter also has late movement to the opposite side.
All of them begin by looking like fastballs away to right handed hitters and inside on the hands of the leftie batters. They look the same way visually to the hitters and then they have that late break (to one side or the other).”
With the track record of Syracuse feeding great pitchers to South Capitol Street the last few months, it makes sense to see Wilkie getting the call sooner than later.