Kimball confident for next step to big leagues

Nationals prospect, relief pitcher Cole Kimball, is enjoying his experience pitching in the Arizona Fall League and is thrilled to get an invite to the Rising Stars All-Star Game Sunday.

"It has been great. I am not pitching every other day like I was this summer so it is hard to get into a rhythm when you pitch only every three or four days," Kimball said.

But he hasn't had any trouble adjusting to less work. Kimball is 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 7 games with 8 strikeouts and only one run allowed.

Kimball says the AFL presents unique challenges with good hitters who are hyped up to go after fastballs. But he is not intimidated or overwhelmed, having seen a lot of these same hitters in Double-A.

"The hitters try to ambush your fastball. They cheat real bad the whole at bat. They are gearing up for the fastball from the first pitch. They are just waiting to crush it. You see it happening to other pitchers. A few guys will take in a close game."

Kimball also says he is a different pitcher than when he was a starter in college at Centenary.

"I was a thrower back then," Kimball said. "It took me a long time to learn how to pitch."

He also battled injuries over the past couple of seasons but was finally healthy in 2010.

In 2009, Kimball blew out his oblique in spring training. Seeing Potomac with five starters already, Kimball asked to become a reliever, and the organization obliged, saying they were thinking of the same idea.

Then Kimball endured a twisted ankle and later a staph infection that kept him in the hospital for a week. His season was cut down to just two months.

This year he had an outstanding season, splitting time between Potomac and then his promotion to Harrisburg. He saw right away how good the Senators team was.

"We had a great bullpen. I got a lot of feedback from our pitchers, coaches and big leaguers who came through."

"It was a blast to be a part of that team and a heart breaker to lose in the postseason. The team was really fired up in the race against Bowie.

"No one was tired. Everyone was motivated to get another ring; a lot of the guys were part of 2008 team that won the Carolina League. They all wanted to win."

Kimball is just as confident with this Scottsdale team and feels they will win not only win the Rising Stars Game November 6, but the championship as well.

Kimball throws a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a hard breaking ball, and a splitter.

So which one does he use as his "out" pitch?

"All of them," Kimball said.

He says he was able to get one-third of his strikeouts this season from each of his three primary pitches.

Kimball is completely focused on succeeding at one goal:

"I want to get up to the big leagues and stay there. I want to win and help my team win. I want to keep winning for as long as I possibly can."

He says the Nationals' minor league teams have that same drive to win.

"The talent level has improved but I think the teams all have a winning mindset. It comes from not being okay with losing.

"The last couple of years you can see a lot of teams finishing above .500. It is all about winning now. Very few guys are in it for themselves. Most of them are all about getting wins."

The 25-year-old right-hander spent 19 games with the P-Nats this past summer and pretty much dominated.

Kimball went 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA, allowing only 5 runs with 27 strikeouts and 8 walks in 24.2 innings.

"He is an interesting character," said Potomac Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart, who says he noticed something special about the Brooklyn native when Kimball struggled to get healthy early on.

"He is completely focused. His number one goal after getting drafted was not only to make it to the big leagues, but be successful in the big leagues."

"After a few freakish injuries, he worked hard to get back to where he was. His heart is unmatched. He has learned how to handle adversity after going through some rough stuff in 2009. He absolutely has big league stuff."

Menhart feels that Kimball is close to making that next step and enjoyed the opportunity to coach him early last season in Woodbridge.

"I love this kid to death," Menhart said. "He has a real opportunity to be a star in the big leagues."

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