The importance of Nathan Karns

Right-hander Nathan Karns made it through his first start with the Nationals and did his job, keeping his team in the game.

Karns gets his second start Sunday in Atlanta. With lingering injuries to Ross Detwiler (oblique) and now Stephen Strasburg (oblique), Karns is not going anywhere. Suddenly, the right-hander with only 10 starts above high Single-A ball is critical to the Nationals, who are treading water as June begins.

“The first one just came by and it was a complete shock,” Karns said. “It was pretty unexpected. But I was really excited about it. I tried to do my best. I came out in the fifth, but I am still satisfied with that. First one is in the book now, just build off of that and get ready for the second start in Atlanta.”

You see many times, a prospect called up and then sent down immediately after the game. Last season, veteran John Lannan would get called up for a spot start or injury replacement and he would be sent down after his start.

Due to some unfortunate oblique injuries to frontline starters, Karns won’t be going anywhere but starting for the Nationals.

That seemed far away back in April when Karns struggled with a mechanical issue in his first few outings with Double-A Harrisburg.

“Spring training I didn’t get everything ironed out as much as I would have liked to,” Karns said. “I came up, and it was cold, things just started changing. Nothing was set in stone. I kind of got lost a little bit in my mechanics. That is why we have a great (Harrisburg) pitching coach there in Paul Menhart. We got back to work every day. We got back to where we need to be. The rest is history.”

And Karns would also like to get more consistent with his changeup in his second start and beyond. He feels confident he can mix in his changeup to be effective.

“Throughout the year, it has been there for me,” Karns said. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t there so much along with my curveball in the first start. But I think a little bit of nerves and being amped up had to do with that. Right now, I am working on trying to stay calm and relaxed out there. I am just trying to remember I’ve got to find my rhythm. Don’t let the game speed me up. Everything else will improve from that point.”

The mental aspect of the game is so important in hitting. You have to believe in yourself even if you strike out four or five times in a row. Same goes for pitching. You are on an island on the mound, literally, and you have to have the confidence in your pitching to make it through.

Karns said that was one of the points Menhart made to him through each Harrisburg start.

“Paul always told me if you get called up, you got called up because of what you were doing and not to change anything,” Karns said. “Don’t try to make everything better. Everyone felt like you were good enough to be here or else you wouldn’t be here. Just stick to what you have been doing and don’t do any more than that.”

Tomorrow, check back for Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty’s thoughts on Karns.

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