On a scheduled off-day during the Nationals’ National League Division Series matchup against the Cubs in early October, a few of the Nats’ young pitching prospects got to pitch batting practice at the club’s top hitters.
One of those prospects was right-hander Gabe Klobosits out of Auburn University.
A 2017 36th-round selection, Klobosits, 22, is a big dude, standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 270 lbs.
In his first pro season by way of Katy, Texas, he went an impressive 1-0 with a 1.47 ERA in 20 games for three teams in the Nats organization: the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nats, short-season Single-A Auburn (Doubledays, not Tigers) and low Single-A Hagerstown.
He struck out 34 in 30 2/3 innings. He was used as a reliever and allowed only five earned runs all summer.
Standing in the clubhouse at a locker he shared with fellow pitcher lefty Ben Braymer, Klobosits talked about the experience pitching to the Nats.
“It’s a lifetime dream coming here,” Klobosits said. “It’s my goal to get here and just be able to come here and help the Nationals potentially to win a World Series. It’s an honor to be up here and throw to these guys. Even if they are not swinging, they get to see different arms from all of us. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m grateful to be here.”
Klobosits spent 15 games with the Doubledays, but said he gained confidence and remembered vividly being able to see several of his pitches play well in his quick week up with Hagerstown in the final week of the season.
“It all starts with fastball command,” Klobosits said. “Being able to get ahead, and once you get ahead, you can do anything you want from there. Also having my slider, it’s my show-me pitch, being able to command that and when I want to just go to my splitter. It really gave me a lot of success towards the end of the year. I’m thankful where I am and how things have been going.”
Hagerstown manager Patrick Anderson said they used the big right-hander in middle- and late-inning relief, and he delivered each time.
“He was really good for us,” Anderson said. “I really like him.”
On a sunny midweek afternoon at Nats Park, Klobosits faced a few of the Nats’ big hitters during the off-day in the NLDS. It was a chance for the Nats lineup to see pitchers they weren’t familiar with and to simulate some of what they might see from the Cubs and get their timing down.
“It was OK. Stuff was up in the zone a little bit,” he noted. “But I came here to let these guys see pitches and swing the bat. Not trying to get anyone out, I’m just here so they can see pitches and feel their swing out.”
Klobosits mentioned his fastball, slider and splitter work. But he wasn’t that thrilled with his slider and he continues to refine it and his consistency with that pitch.
“I mainly concentrate on my slider,” Klobosits said. “It’s a little loopy right now, but it’s getting better. My split was a little bit up today, but it’s October. I haven’t played this long - this is my first half-season of pro ball - so there’s a lot to work on. But overall, everything’s been going good. I hope to improve a lot more than I did this year for next year.”
That last sentence is key. A great thought for any player in offseason mode. Klobosits set out his offseason plans with his college baseball team under the direction of head coach Butch Thompson:
“I am going to go back and work out at Auburn University and throw and hopefully get to throw to some of the guys up there,” Klobosits said. “They have a bunch of pro guys going in there to work out, too. Hopefully, Butch will let us throw to the guys. Really just workout and build up arm strength and just get my body ready to go for 140 games.”
* Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy won his second straight National League Silver Slugger on Thursday night. Murphy led all NL second basemen with a .322 batting average. In late August, on the Nats’ trip to Houston where they beat the Astros in two out of three games, I sat down with Murphy to talk about his approach to hitting.