Ginkel gives Arizona baseball pitching staff much needed depth
After pitching seven strong innings for the Wildcats, Bobby Dalbec worked himself into some trouble in the eighth inning in Arizona baseball’s Sunday morning contest against Washington State.
With Arizona up by four runs, the Cougars managed to load the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate with two outs.
Dalbec had thrown 117 pitches and clearly had nothing left in the tank. With the game potentially on the line, Arizona head coach Jay Johnson had to make a pitching change.
Dalbec, who serves as the team’s closer, would usually be the one Johnson would summon from the bullpen, but with Dalbec starting the game on the mound, it forced Johnson to call upon someone else to close the game out.
And that someone was junior right-hander Kevin Ginkel.
Ginkel promptly got the first batter he faced to ground out, allowing him to escape the bases-loaded jam unscathed, while preserving Arizona’s four-run lead heading into the ninth inning.
But Ginkel found himself in a jam once again. He hit the first batter of the inning, then issued a walk, putting two Cougars on base with no outs. It was a poor start to the frame, but the right-hander kept his composure.
“I went out there to talk to him, and he’s like, ‘I’m not coming out of this game. I’m getting this done,’” catcher Ryan Haug said of Ginkel.
True to his word, Ginkel got the job done. He got the next hitter to ground into a double play, then got a fly out, completing Arizona’s 7-3 victory.
It was Ginkel’s second time closing out a game in the week, as he finished out Arizona’s 11-5 win over BYU on Monday too. His recent success has led to him becoming one of Johnson’s favorite late-game bullpen options.
“Kevin Ginkel is a big story of this week,” Johnson said after Sunday’s win. “I was really proud of him settling in right there, getting the double play ball [in the ninth], and getting us out of a bases loaded deal in the eighth. That’s a huge development for our team if he continues to improve.”
His emergence not only helps strengthen the bullpen, it also allows Johnson to feel comfortable slotting Dalbec in the starting rotation without compromising the bullpen.
As a result, Arizona can roll with a trio of Dalbec, Nathan Bannister and JC Cloney in any given series if Johnson so desires.
But, of course, that can’t happen without Ginkel anchoring the back end of the bullpen. The junior hasn’t had the best of seasons so far, as he has a 6.17 ERA in 11.2 innings of work, but he’s continually improving.
“He’s been competing, he’s been working on a lot of stuff,” Haug said. “His outing today and the other day, it’s all good stuff. … He goes out there and you can definitely see a little bit of a change in him, just a lot of composure.”
Plus, the talent is there. After all, Ginkel has been drafted twice by Major League teams—once by the San Francisco Giants in 2014 and once by the Boston Red Sox in 2015. Johnson and Haug are both impressed by the right-hander’s repertoire.
“The dude’s got some stuff,” Haug said. “He’s making good pitches, he’s getting in on hitters and it’s tough to hit. The biggest thing is locating the ball down in the zone.”
Dalbec says he still wants to be the team’s closer, so perhaps Ginkel won’t necessarily take on that role full-time.
No matter how he’s used, it’s clear that Ginkel has carved out a role for himself.
“He’s going to pitch real important innings at the end of the games,” Johnson said.
He has emerged as one of Johnson’s go-to relievers when things are tight in the late innings. Should Ginkel continue his progression, he gives Johnson added flexibility, making Arizona a more complete team as it continues to battle through an ominous Pac-12 Conference schedule.
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