By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. — At 22 years of age (he won’t be 23 until October), Altoona Curve pitcher Chad Kuhl appears to be on the Pirates’ fast track.
Born in Bear, Delaware, Kuhl, a big right-hander (6-3, 220), has been on a roll since his days at Middletown High School where he won all-state honors as a pitcher and first baseman in 2010.
“I had a pretty good high school career and the opportunity to play at the University of Delaware,” Kuhl was saying recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Kuhl compiled a 9-2 record with a 1.47 ERA and batted .433 with eight homers as a high school senior while leading his team to the Blue Hen Flight A Conference championship. In college, as a junior, he post a 10-2 record and 3.75 ERA in 15 games and was named second team All-CAA in 2013.
“We went pretty far in the (NCAA) tournament my sophomore and junior years,” Kuhl said, “so they were good times at the University of Delaware.”
Good enough to be picked in the ninth round of the 2013 amateur draft by the Pirates.
Kuhl began his pro career at short-season Jamestown in 2013 where he had a 3-4 record and a 2.11 ERA in 13 starts.
“We went to the playoffs (at Jamestown) and had a pretty good run,” he said.
Kuhl was promoted to high A Bradenton, skipping low-A West Virginia, in 2014. With the marauders, he went 13-5 (the most win in the Bucs’ minor league system) with a 3.46 ERA in 28 games, all starts. He was tied for the most wins in the Florida State League and led the circuit with 153.1 innings pitched.
“That was my first full season and it went well,” he said. “I had a lot of help. You don’t get 13 wins without a lot of support. When you’re a groundball pitcher, you get a lot of help from the defense so it’s hard for me to take all the credit.”
A year later, Kuhl finds himself with Class AA Altoona, and he continues to have good success. As of this writing (June 3), he had a 4-1 record with the EL’s West Division-leading Curve. Two of the four victories came against the New Britain Rock Cats, leading of the EL East Division.
“I’ve had a nice time here,” Kuhl said. “Things are progressing. I’m sticking with what I know, trying to get better. I’m learning and growing as a pitcher.”
Curve manager Tom Prince said one of Kuhl’s best attributes is his competitiveness.
“He really competes,” Prince said. “He gives you everything he has every time out. He’s always well prepared and continues to grow.
“He’s learned how to channel his intensity and use it in a positive way,” Prince said.
“I am intense,” Kuhl said. “I got that competitiveness from my older brothers and have a lot of desire to win, but I’m different off the field.”
The fact that Prince and pitching coach Justin Meccage, as well as several players, moved up from Bradenton has been a plus, Kuhl said.
“It’s a good working relationship because you know what their expectations are,” he said. “It’s nice that the Pirates showed enough confidence in me to skip over West Virginia.
“The confidence is there so it’s up to me to keep getting better and keep improving. I want to show them they made the right decision.”
Basically a groundball pitcher, Kuhl said he paid a lot of attention to Roy Halladay growing up and now watches Pirate pitcher Charlie Morton closely.
“I got to watch Morton (on a rehab assignment) against Harrisburg, and that was nice,” Kuhl said. “Each start, I want to get a lot of groundballs and be efficient.
“It’s good that I have a better slider and better changeup now,” he said. “I’ve got to clean up my mechanics.”