NEW BRITAIN - Forget the bullpen, Kyle Simon appears ready to make the starting rotation his permanent spot moving forward.
Against the Long Island Ducks Friday night, the New Britain Bees right-hander looked a lot like he did a season ago when he led the Atlantic League with a 2.76 ERA. He allowed just three hits over five scoreless innings in his first start of the season as the Bees went on to win 6-0.
“I felt good,” Simon said. “I just go out there and focus an inning at a time and kind of just work it. Luckily, I have phenomenal fielders in back of me. It’s not like I’m striking out every guy out or anything. I’m pitching to contact and we have ridiculous fielders, they’re making my job look easy.”
Simon began the year out of the bullpen, where he made four appearances, to build up his arm after a lack of a spring training. It might have only been one start, but the results, however small, seem to be paying off.
“It might have been the best thing for Simon to start the year in the bullpen and build himself up because [Friday] he goes out there in Kyle Simon style - get it and go, get it and go,” Bees manager Stan Cliburn said. “His command was there [Friday]. His command had not been there in the bullpen, which is fine because he was building himself up. That’s a smart man. He knows when he’s ready.
“He’s the ultimate professional. He comes out of a good college program in Arizona and people love playing behind him. Those infielders are ready, those outfielders are ready because he gets it and goes. Down in the zone, pitches to contact, so that’s what it’s all about. Then you get the guys in and they get a couple of runs and there you go.”
During his time in the pen, Simon faced 41 batters in 8 1/3 innings. On Friday night, he faced 19 in five.
The difference? Simon looked more comfortable starting the game on the mound compared to when he was entering in the middle of one.
“I think his tempo was a little bit better,” New Britain catcher James Skelton said. “He was just getting the ball, getting a sign and throwing. He kept the defense on its toes and we ended up getting the shutout.”
But as good as the right-hander was Friday night, he still was not happy with everything, namely the two walks he issued to Ducks batters.
“I hate walking guys,” Simon said. “I’ve already walked a ridiculous amount of guys this year (10). So, I’m just trying to throw it over and let them get themselves out. My main goal is Skelton to throw down a target and I’m going to be in the vicinity of it and get guys out and get my players off the field so they can go in and hit.”
And that ability and want to get the position players back into the dugout and up to the plate is something they appreciate. Over his five innings, Simon tossed just 68 pitches and retired the side in order three times.
“It creates a flow for the position players, especially on defense,” outfielder Michael Crouse said. “There’s no lull. There’s a leg effect every single pitch. If more pitchers could be like that and have a quicker tempo, I think they would get a lot more plays behind them and a lot less guys checking out, especially in a stadium like New Britain where there’s not a lot of fans and you’re hearing the buzz of the lights. So, it’s nice to have him be quick and then you’re in the dugout getting ready for your next at-bat.”
Said Bees designated hitter and hitting coach Craig Maddox, “As hitters, it’s about being in a rhythm and being comfortable and when you have a guy like Simon on the mound, who you know is going to go out there and throw the ball over the plate and gets quick outs and get you right back in there and play the game. It’s easy when you got guys like that on the mound.”
With one start down, more appear to be ahead for Simon, only a bonus for a team with an already strong rotation.
“If he can get close to anywhere he was last season, it’ll be great,” Skelton said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach