Kinney thrives on guile, location

Posted Aug. 13, 2009, at 11:44 p.m.

He probably winces every time he hears it, but Bangor native Matt Kinney is officially in the twilight of his pro baseball career.

Still, the 32-year-old right-handed pitcher is doing more than just barely hanging on as a member of the starting rotation for the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate.

Kinney, now 7-11 with a 5.59 ERA in 24 starts with the Fresno Grizzlies this season, suffered a loss Tuesday night after allowing eight hits and seven earned runs in six innings, but just a little over a week ago, he limited the New Orleans Zephyrs to four hits over seven scoreless innings while walking one batter and striking out seven.

“You could say he’s on the other side of his career, but I saw him in A-ball when he was with Michigan [1997] and loved him,” said Fresno pitching coach Pat Rice. “He was probably the best pitcher in the league that year. He doesn’t throw 95 or 96 like he did then, but he has a wealth of experience and he’s a team leader with-out trying to be.”

Kinney has struck out 101 batters and walked 34 in 132 inning.

Rice said Kinney can still get it up to 94 mph on the radar gun, but says the 6-foot-5, 220-pound pitcher relies more on guile and location than heat these days.

“He still has pretty good stuff, but he’s more of a command guy, and he’s more experienced,” Rice explained. “His strength is finding hitters’ weaknesses and taking advantage of them.”

The former Boston Red Sox sixth round draft choice (1995) started out the season throwing fastballs, curves, changeups and the occasional slider, but Rice has convinced him to use the curve less and his other offspeed pitches more.

“His fastball’s still his best pitch because of his location,” Rice said. “He decided to go more with his slider. He’ll cut one and make it faster and then make another one seem bigger.

“He’s been using the changeup more and more and we’ve been trying to talk him into using it more often.”

This is Kinney’s 15th season of pro ball. He’s pitched all or parts of 12 seasons in the minors and all or parts of five in the majors. Last year, he played for the Seibu Lions in the Japan Pacific League.

“He likes to talk baseball and share information, and that’s great because he can really help these guys with his life experiences,” said Rice, . “He does lots of things you don’t see from veteran guys on the backside of their careers. A lot of guys are bitter or standoffish.”

Rice, whose coaching career has covered the same time span as Kinney’s playing career (1995-2009), played one year in the majors (1991) after six seasons in the minors.

“I think sometimes he feels like he’s on the back end of his career, but that’s not necessarily the case,” said Rice. “The biggest thing for him is for him to realize he can pitch effectively at the big league level. You have to have that desire and drive.”

Still, Rice isn’t optimistic about Kinney’s chance for a September call-up to the Giants once big league clubs can expand their rosters.

“The biggest problem is the limited roster spots with the big club. He’d be a perfect guy to go up and help down the stretch, but they may not have room unless there’s an injury,” Rice said. “But that’s where having a guy like this helps.

“Because of his experience, he can be an ideal guy to go up and fill in to make a spot or emergency start. I have no doubt if they needed someone and his spot work out, he could handle it.”

It’s just a matter of getting the call.

Sea Dogs start 2nd season sales

The Portland Sea Dogs will begin selling strip playoff tickets (tickets for all possible playoff games at Hadlock Field) Wednesday at the Hadlock ticket office or via phone (879-9500).

The top two teams from each division of the Eastern League qualify for the playoffs and after Wednesday night’s games, Portland was second in the Northern Division and a half game ahead of Trenton. Ticket prices are $9 for box seats, $8 for children and seniors, $8 for adult reserved seats, $7 for children/seniors reserved seats, and $7 for adult general admission and $4 for children/seniors general admission. Refunds will be given for any playoff games not played.

aneff@bangordailynews.net

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