Right-handed pitcher Stephen Kolek will have a bigger role with the 2019 Great Lakes Loons. Kolek, who finished last season in the Loons bullpen has positioned himself to be the club’s opening day starter this Thursday versus the Lake County Captains.
The move to the rotation makes complete sense, as Kolek posted an impressive 0.66 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 27 strikeouts, and .168 opponent batting average in his 27.1 innings of work with the Loons, the Low-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, last season. A major component to his success on the mound is the feel he has of his five pitches.
Currently using a mix of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and a changeup, Kolek explains how he tries to work off his fastball every outing. “I don’t have a fastball that just blows by guys, so I try to pitch smart,” explained Kolek. “All of my pitches feed off one another, so whatever my last pitch was might dictate what my next pitch will be.”
With that said, Kolek understands the importance of having a good changeup in professional baseball, so he has worked hard at improving that pitch since being drafted in the 11th round, 344th overall, out of Texas A&M University in June’s Major League Baseball Draft.
“It’s a night and day difference,” said Kolek, who is the younger brother Miami Marlins pitching prospect Tyler Kolek. “In college I didn’t really have a changeup. It was there, but not very good. But since turning pro I have been working on it a lot with different guys. It has come a long way.”
Kolek posted a 12-11 record with a 4.03 ERA, 2.49 opponent average and 162 strikeouts in 199.0 innings at Texas A&M, appearing in 44 games, 33 of which were starts. In 2017, Kolek helped Texas A&M advance to the College World Series with an epic performance in the regional final against the University of Houston, striking out nine and allowing just one earned run over 8.1 innings of work. Kolek’s continual work on his pitches will be on display all season and for years to come in the Dodgers system.