Left-handed reliever Adam Kolarek is coming off of easily his best season statistically in 2012. …
Kolarek Is All About Control and Consistency
"You have to take care of your body and get into a good routine," Kolarek explained. "You need to come to the field prepared everyday because something's on the line."
Kolarek stressed the importance of routine for the everyday minor league ballplayer.
"In the majors obviously it's about winning. But in the minors it's about winning, and it's also about developing yourself," Kolarek said. "Mentally I come prepared everyday expecting to throw.
"Physically I take advantage of any time I have to get my workouts in at the weight room. Lots of times I'll work out after a game, but everyone has their own program. I like to get stuff in after games and get ready for the next day."
Having a routine by being mentally and physically prepared has helped Kolarek maintain consistency on the mound. He was a reliever in college too so he's no stranger to the role either.
"It's really helped me that I was a reliever in college," Kolarek acknowledged . "A lot of times it seems like a lot of relievers in pro ball were starters in college.
"I think I'm ahead of the learning curve for relievers because relieving can be tough. Coming into games, it's hard to be prepared everyday because it's just so different. I'm comfortable in my role in that I stay even keel.
"As a reliever you have to have short-term memory because you can blow it one night then be in the same exact situation the next night, and you have to perform. I don't get too high or too low with any performance, if I struggle or if I do well. Being strong mentally is my biggest strength."
Kolarek's main role fluctuates between the seventh, eight, and ninth innings. Last year at St. Lucie he posted a 2.85 ERA and five saves along with 58 strikeouts in 60.0 innings pitched. This year so far he has a 1.88 ERA, ten saves and 52 strikeouts while pitching in more important roles.
"I'm used to the seventh and eighth inning but I take the same approach in the ninth, it's just a different inning," Kolarek explained. "I come to the field every night, ready to throw one or two innings.
"You have to get three outs whether it's the seventh, eighth, or ninth. My job is just to put up a zero in the runs column. Now I understand that."
Kolarek's repertoire consists of three pitches. He has a good fastball that runs in the low 90s, a very improved slider in the 83-84 mph range, and a developing changeup around 80 mph.
St. Lucie Manager Ryan Ellis described Kolarek's attributes.
"Clean delivery, and a sneaky fastball," Ellis said. "He's got a slow, methodical delivery and the ball kind of jumps right out of his hand. Good fastball, good slider.
"He still needs a little work on his changeup. He's been working on that and he's not afraid to throw it which is good from the developmental standpoint. He's done a real good job throwing strikes and controlling the strike zone all year. I think that's a big part of the reason why he's been so successful."
Kolarek took the time to explain his improvements.
"In the offseason I really worked on my secondary pitches with my slider and my changeup. I feel like it's made me a much stronger pitcher because I've been able to have just as good command with my slider and changeup as I have with my fastball.
"Whether it's two-two or three-two, I still feel comfortable throwing them just as much as I do the fastball. I can throw it for a strike called or get them to chase and that's been the biggest difference for me."
The improved control of his secondary pitches has brought great results, including more strikeouts and less walks. Kolarek averages 1.4 strikeouts per inning which is up from his two previous seasons in the minors. His strikeout to walk ratio is currently 5.7, up from 2.5 last season.
Ellis confirmed Kolarek's improved control on the mound this season.
"His fastball is his best pitch," Ellis stated. "It has a little depth and a little sink. He controls it in all quadrants of the plate. He can go up, down, in, out with it.
"He also has a really good feel for his slider. He can throw it for strikes whenever he wants and he can throw it out of the zone whenever he wants too."
Kolarek highlighted his approach on the mound.
"I always pitch to my strengths rather than to a hitter's weakness," he said. "I always take the same approach of attacking hitters. I don't shy away from contact. I'm not afraid of getting hit. I believe my stuff can be good enough to get ground balls and fly outs."
Improved control has obviously led to higher confidence on the mound as well. Kolarek justified the importance of having confidence.
"I think that's a tough thing to get over especially as a young pitcher, not being afraid of contact, because they're going to fail seven out of ten times and still be a hall of famer," Kolarek explained. "So it's all about those other three times. Can I get them out? I have to have the confidence to attack the zone and go at the hitters."
The significance of established routine along with better control has led to more consistent performances for Kolarek, something he appreciates as a minor league ballplayer.
"It's all about consistency," Kolarek affirmed. "In the minors everybody has talent. Everybody throws hard and has a good breaking ball. The difference between us and major leaguers is consistency.
"You don't see big league guys walking too many guys or hitters getting into a really long drought you know? Everyone's able to get back into a good rhythm especially with pitching.
"You don't see sporadic misses with balls, they're all around the zone and they're all good pitches for strikes. Consistency is something that I'm working on."
Kolarek emphasized the importance of being able to perform day in and day out, repeating it, then building on it.
"You always want to take a small step because you know the small steps will add up," Kolarek said. "You don't want to say you don't have any goals because your goal is to do what you just did. Can you build off of that?
It's great if you have a good first half but at the end it's all about where you finish."
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