Schwinden Adapting to Next Level

Schwinden's first three AA starts have been mixed

BINGHAMTON, NY - The Binghamton Mets rotation was in recent need of a boost. Up from St. Lucie came right-hander Chris Schwinden who got off to a hot start in the Florida State League. Schwinden's first Double-A start was a good one, but mixed results in his last two outings have shown Schwinden what it takes to win at the next level.

The Binghamton Mets starting rotation has been erratic for most of the season thus far. Brad Holt has struggled mightily since returning from the DL, Scott Shaw has an opponent's batting average of .309 with ten home runs allowed and has since been moved to the bullpen. Eddie Kunz is back in the bullpen after starting for the first time in his career. Mike Antonini has pitched well at times, but has been inconsistent.

The B-Mets missed Eric Niesen this month, who missed roughly a month with a concussion, and their most consistent pitcher, Dylan Owen, was recently promoted to Triple-A Buffalo.

The troubles of the rotation were exposed during the B-Mets' nine-game losing streak that began on May 11th. Mets starters took the loss in seven of those games.

Enter, Chris Schwinden. The right-hander was called up from Port St. Lucie to start for Binghamton on May 22nd, and promptly put an end to the Mets' losing streak. Schwinden allowed just one run, a solo home run, over six strong innings in which he did not allow a walk, while striking out five in his first start.

Since then, Schwinden has taken two losses while allowed 10 earned runs on 15 hits in nine innings pitched. Despite the rocky second and third starts, Schwinden has the tools to be a significant help to the Binghamton rotation.

Prior to his promotion, Schwinden pitched to a 1.83 earned run average in a combined two starts and five relief appearances for St. Lucie. Schwinden's aggressiveness in the strike zone has been a crucial component to his excellent beginning to the season.

"I've just been going out there trying to throw strikes," he said. "Trying to make the least mistakes as possible. Other than that, just attacking guys and going after hitters."

Maintaining success hasn't been difficult for Schwinden, despite pitching as both a starter and a reliever in a piggyback role. The role switching hasn't fazed him; he has the same mentality every time he steps foot on the mound.

"Some guys come out of the bullpen with a different mindset," Schwinden said. "But for me, it's about getting innings, trying to do your best and going out there and giving 100 percent."

Although he came through with a clutch outing for his team in his first ever Double-A start, Schwinden seemed to believe he could have pitched even better.

"I thought it was alright," Schwinden said. "I thought I did the best I could. I made a couple of mistakes, but you learn from that."

In 229.2 career innings, Schwinden has walked just 37 batters, an effect of his aforementioned aggressive style of pitching. He anticipates making just a slight tweak in his approach now that he's in Double-A.

"Of course hitters are going to look at stats and see that I have few walks, but in the game plan you've got to just throw a little bit more balls than regular to keep them off balance," Schwinden said.

Schwinden feels his slider is the pitch that has improved the most since last season, a pitch that wasn't even in his repertoire at the start of 2009.

"I started throwing (the slider) late last year, and now it's starting to be an out pitch for me."

Pitchers are always looking to refine all of their pitches, as is the case with Schwinden. As good as his changeup has been for him, he feels that is the pitch he needs to improve the most.

"I've been working on all of them pretty much," Schwinden said. "I'd say the changeup a little bit, but that's one of my stronger pitches as well."

The jump from High-A to Double-A is a challenging one. Schwinden has noticed an immediate difference between the batters in the Eastern League and the batters in the Florida State League, but he's prepared for what lies ahead.

"The hitters, they sit on a pitch, they look for that mistake," he said. "That's where it goes back to making the least mistakes as possible. There are some stronger hitters, and they're a lot smarter, so I think that's the big difference."

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