Kolarek Starting To Peak

Kolarek has a quality slider in the mix now

Left-handed reliever Adam Kolarek is coming off of easily his best season statistically in 2012. However, behind the numbers is a former outfielder really learning how to pitch and his game is beginning to peak in a really big way, so much so that internally he's becoming a viable long-term bullpen option for the Mets.

He not only saved 18 games for the St. Lucie Mets last year but he posted a 2.37 ERA and struck out a career-high 70 batters in the Florida State League.

"Overall I thought personally I made a lot of improvements," he said. "When I set my goals each year for the upcoming season I write things down on what I want to improve on and when the season's over I like to look back, and I really feel like I improved in a lot of areas and I was able to have a lot of good success."

Primarily a fastball-changeup guy in years prior, the 6-foot-3 southpaw made it a goal to start throwing his slider for strikes in the zone more consistently last year and that helped keep hitters a lot more honest in the box.

"Just in some of the finer points in terms of my pitches -- I made a big effort to improve my offspeed pitches especially earlier in the count and when I'm behind, not having to throw just fastballs just to get back into the count," he said. "I really focused on my control with my secondary pitches."

He had always has the confidence to throw his changeup for strikes when needed but that essentially made him just a two-pitch hurler and therefore easier for opposing batters to guess what was coming.

What allowed him to strike out more than a batter and half per nine innings from his previous season, however, was to add that third quality strike into his repertoire, the breaking pitch that had evaded him for some time.

"I do try to use that as more of a put-away pitch at times," he said of his slider. "I was able to do that a lot my previous season but I wasn't able to throw it for a strike.

"I think it's helped me now being able to throw it two different ways, one for a good strike and one in the dirt to get the batter to chase.

"I can get [batters] thinking two different ways; when they start expecting the slider that's when I'll come inside with a good fastball to strike them out or when they're looking to protect against the fastball that's when I can throw that slider. I play the two off of each other."

Still able to mix in the changeup whenever he needs it -- in fact he says most mights he does not favor one secondary pitch over the other -- Kolarek feels much more in control on the mound and more importantly is starting to have the look of a pitcher and not a mere hurler.

Able to post a solid 2.92 ERA in the Arizona Fall League this offseason after getting a late-season taste of Double-A at the end of last season, he says he feels very prepared for the next step in his development to the point where he could follow the lines of a Josh Edgin to become a potential bullpen factor for the Mets sometime soon.

"I feel very confident I can do that," he said confidently. "I've learned so much in such a short period of time in my last year of college and these first couple of years of pro ball, I feel like I'm always improving and improving mentally, getting a better understanding of how to attack hitters and what it takes to succeed at each higher level."

The numbers he posted in 2012 were just the results of all the hard work he has put into his game, changing it to the point where he can now rely on three pitches to get hitters out. Adding that quality slider with better control has his game beginning to peak.

"Even in college I was still messing around as a two-way player and really just focusing on pitching now, my attention and my focus has really improved.

"I'm getting more innings under my belt and with more innings come more experience and then comes more confidence. I'm very confident heading into this year that I'll have another strong season," he concluded.

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