Richie Mirowski is intriguing. The Washington Nationals pitching prospect features a unique array of offerings, as well as a “Who is this guy?” profile. A 24-year-old right-hander, he was selected in the 45th-round of the 2011 draft out of Oklahoma Baptist University.
This year, Mirowski had one of best seasons of any bullpen arm in baseball. Pitching at high-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, he went 10-3, 1.83 with 7 saves. In 45 appearances, covering 68-and-two-thirds innings, he had a .903 WHIP and 11.5 punch-outs-per-nine. The numbers were no mirage. In 2012, Mirowski logged a 1.85 ERA between Auburn and Hagerstown.
Mirowski wrapped up his 2013 campaign by pitching in the Arizona Fall League for the Mesa Solar Sox. He discussed his repertoire — which includes a split-change and a spike curveball — during the last week of the AFL season.
Mirowski on going from 45th-round senior sign to legitimate prospect; “I’ve always had the capability, so it’s been a matter of consistency. That’s what determines who you are. A lot of pitchers have good stuff.
“This year I built on what I’ve always done, although there have been little changes here and there. Mindset is one. I’ve developed a mentality of not walking guys, of pitching to contact and not shying away from the plate. They’re not going to hit the ball every time. I like striking guys out, but I also like having fewer walks.”
On being an atypical power pitcher: “That’s kind of what I am. I throw a cutter, a two-seam; I throw breaking balls to get into counts. Then I have my strikeout pitch. I’m also throwing fastballs to get to those counts. I’m 88-89 [mph] and can get to 91. But the biggest thing is a cutter and a good two-seam. I try to cut the plate in half at times. If I make my pitch, they’re going to foul it off or swing over it. I don’t have a 96-mph fastball, so that’s what I have to do.
“If there’s a guy on third base, or if the bases are loaded, I’m not going to get hurt throwing a bunch of fastballs. They’re looking for something they can hit hard and my job is to get that guy out. I need weak contact or a strikeout in those situations, so I need to go to my best stuff. Right now, my best pitch for that is my split-change. I’ve had instances where I’ve thrown it four, five times in a row.”
On his split-change: “I picked it up when I was 13 or 14 years old. I call it a split-change, although I guess the real name for it is a fosh. The guy I learned it from worked with some Stanford guys, and now you’ll see some Stanford guys throwing the same exact pitch.
“It’s basically a split grip between two fingers, with the other two just resting alongside. I pinch in between the knuckles, right under my fingertips — at the side of the fingers, right at those high knuckles.
“It goes straight down, and in to righties. It will break hard. When I was playing in junior college, they used to call it a left-handed curveball. It looked like that to them. For a changeup, it was kind of strange, because it was pretty sharp. There are other times it will cut a little bit. That’s maybe not what I was looking to throw, but it still can be effective. Either way, it’s usually about 80 to 82.”
On his cutter: “I learned my cutter when I was playing in a wood bat league, the California Collegiate League. My manager was Roy Howell, who was an All-Star third baseman with Toronto. He was basically my mentor when it came to pitching. I was just a junior college pitcher at the time I met him. He saw a little something in me he could work with.
“He used to catch big-league bullpens once in a while. He showed me a cutter grip and I messed around with it that summer. Nowadays, I’ll even go to it first pitch. Sometimes I’ll throw three cutters in a row. At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t throwing it as much. I’d usually only go to my cutter if a hitter was battling me and I had to show him something he hadn’t seen yet.
“One game, Spin [minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams] and [director of player development] Doug Harris were there. My catcher called it, he liked it, so he kept on calling it. That night I probably threw more cutters than I had the whole season, just in that one or two innings. Afterwards, they asked me, ‘What is that you’re throwing; a cutter?’ I acknowledged that it was. I said, ‘Yeah, a cutter.’”
On his spike curveball and his two-seam: “I’ll throw [a spike curveball] mostly get ahead in counts. Sometimes I’ll start guys off with it. It’s a pitch I can usually throw for a strike. Sometimes I’ll miss. But yeah, first pitch, or maybe a one-one count. It kind of depends on the hitter, too.
“I’ve always thrown a spike curve. I haven’t changed any of my grips. Since I learned my pitches, I haven’t messed with them at all. The only things I’ve picked up were the two-seam and the cutter.
“I used to not like throwing my two-seam, because it was straight. I couldn’t get it to run. Then, when I got it to run, I couldn’t throw it for a strike; it would float off the plate. I basically didn’t know what I was doing with it. Over time, I kind of learned the mechanics of it. When you do that, things come together. You have to know the mechanics of your pitches.”
On his mechanics; “I’m like everybody in that I have key points I need to think about, especially if I’m getting out of rhythm. There’s nothing funky about my delivery. I don’t have unorthodox mechanics. I’m basically a standard three-quarters arm slot with nothing crazy going on.
“The first of my key points is staying tall in my balance. Then it’s driving to home plate. The third is staying level — keeping my shoulders level — and then I need to be out in front with my hands. Those are the four things I focus on.”
On his Oklahoma Baptist bio saying his favorite fictional character is Achilles: “One of my classes was Western Civilization, and we had to do a lot of reading. We read a lot of mythology. Saying that was spur of the moment, because we were studying The Odyssey at the time. I wasn’t thinking about [a hitter having an Achilles heel] or anything like that.
“It’s still kind of interesting. What you’re learning in school, and the lessons your baseball coaches are teaching you… on and off the field, things kind of tie-in. If you can be well-rounded, the game gets… maybe not easier, but you better understand it. You have little ways of seeing the game differently. But in the end, it’s still pretty simple. That guy is in the batters’ box and you’re battling him.”
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