No other left-handed reliever in Royals history has struck out more batters in a season than Tim Collins. And it’s only mid-August.
By MATT KELLEY and BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Collins struck out the side in the eighth inning against Oakland on Tuesday, surpassing Andrew Sisco’s mark of 76 K’s, recorded in 2006.
Collins’ 77 strikeouts lead all American League relievers. Among AL pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings, Collins has the best strikeout rate, fanning 11.9 batters per nine innings.
“I’m just commanding all my pitches,” Collins said. “For me it’s all about being able to command the fastball and off that command the off-speed.
“Last year the big thing was not being able to command the fastball, and that alone is what killed me with the walks. I’d fall behind and couldn’t get to my off-speed, and ultimately I’d end up walking a bunch of guys and not striking out as many guys as I usually get.”
The statistical payoff has been enormous.
Collins has dramatically improved his strikeout rate — 11.9 per nine innings, compared with 8.1 last year — and walk rate — 3.9 per nine innings, down from 6.4. Meanwhile his ERA has dropped by 0.68 to 2.95.
“It was addressed in spring training,” Collins said. “(Pitching coach) Dave (Eiland) called me in the offseason and told me what the goal was for spring training. And as soon as I got there, that’s what we started working on. We just simplified my mechanics, which helped me be more consistent.”
Collins has been especially effective of late, riding a 10.1-inning scoreless streak entering Wednesday. The 22-year-old hasn’t allowed a run since July 22 and has surrendered only four hits over that span.
Despite his historic performance this season, neither Collins nor Yost foresee an increased workload, even with the departure of lefty Jose Mijares.
“It makes him no more important. It makes (fellow lefty Francisley) Bueno more important,” said manager Ned Yost. “The thing about Timmy is: I don’t view him as a situational left-hander. I’ll use Timmy in spots where they righties mixed in among the lefties because he’s got three pitches that I think he can get them out on.”
Lamb returns to the mound
Left-handed pitcher John Lamb made his first appearance Tuesday since undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 3, 2011. The 2008 fifth round pick threw 18 pitches in one scoreless inning in the Surprise Arizona Rookie League, striking out two batters.
"Everything was good. His velocity was better than we expected,” said assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. “He actually threw a couple of curveballs. We had told him, ‘If you feel good enough to do it, go ahead.’ His changeup was fine. He doesn’t have the feel for it just yet, but everything else was good. His delivery was good. His velocity was good."
Picollo also said that Lamb would be allowed 30 pitches in his next outing.
The 22-year-old won the Paul Splittorff Award in 2010 as the Royals’ top minor league pitcher and was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 18 prospect in baseball before the 2011 season.
Right-handed pitcher Jake Odorizzi carried a perfect game into the fifth inning Tuesday for Class-AAA Omaha in Las Vegas.
After retiring the first 12 batters he faced, Odorizzi walked the first batter of the fifth inning and lost his no-hit bid to the next batter. In all, he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing two hits and two walks in a 7-0 Storm Chasers win.
Odorizzi is a combined 13-4 this season with Omaha and Class-AA Northwest Arkansas, posting a 3.04 ERA in 127.1 innings. His 2.92 ERA for Omaha is tops in the Pacific Coast League among pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched.
Colon’s eye injury
Class AAA Omaha infielder Christian Colon, and the Royals, won’t learn the extent of an eye injury he suffered Monday night until a follow-up examination Monday in Kansas City.
Colon, 23, suffered the injury when a foul ball on an up-and-in pitch struck him in the right eye in the third inning of a 5-2 victory at Tucson.
“He said he just committed to it,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “It was up, hit off the bat and hit his right eye — his back eye. No stitches, but they say there was a lot of blood.”
The examination next week will determine whether surgery is necessary.
Colon was the Royals’ first-round pick in 2010 and batted .289 this season at Class AA Northwest Arkansas before a recent promotion to Omaha, where he was seven for 17 in five games prior to his injury.
Picollo said Colon, if no surgery is required, could return to action within two weeks. Otherwise, he is likely to miss the rest of the season.
Royals to honor vets
The Royals are asking for nominations for a military veteran to sit in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat and be honored at the sixth annual Armed Forces Day commemoration on Sept. 15.
Nominations can be made at royals.com/buckseat until noon on August 31, explaining in 100 words or fewer why the veteran deserves to be recognized.
The winner, chosen by a panel from the National World War I Museum, will be honored before the game against the Angels.
Seitzer to be honored
Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer will be recognized by his alma mater, Eastern Illinois, in an Oct. 12 ceremony to retire the No. 2 he wore in college.
Seitzer batted .418 from 1981-83 at Eastern Illinois and will become the eighth athlete, and second baseball player, in school history to be so honored. Former Royals pitcher Marty Pattin’s No. 19 was retired in 2009.
Other Eastern Illinois athletes with retired numbers: Kevin Duckworth in men’s basketball, Nancy Kassebaum in women’s basketball, quarterbacks Tony Romo and Sean Payton in football, Erik Profitt in men’s soccer and triple jumper John Craft in track.
• Tuesday’s 5-0 victory over the Oakland A’s pushed the Royals’ record in midweek games to 28-16. The Royals are 12-6 on Tuesdays, 6-3 on Thursdays and entered Wednesday’s game 10-7 on “hump day.”
• Center fielder Jarrod Dyson turned 28 Wednesday.