March 21, 2013 at 9:30 AM
Kyle Stroup was able to take the mound for a minor league spring training game on March 20 was something for the towering right-hander to relish.
On March 19, 2010, as a 20-year-old Stroup prepared for full-season ball after a debut campaign in the Gulf Coast League, he tore ACL in his right knee. After rehabbing through that summer and getting back into game action in the Fall Instructional Leagues in the Dominican Republic, Stroup started 21 games for Greenville in 2011.
But on March 19, 2012 — two years to the day after that first tear, and a year ago Tuesday — Stroup suffered a second knee injury, this time tearing the ACL in his left knee. After another summer of dogged rehab in Florida, Stroup followed the same comeback trail — side sessions in late summer, fall outings in Fort Myers and the Dominican — before returning with no restrictions this spring.
Stroup, now 23, made it past that dreaded date this March, and on Wednesday, looked strong in his second start in minor league camp.
“I feel 100-percent, just trying to get my command down,” Stroup said. “I threw the ball really well. I let up one run, but it’s spring, you know? My changeup is working, my fastball is on — I’m going to have a good year this year.”
In four innings of work with Boston’s Double-A squad against the Orioles, Stroup effectively located his 91-93 mph fastball to both sides of the plate and elicited several swinging strikes with his 84 mph changeup. Stroup throws both a four-seam fastball, which he elevates late in counts and uses to attack left-handed batters inside, and a two-seam fastball, which he throws early in counts. He also showed a curveball that sat in the low-80s.
Outside of his fastball, which he reached back to throw at 95 mph early in the outing, Stroup’s changeup was his most effective pitch. He creates deception by throwing the pitch from the same arm slot as his fastball, and the Orioles’ minor leaguers were way out in front of it on several occasions.
“He’s back in the mix and he’s feeling great,” Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker, who was coaching the Portland squad Wednesday, said. “I’m really pleased with what I saw today — good fastball, mixed in the changeup well.”
Stroup struck out five of the 17 batters he faced, and allowed one run on four hits — all singles. His lone walk came in the second inning when Stroup briefly lost his mechanics and struggled to finish his delivery, but he quickly regained his form to get out of the inning.
Boston selected the 6-foot-6 Stroup with the final pick of the 2008 MLB Draft — he was the 1,504th player selected that season — and signed him for $150,000. The long odds of a late-round selection reaching the major leagues grew even longer with Stroup’s injury setbacks, but two summers of reclusive rehab in Fort Myers have only strengthened his resolve to pitch in the big leagues.
“I’m asked that all the time — ‘Are you going to quit?’” Stroup said. “People say I wouldn’t have done what you did, but it’s what I want to do, man. I know I have the stuff to pitch in the big leagues — I’ve been told that. So I’m not going to quit. I know I’ve come back from it before, so I’m going to do that.”
Photo Credit: Kyle Stroup by Kelly O'Connor
Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.