More than a year away from affiliated ball got Gunnar Kines off on the wrong foot in his return with Class A Short Season Brooklyn. Almost literally.
The Mets left-hander said he worked with Cyclones pitching coach Royce Ring on landing in the correct place to direct his body toward the plate rather than falling off to the right side. The adjustments have paid off.
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Kines surrendered just one hit for the second consecutive start in the Cyclones' 2-1 victory over the Spikes at MCU Park. Over six innings, the University of Mount Olive product walked a pair and struck out three to lower his ERA to 3.20 in five starts this season.
"I know in my first few outings I was having trouble just mechanically getting over to that side of the plate," Kines said, who threw four one-hit frames in his previous start against Mahoning Valley. "[Ring has] helped me out a lot with being able to work the inside plate more than the outside, which opens up the outside more. I was able to close myself in more, which enabled me to drive more to home plate."
A 36th-round pick of the Marlins two years ago, Kines made two starts and 14 appearances out of the bullpen in his first professional season in 2015. In the Gulf Coast and South Atlantic Leagues, he sported a 3-3 record with a 1.77 ERA and 30 strikeouts over 35 2/3 innings while converting five of seven save opportunities.
He was released by the Marlins in March 2016 and signed with the independent Schaumburg Boomers of the Frontier League. The 23-year-old found himself back in the starter's role for 18 games with the Boomers in 2016.
"It was definitely a big adjustment, from just the pro level, because the last time I started was in college," Kines said. "I started off rough my first year there in Schaumburg after I got released. So I had to really sit back and see what I was doing differently and what I have to do differently. I eventually figured it out there."
The South Carolina native made seven more appearances with the Boomers this summer, going 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 53 strikeouts, before signing with the Mets on June 20.
"Being able to come in and already be in midseason form against a bunch of guys that were just coming in after the Draft or just after the first part of Rookie ball, it was really helpful," Kines said. "I'm lucky to get the opportunity to do this."
Kines retired the first six batters he faced before issuing a free pass to Ricardo Bautista to start the third inning. After inducing a pair of flyouts, Kines picked Bautista off at first base to get through the frame.
He pitched a 1-2-3 fourth ahead of Brandon Benson's double to left to lead off the fifth. Bryce Denton flied out to right to advance Benson, but Kines got Stanley Espinal to pop out to first and and Bautista to bounce out to short.
He struck out Dennis Ortega to start the sixth and sandwiched a pair of flyouts around a walk to Zach Kirtley to complete his outing after 81 pitches -- 53 for strikes.
Darwin Ramos surrendered the tying run on an RBI single by Imeldo Diaz in the eighth, but Jose Miguel Medina belted a two-out walk-off double to left in the following inning.