From A Locked Bedroom To The Brink Of The Big Leagues

In the Red Sox 2008 draft, two players received most of the media and fan attention: First round pick Casey Kelly and fifth round selection Ryan Westmoreland who would have been chosen higher if teams weren’t concerned that he would be difficult to sign.

Like most third round picks, pitcher Kyle Weiland didn’t receive big headlines, and draft day was agonizing for the former Notre Dame pitcher.

(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)

“I was home with my parents and I actually locked myself in my bedroom,” Weiland said. “I got a few calls from teams early on saying, ‘Hey, if you’re still available when it’s our turn, we’re going to draft you. Will you sign for this?’ Of course I said, ‘Yea, I’ll sign for that.’ But I didn’t get picked for a few rounds so I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m not going to get drafted until the 30th round.’ So I was worried and just locked myself in my bedroom and told me parents, ‘Let me know when it’s over.’ It wasn’t much longer until they came in and told me that I had been picked by the Red Sox. Obviously, I was very excited about that. There’s not a better organization to get drafted by. They take a very high interest in player development and I don’t think I would be at the point I am today if it wasn’t for the Red Sox.”

Since Kelly was traded to San Diego in the Adrian Gonzalez deal and Westmoreland is recovering from last year’s brain surgery, Weiland appears likely to be the first player chosen by the Red Sox in the 2008 draft to make it to Boston. The 24-year-old righty is 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 starts for Pawtucket, and leads the International League with 69 strikeouts in 63 IP.

“I’ve definitely gotten more strikeouts this year than I have in past years,” Weiland said. “I think it’s a matter of experience and knowing how to pitch and using the pitches that I have in different counts. A lot of credit goes to the catchers too. They’ve done a great job of learning what I like to throw and knowing what my best options are when it comes to certain counts.”

Weiland’s biggest strikeout weapon is a hard-biting curveball that he learned as a freshman in college.

“It’s continued to get a little bit better each year,” Kyle said. “In the past it’s been one of those pitches that was night and day – some days it was there and some days it was not. This year, it’s been a lot more consistent and I’m getting a lot better feel for it. It’s definitely a pitch that I like to go to in an 0-2 or 1-2 count.”

Weiland typically gets ahead in the count by throwing a sinking fastball that tops out around 94 mph.

“It’s just a two-seam sinker,” Weiland said. “I tell everybody that I can’t see it sink – they tell me that it sinks. I guess it’s something that’s just natural for my arm angle. I just work on keeping a consistent delivery and sometimes it sinks and sometimes it doesn’t – when it doesn’t I get hit.”

“I had never seen him before this year,” said outfielder Josh Reddick. “Watching him from center field, he’s got a lot of movement on his fastball and he’s throwing it 90 to 94 miles an hour. And he’s got that great curveball to go with it. It starts out around a right-handed batter’s hip and breaks right over the plate. He’s coming along really well.”

Going into the season, Baseball America rated Weiland as Boston’s 20th-best prospect. Soxprospects.com, which updates its prospect rankings on a frequent basis, has elevated Weiland from 18th to 8th since the start of the season.

“I don’t know whose eyes I’m opening and whatnot,” Weiland said. “I try to distance myself from what is being said about me because that can be a distraction. I just try to keep focused on the game and the things that I can control. Everyday, I try to go out there and improve and see what happens.”

First Kyle unlocked his bedroom door. Now he’s unlocking his potential.

* * * * *

On Wednesday night, the PawSox and Norfolk Tides will begin their game at 7:15. I have no idea when it will end.

On Tuesday, the two teams played a 13-inning, 3:47 marathon that the Tides won 4-3. It was the third time in five meetings that the PawSox and Tides have gone extra innings.

I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage, beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.

I’d love to hear from you. The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I have finally joined Facebook. Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.

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