BRADENTON, Fla. -- Right-hander Chad Kuhl showed solid command of his expanding arsenal of pitches and put together his best start of the spring Thursday, less than two weeks before the opening of the regular season.Kuhl gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings of
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Right-hander Chad Kuhl showed solid command of his expanding arsenal of pitches and put together his best start of the spring Thursday, less than two weeks before the opening of the regular season.
Kuhl gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays. Although he gave up a solo homer to Justin Smoak in the top of the sixth inning on a fastball, Kuhl was in control otherwise and mixing his pitches well to get five strikeouts.
"I feel really good; the last outing I started to get more of that feel back and I kind of built on that tonight," Kuhl said. "Curveball and slider execution were OK and they got even better tonight."
Kuhl threw 85 pitches and said he threw some more in the cage after being removed for Dovydas Neverauskas.
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Kuhl started the evening shakily, giving up a leadoff double to Curtis Granderson and walking Smoak to put runners on first and second with one out. But he settled down from there, retiring eight of the next nine batters he faced.
Manager Clint Hurdle said it was important for Kuhl to stay in favorable counts.
"There are a number of things I thought he did well, first-pitch strikes were a good place for him," Hurdle said. "He only had two three-ball counts on him on the night. The pitch efficiency was in a pretty good place. The changeup was an effective pitch for him to both right-handers and left-handers."
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Kuhl expects to throw 100 pitches in his next Grapefruit League start. He said there are several things he needs to continue to improve, but he's comfortable with his progress and where he is as a pitcher right now.
"You grow and you change and I've gone through a ton of changes to figure out what works best for me," Kuhl said. "Just being able to do different things, work on the curveball, work on elevating the fastball more up in the zone. Having those different weapons has made me a much better player."
Pitching coach Ray Searage said that Kuhl's expanded arsenal will give him more options to face hitters and learn how to respond accordingly to each situation.
"I like starters to have four pitches, because if one breaking ball doesn't work, the other one you've got a better shot at that might be working," Searage said. "The changeup is always going to be important. Being able to crossfire the fastball. With Kuhly, I don't think he knows how good he can be.
"There's still a lot of learning process that's going to be going on. It's not going to be done with kid gloves. It's going to be honest and it's going to be straightforward. We're going to have numbers and heat maps to show them, 'This is where you were. This is where you need to be at.'"
Ralph Long is a contributor to MLB.com.