Right-hander Kam Mickolio, an 18th-round pick in the 2006 draft, didn't expect to already be in Class AAA. But he is, and he's excelling.
TACOMA — Things have happened so fast for Kam Mickolio, he hasn’t even gotten around to adjusting his goals.
An 18th-round draft pick in 2006, the 6-foot-9, 256-pound right-hander figured he would be spending the year in long-season Class A after playing last summer at short-season Class A Everett.
Instead, Mickolio is spending the summer at Class AAA Tacoma, where he seems perfectly comfortable despite his amazing ascent.
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“I never expected this at all,” he said. “I just figured I would go from level to level.
“Some things have changed, so I’m still trying to adjust what my goals might be. It’s all moved so fast, it’s hard to tell where I’ll be this year, next year, two years down the road. I really don’t know.”
Mickolio was drafted out of Utah Valley State and pitched well at Everett, going 1-0 with a 2.78 earned-run average. He showed enough that the Mariners had him bypass both Class A Wisconsin and High Desert, putting him at Class AA West Tenn to begin this season.
After going 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA in 29-2/3 innings at West Tenn, Mickolio was promoted to Tacoma in mid-June. He is 2-2 with Tacoma, with a 3.93 ERA in 18-1/3 innings, nine walks and 21 strikeouts.
“That was an excellent draft choice for us,” said Frank Mattox, the Mariners’ director of player development “Bobby [Fontaine, vice president in charge of scouting] did a real nice job scouting him, and our player-development people were very high on him from what they saw in Everett.
“He’s just more proof that players come from all rounds in the draft, not just the first few picks.”
Mickolio, 23, has added several miles per hour on his fastball since college, which he said has come from better mechanics and getting stronger. What the Mariners want him to do is work on his secondary pitches, such as his slider and changeup.
“We just want him to get more consistent with his pitches,” Mattox said. “He’s a big, tall kid, and when you’re that big sometimes it’s harder to keep it the same each pitch.”
Although Mickolio was a starter in college, he has been a reliever as a professional. He has particularly enjoyed getting the chance to close games. He picked up a tough save for Tacoma on June 12 against Fresno.
Mickolio entered the game with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning, but with runners on second and third and no outs. After issuing a walk, he recorded two strikeouts and a pop-up to preserve the win.
“You just try to get the first out,” he said. “When you do that, it takes a little pressure off your chest and you have something to work with.”
Mickolio grew up a Mariners fan in Bozeman, Mont. There is no high-school baseball there, but he did play American Legion. Still, there weren’t a lot of scouts watching.
“It’s tough to get seen up there,” he said. “It’s kind of forgotten territory.”
So he played four years of college baseball, starting with two years at the College of Eastern Utah before transferring to Utah Valley State.
Mickolio was 6-6 with a 5.30 ERA in his senior season, numbers that belied the success he has enjoyed as a pro.
“He’s got a really live arm and unbelievable stuff,” said Tacoma catcher Jeff Clement. “Usually a guy that big, with that much of a power arm, he struggles with control, but he’s had great control for us. Obviously, you are most impressed by his arm, but his ability to throw strikes has also been really impressive.”