Move To The Mound Paying Off For D-backs' Munson

PHOENIX—Righthander Kevin Munson didn't take a conventional path to professional baseball, but the Diamondbacks have reaped the benefits of this late bloomer as he has skyrocketed through the organization as a reliever in just a season and a half.

Munson was a competitive swimmer late into his teens, and he had scholarship offers from NCAA Division I schools before he burned out on swimming and turned his focus to the diamond during his senior year of high school.

Munson performed well during the spring, and he volunteered to pitch in an American Legion tournament and threw a complete game. He turned down a chance to attend the Naval Academy, where his father attended, to pursue his baseball career as a recruited walk-on at James Madison. Even there, his first position was catcher, but by the end of his career he found a niche as the Dukes' closer. The Diamondbacks made him a fourth-round pick in 2010.

"It's awesome," Munson said. "As a starter you pitch every five days, and I like to be able to help the team out more than that."

Munson spent the final weeks of the 2011 season at Double-A Mobile, then pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-1, 1.32 in 13 appearances and striking out 16 in 14 innings. Munson struck out 78 in 57 innings at three levels in the 2011 regular season and has averaged 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his short minor league career.

Munson, 23, features a power pitcher's arsenal, a two-seam fastball and a slider, and he keeps hitters guessing. The two-seamer works in to a righthanded hitter, and the slider works away. W ith help from high Class A Visalia pitching coach and former National League Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek and pitching coordinator Jeff Pico, Munson began emphasizing the two-seamer in his last weeks at Visalia and kept it up at Mobile.

"East-west. That's my bread and butter," Munson said. "I wasn't as confident with my two-seamer (earlier in the year), but I finally decided if I want to get to where I want to go, I had to figure this thing out. So I kept working."

"Hitters say that no matter how hard you throw, if it is flat they can hit it. Having a fastball that moves is harder on the hitters."

Munson, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, struggled early at Visalia last year, where he was 4-3, 4.02, but at the same time showed an ability to get out righthanders, holding them to a .180 average. He's working to cut down his walks after allowing 42 in 57 innings last year.

Snake Bites

• Diminutive 5-foot-8 lefthander Eury de la Rosa took his strong summer season into the Dominican League, where he was 2-0, 1.03 in 26 appearances. De la Rosa, 21, had a 1.36 ERA in 39 games for low Class A South Bend in 2011.

• The Diamondbacks claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Astros. Tatum, 28, has appeared in 100 major league games over the last three seasons with the Reds and Orioles, splitting last season between the Orioles and Triple-A Norfolk.