Ken Waldichuk Ready To Compete For Athletics Rotation Spot
When Athletics pitching coordinator Gil Patterson sees something special in a pitcher, he quotes former MLB pitcher Orlando Hernandez.
“El Duque told me that you pitch with your head. You pitch with your heart. And you pitch with . . .” something else that equates to intestinal fortitude.
“That’s what Ken Waldichuk does,” Patterson said. “He brings it all.”
Oakland acquired Waldichuk from the Yankees in a trade deadline deal for Frankie Montas, and the A's are delighted with what they received. The 25-year-old will come to spring training to compete for a job in the big league rotation.
Patterson was also impressed with Waldichuk off the field. He embraced the new ideas the A’s threw at him.
“He was just very open," Patterson said. "He comes from the Yankees and has a good grasp of doing analytics and the behind-the-scenes pitching stuff. He was very open to our ideas. It’s refreshing when guys are open.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound lefty pitches with a big, sweeping delivery that provides deception for hitters, but can lead to some command problems in the strike zone.
“He’s got a long arm path, but that Randy Johnson guy did, too, and he wound up doing OK,” Patterson said with a chuckle.
Patterson and big league pitching coach Scott Emerson have some ideas to improve the command issue.
Waldichuk possesses a mid-90s fastball with good spin, plus an above-average sweeping slider that is highly effective. He also throws a get-me-over curveball and a changeup that A’s coaches will work to improve.
But he is more than his pitch mix. He has the head, heart and fortitude to deliver.
The Yankees drafted Waldichuk in the fifth round in 2019 out of St. Mary’s, just up the road from the Oakland Coliseum. He was solid as a freshman, then had an impressive sophomore season, going 8-4 with a 2.05 ERA.
He did not quite repeat that success as a junior. But now comes the next test, not far from where he passed the first.
— The A’s hired former catcher Ramon Hernandez to serve on their coaching staff as a major league assistant and interpreter. Hernandez played the first five seasons of his 15-year MLB career with the A’s.
—The A’s invited 24 non-roster players to spring training, including top hitting prospects Tyler Soderstrom and Zack Gelof. Both have a shot at reaching the majors later in the year.