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Change of Scenery Working out Just Fine for Limestone Baseball Great

Pucetas Harrisburg
By David Driver for the Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Kevin Pucetas ’06 had been nothing but a winner as a minor league pitcher, fashioning a 53-26 record with the Giants and Royals from 2006-11.

But near the end of spring training earlier this year, the Broome High product was not in the plans of Kansas City, even though he pitched at Triple-A Omaha last year and had been on the Royals’ 40-man roster.

Fortunately there was a good working relationship between Scott Sharp, the director of minor league operations for Kansas City, and Doug Harris, the director of player development with the Washington Nationals. Sharp grew up in Maryland and was a catcher in the minor league system of the Reds, while Harris is from Pennsylvania and was a pitcher in the minors for the Orioles and the Royals.

So on March 28, Pucetas, a strapping 6-foot-4 right-hander, was signed by Washington as a free agent and was assigned to Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League.

“I knew Scott since we had worked together in Texas,” said Harris, a former pitcher at James Madison University in Virginia. “We had a plan in place. Kevin did not have a lot of innings (in the spring) when he came to us. We had a need in that relief role and planned to stretch out his innings. He really knows how to pitch. He is a winner.”

Being let go by a team so late in spring training is not ideal, since that makes it harder to get picked up by another organization.

“It happened pretty quickly. I was released by Kansas City and probably signed with Washington about one hour later,” said Pucetas, standing near the Harrisburg dugout during batting practice before a recent game. “I was with them three full days in camp and then was assigned here. It was one of those things that they found me a spot, so it was not that strenuous. A change of scenery is the big thing. That is a plus, trying to make a good impression.”
He pitched out of the bullpen in April and May and posted a 1.50 ERA in 14 games before moving to the starting rotation, which has been his domain most of his pro career.

In his first five starts with Harrisburg he was 4-1 with a 3.69 ERA and had allowed 28 hits in 31 2/3 innings and had an impressive ratio of 22 strikeouts to four walks. Through June 27, he was 6-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 19 games with the Senators.

“Kevin has been a pleasant surprise this year. He has been exceptional in every role we have put him in. (He is) a strike throwing machine with four pitches,” Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart, a former big leaguer, wrote in an e-mail. He “pitches to contact and keeps hitters off balance (and) keeps the ball down very well.”

Pucetas welcomes the chance to be with the Nationals, whose major league club has been among the biggest surprises in the game this year. Two years ago Harrisburg featured pitcher Stephen Strasburg, a former No. 1 overall draft pick who is now an ace with Washington.

“They are a really, really, really good farm system,” Pucetas said of the Nationals. “I enjoy playing here. They are definitely rich on pitching.”
“All of the player development guys are top notch. They really know what they are doing. My manager is a South Carolina boy; I really enjoy working with Matt LeCroy,” Pucetas said of the Belton native and Clemson product who played in the majors for Minnesota and Washington. “All of us are working hard and trying to contribute to that playoff push” by the Nationals.

“It happened pretty quickly. I was released by Kansas City and probably signed with Washington about one hour later,” said Pucetas, standing near the Harrisburg dugout during batting practice before a recent game. “I was with them three full days in camp and then was assigned here. It was one of those things that they found me a spot, so it was not that strenuous. A change of scenery is the big thing. That is a plus, trying to make a good impression.”

He pitched out of the bullpen in April and May and posted a 1.50 ERA in 14 games before moving to the starting rotation, which has been his domain most of his pro career.

In his first five starts with Harrisburg he was 4-1 with a 3.69 ERA and had allowed 28 hits in 31 2/3 innings and had an impressive ratio of 22 strikeouts to four walks. Through June 27, he was 6-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 19 games with the Senators.

“Kevin has been a pleasant surprise this year. He has been exceptional in every role we have put him in. (He is) a strike throwing machine with four pitches,” Harrisburg pitching coach Paul Menhart, a former big leaguer, wrote in an e-mail. He “pitches to contact and keeps hitters off balance (and) keeps the ball down very well.”

Pucetas welcomes the chance to be with the Nationals, whose major league club has been among the biggest surprises in the game this year. Two years ago Harrisburg featured pitcher Stephen Strasburg, a former No. 1 overall draft pick who is now an ace with Washington.

“They are a really, really, really good farm system,” Pucetas said of the Nationals. “I enjoy playing here. They are definitely rich on pitching.”

“All of the player development guys are top notch. They really know what they are doing. My manager is a South Carolina boy; I really enjoy working with Matt LeCroy,”

Pucetas said of the Belton native and Clemson product who played in the majors for Minnesota and Washington. “All of us are working hard and trying to contribute to that playoff push” by the Nationals.