Kyle McGowin impressed in three stops in Washington’s system before he was called up by the Nationals to make his MLB debut earlier this month.
McGowin, 26, put up a 3.69 ERA, a 2.97 FIP, 19 walks (2.19 BB/9), and 94 Ks (10.85 K/9) over 13 starts and 78 IP for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators, and a 1.20 ERA, 2.92 FIP, nine free passes (1.54 BB/9), and 44 Ks (7.52 K/9) in eight starts and 52 2⁄3 IP at Triple-A Syracuse (along with two starts and 11 IP at High-A Potomac) before he learned he was joining the big league roster.
His solid season in the Nationals’ system followed a tough year in the organization in 2017, and he credited the change to improvements he made to his mental approach.
“My mental game is night and day difference from last year,” McGowin explained earlier this month.
“I was dwelling on the negatives last year and this year I took the negatives and I turned them into positives. And then my training this year was a lot different. I went and trained with a couple facilities, and I’d say that turned out and did wonders for me.”
After three relief appearances, McGowin, who started in all-but eight appearances in his minor league career, got his first opportunity to start in the majors when Tanner Roark’s planned start against the Miami Marlins was skipped so he could spend time with his wife, who gave birth to their third child early this week.
In making the announcement yesterday, Davey Martinez acknowledged that he’s liked what he’s seen from McGowin so far, while admitting the right-hander wasn’t necessarily on his radar before this season.
“I didn’t know anything [about McGowin] until the middle of the year,” Martinez said, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“And then all of a sudden I kept hearing ‘This McGowin kid, McGowin kid, McGowin kid.’ My understanding is now, just by watching, he’s got a good sinker and a really good slider. I’m really excited he’s going to get an opportunity to start tomorrow and see what he can do.”
McGowin retired the first eleven batters he faced as a major league starter, before giving up a two-out single and walk in the fourth, but both runners were stranded as he completed his fourth scoreless frame in what was a 5-0 game by that point.
Two batters, and two walks, into the fifth, however, the right-hander was lifted after a visit to the mound from Martinez and the team trainer for what looked like an issue (blister) with the middle finger on his right hand.
Kyle McGowin’s Line: 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 68 P, 34 S, 4/3 GO/FO.
While it was a disappointing way for his first MLB start to end, McGowin did get a chance to show himself and his manager what he’s capable of doing.
“I thought he was great,” Martinez said after what ended up a 9-3 win over the Fish, “... and obviously he got the blister, but he actually knew what he wanted to do, he had a plan, he kept the ball down for the most part, used all his pitches. His slider is really impressive, really good. We knew he had a sort of a changeup, but his changeup was actually effective too.
“So I was hoping he could go out there and finish at least five or six innings, and then he obviously had the blister so we had to take him out.”
Kyle McGowin, more like Kyle McWOWin send tweet pic.twitter.com/VzT9xXtIvO— Nationals on MASN (@masnNationals) September 26, 2018
“Yeah, the blister started acting up on me,” McGowin told reporters, “unfortunately couldn’t finish it like I wanted to, but battled through it and gave the team as much as I could.”
Was the blister ever an issue before Wednesday?
“This is actually the second time I’ve ever had it,” he explained. “In August it started with me but I’ve never had this problem before.”
McGowin, who gave up two hits (both home runs) and two earned runs in 2 2⁄3 IP out of the bullpen before making his first major league start, looked sharp over the first three innings, but struggled with his command late, whether from the blister or because he tired.
So what was working?
“Everything,” he said with a laugh. “Everything was working pretty well.
“Fell behind towards the end which is something that I don’t like doing, obviously, but battled through and [Spencer] Kieboom and I worked pretty well together and that was fun.”
He also said he was thankful that he got the opportunity to start.
“I can’t thank Davey and the Nationals enough for giving me this opportunity,” McGowin said.
“Everything worked out where I was able to have this opportunity and felt comfortable starting finally. It was tough learning a new role, but now I’m feeling at home, so it’s nice.”
And what will he take away from his first month in the majors?
“The butterflies are out of it now, get to work in the offseason, I know what I’m capable of now, and that I can pitch here and succeed so just work off that.”