Wichita Wingnuts

McKeever hopes patience is rewarded

Clint McKeever has spent more of the 2010 baseball season waiting than he has playing.

He waited to return from a hamstring injury while playing for Wichita State in the spring, then waited to see if he could get his job back as the regular first baseman. He didn't.

After the season, he waited to be drafted or be picked up by a major-league organization as a free agent.

After being signed by the Wingnuts as a pitcher, McKeever waited six days before appearing in a game.

"That's just the way things go," McKeever said. "You just have to be patient and wait for the opportunities and do your best when they come."

McKeever and WSU's other seniors worked out for the Wingnuts last month.

The team expressed interest in McKeever but didn't have a spot for him at the time. When several relievers faltered, though, McKeever was brought aboard without a true role in the bullpen.

In three appearances through Friday, McKeever has started the eighth inning once, the ninth inning once, and come on with one out in the second after starter Nick Singleton was ejected on Friday.

"You never know what's really going to happen," McKeever said. "With these kind of small (22-man) rosters, the more you're able to do, the more options you give your team."

McKeever said he's still working back into pitching shape after the hamstring injury in April sidelined him for about a month.

He's been preparing for an exclusive role as a pitcher for a while.

As Preston Springer and Johnny Coy were getting hot at first base and designated hitter for the Shockers, WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz told McKeever that his most prominent role would be as a pitcher.

Wingnuts manager Kevin Hooper essentially told McKeever the same thing, even though McKeever started a game at first base on Thursday.

"There's still work to do," McKeever said. "As far as my body and my arm, it's pretty close to being in pretty good shape. But it's just being out there and getting the reps in a game to really be comfortable on the mound in bunting situations or pressure situations.

"Those are the reps I really haven't had during my college career, so the more innings I get the more comfortable I'll be."

As much as McKeever waited this season, he said the goal was always to play somewhere.

"That was definitely something I was interested in," McKeever said. "When nothing happened in the draft, my focus became getting picked up here, and luckily things worked out."

Reshuffling — The addition of former Triple-A outfielder Jorge Cortes gives the Wingnuts three left-handed hitters capable of hitting in the middle of the lineup.

Hooper will treat the usage of Cortes, Mario Delgado and Stephen Pearson on a case-by-case basis. If a team has a left-handed starter or a lefty in the bullpen, Hooper will most likely keep them separate.

If the opposition doesn't feature any left-handed pitchers, Hooper could bunch them together around right-handed hitter Jackson Melian.

Delgado, normally the cleanup hitter, batted fifth against St. Paul on Friday behind Melian and two slots ahead of Pearson. Cortes hit third.

"The only reason I do that is I have to split the lefties up," Hooper said. "Now there's a couple teams that don't have any lefties in the bullpen, and we can hit them back-to-back when a righty is starting. Mario has played long enough that I hope he understands that — that's not a demotion whatsoever."

More Dowdy — Justin Dowdy was used sparingly early in the season mostly because the Wingnuts' offense didn't create many save situations.

As the best pitcher in the Wingnuts' bullpen, though, his presence in a game can only help.

Dowdy has gone at least three days between appearances nine times, but he has pitched in five games since June 23, which Hooper said is by design. Dowdy has a 1.26 ERA and 10 saves.

"Even in a close ballgame, he's working down in the bullpen and getting loose," Hooper said. "He's a veteran guy and he knows what it takes to get ready even if he isn't being used on a consistent basis. But he's a veteran, making some good money, and we might start giving him some more situations just to give him some more innings."

Wingnuts benefit Hall — The Wingnuts will hold Carl Hall Benefit Night on July 24 to aid the family of the former WSU outfielder who was paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident last month.

Two dollars from every ticket sold to that night's game against St. Paul will be donated to the Carl Hall Family Benefit Fund, which was started to help the family with medical costs.