Last spring, the Mets handed down quite a challenge to Kyle Allen as they assigned him to the Savannah Sand Gnats after debuting in the Gulf Coast League in 2008. He hit some bumps in the road during his first month, but once settled in, Allen got rolling as he enhanced his repertoire and matured his overall approach on the mound.
“I learned that you got to work hard every day. I picked up things to how to beat the different batters, I picked up a lot from our pitching coaches and obviously as you go up the tougher it gets, but that made me work even harder and I think I finished the year on a good note,” said Kyle Allen when reflecting on his second season.
Allen certainly came a long way this season which started in April as the organization forced him to learn on the job, assigning to him a long-season club after an impressive 34-inning 2008 debut in the Gulf Coast League. With the assignment came an eventual move to the starting rotation and the need to quickly add depth to his game. But April came with early jitters and ineffectiveness as Allen opened with a 7.47 ERA in his first four outings (two starts).
“I really wasn’t used to all the fans when I first got up there and I was actually really nervous. I’ve been in crowds in that big, but never actually gone out and pitched and in that first game I was facing new hitters so I had to go out and step it up,” Allen recalled.
Step it up he did. Though he did not move to the rotation full-time until June, Allen combined for a 6-5 record and 3.27 ERA over his next 77 innings. The big reason for the turnaround was the ability to keep hitters guessing, and doing so quite proficiently for a pitcher with his experience.
“Changing speeds helped me a lot. It was key this season. I used that a lot so hitters couldn’t just step in there and feel comfortable. The way I see it, it’s my plate and I take offense when someone steps in the box.”
“As I progressed during the season, I really felt like I could throw any pitch for a third strike. I had confidence with all my pitches throughout the season,” he continued.
Already armed with a 90-91 MPH fastball and an advanced changeup, the slider became a focus for Allen. It was another tool that further allowed him to mix it up with hitters and extended his hot hand into August. In the season’s final month, Allen went 2-0 (six starts) with a 2.20 ERA with a .184 opponent’s batting average in 32 2/3 innings.
“I was focusing a lot on my slider. I was trying to get it to be the best I can. I’m working on that every single day. I work on my changeup and my fastball too, but I really want my slider to be as good as it can be,” he explained.
“I was working on different grips during the season and tried to find something I’d feel comfortable with and something that would get more slide action. It was something (Savannah pitching coach) Marc Valdes and I worked on a lot.”
Now Allen will get a chance to work on the slider and everything else as he heads to the Dominican Instructs in the coming weeks. While some pitchers like to focus on one tool to develop, for Allen it’s about the entire package.
“I just want to go out there, have a great time and work on everything. I know all the pitching coaches are going to be down there, so I’m going to try and pick their brains as much as possible with whatever they give me. I just want to work hard and get better.”
“There really isn’t one specific thing to work on. It’s going to be my entire game. There isn’t a time I’m going to be working on one thing. The competition is going to be too good next year for me not to work on everything,” he closed.