On Saturday morning Joel Kuhnel was recalled to join the Cincinnati Reds in Milwaukee to help fill out the bullpen in the Brewers series. Before he pitched on Sunday in the Reds loss, he talked a bit about returning to the Reds, and what it was like to not pitch in the minors this season and instead throw at Prasco Park in a different kind of environment.

On not having a true Triple-A season to pitch in right now

“I mean it’s difficult, but I mean it’s the same thing as anywhere else. You still have to go out there and get your work in and try to develop your stuff – we’re still throwing against live hitters, our own hitters, it’s not against another Triple-A team but it’s the best we have right now in this weird time and situation, so you just have to make the best of it. Just keep working hard.”

On what kind of stuff is happening at Prasco Park and what the organization is doing there to try and keep guys ready for if and when they are needed.

“Basically it would be like a normal day at the field in a sense,” said Kuhnel. “They try to make it as normal as possible. We get there around 1 o’clock when everything opens up. At 2 or 2:30 we have a meeting, stretch is at 3, 3:15. Then PFP’s, run-throughs – we just do a lot of practice situations in a sense. Hitters still take BP and everything. Then we get ready for games. We don’t have 9-inning games, we usually have anywhere from 2-6 inning games. It just depends on who is pitching that day. The other day we have Tony (Santillan) and Nick Lodolo going at it. One had five innings and the other had five innings, and basically they just went back and forth. And we just watched that and cheered them on and supported them.”

“The first week it wasn’t the best, I should say. We didn’t have any noise or anything. So it was just a really hard thing to create that kind of energy. Now they have the crowd noise. Matt Bowman actually got on the PA system – Prasco has a really nice set-up with all of the things they have. He got on the PA system, so we have like walkout songs now. He introduces the batter’s coming up, he’s playing all the music, he’s playing boos, he’s cheering. It gets pretty exciting – so now it’s actually really like we’re trying to bring that fun energy back into Prasco.”

“We can’t really have nine vs nine guys (because there aren’t enough players there), so we have coaches and everything playing. They’re playing the field, playing first base. We have our strength coaches Trey and Justin playing the outfield. We’re trying to make this as much as we can, possible.”

On facing the same guys over and over

“You’re still getting your work in and everything. Even though it’s the same hitters over and over again. Everyone says it gets redundant – it does get redundant, but at the same time you’re still trying to make your pitch. You’re still trying to work on the stuff that you need to work on. It’s good because, there are times when you get up here, especially in league play – You’re going to be facing guys 5-6-7 times in a span of possibly two weeks.”

On facing your teammates rather than opponents

“The adrenaline factor is always going to be a key – not saying facing your own hitters isn’t a real opponent – but a fastball up and in, showing a fastball up and in for show. If I’m throwing up there against Tyler Stephenson or Jose Garcia and I miss just a little bit, there’s a chance they’re out for at least 2+ weeks without doing anything. But compared to up here, it opens up that whole entire inside. For me it works amazing – I’ll run it in there, I don’t care. But when you start doing that with your own hitters and everything, you have to really be conscious of where’s this going to go.”

Dealing with his shoulder impingement and figuring out the solution

“I ended up dealing with some shoulder impingement stuff. Ended up finding out the cause of that. I went to a new gym this offseason when I got married and moved to Texas, and basically I went through with my old strength coach and I went through and said hey, this is it – I’m trying to figure out is it mechanical, is it strength, is it something I’m doing, is it flexibility – just tried to narrow everything down. The one thing we figured out, at least for me, was pull ups. The gym I went to was super big on pull ups, compared to the old gym I went to which was dumb bell, rows, mid-row, high-row. We found out that, I’m a very big guy,  so trying to do a pull up – if I can’t get that full range of motion, I don’t get that full work of the scap. So that kind of narrowed it down. We hit that hard. No more pull ups for me. So I can’t do pull ups with Michael (Lorenzen) anymore. ”

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13 Responses

  1. RojoBenjy

    Very interesting bit on the pull-ups restricting his full range of motion. His original Texas strength coach seems to be thorough and intelligent.

  2. SultanofSwaff

    Pretty amazing they can’t find/use legitimate players to field 2 proper teams for a scrimmage.

      • SultanofSwaff

        I’d request that the commissioner allow each team a handful of minor league practice players not on the 60 man. Pay them a decent wage with the full testing protocols……

  3. Bred

    Interesting write up, Doug. I did not realize that fans and noise even if it is fake was important to players. To me that implies an external locus of control vs internal. I recall many great athletes say that they don’t hear anything when they are performing. That implies an internal locus of control. The other part that surprised me is that the Reds organization does not provide/prescribe workout routines to players. It seems like he was one his own to develop a workout plan. That leads me to think Lorenzen’s problems this year stems from him being a workout beast and his effort to throw 103 may have altered his delivery and/or changed his body enough to cause his control to be off.

    • Doug Gray

      The Reds do actually provide plans for guys, but they aren’t “you must only do this and only this” kind of plans. Guys have the freedom to also do their own things, too.

    • Doc

      Lorenzen would not be the first elite athlete to ruin a very good thing in searching for something better. In baseball the holy grail is fastball speed; in golf it is more distance. Anyone heard from Jordan Spieth lately, as one example.

      • Stock

        For Spieth it was never about distance. He was and still is all about the short game. Chipping and putting.

  4. IndyRedsFan

    Doug,

    thanks for posting this. I haven’t seen this much detail anywhere else.

    I had been thinking I would suggest you try to find out what “a day in the life at Prasco” would be….but you beat me to it.

    Good work as always.

  5. seadog

    Very cool piece. Well done. Fun to get a glimpse of what goes on. Prasco is an amazing facility. The entrance is guarded now so you can’t drive in. But, in the future. Drive by. You will be impressed. One observation I have. It sounds like they go home every night ( to wherever) they live. They are not quarantined with each other. Evidently these players are handling it well. Awesome job by them. No Covid

  6. MK

    Doug, I have found some familiar names playing in another short season independent League. The CONSTELLATION ENERGY LEAGUE, Centered in Sugar Land Texas; home of the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters. Ex-Red Greg Swindell Manages the Sugar Land Lightening Sloths (what a great name) that includes Brantley Bell and recently released Orlando Rodriguez (maybe one they will re-sign). It also includes Tyler Mahle’s brother Greg. Roger And Cody Clemens manages a team just named Texas. It includes former Reds minor leaguers Jonathon Crawford and Kyle Crock along with a gaggle of ex- Texas Longhorns.The Sugar Land Skeeters , managed by Pete Incaviglia has ex-Red Zack Weiss