Sunday, June 22, 2014

Eric Surkamp next in line to join White Sox rotation?

With Andre Rienzo’s struggles continuing in Chicago, the push for Eric Surkamp to get his shot in the White Sox rotation seems to have picked up considerable momentum after back-to-back stellar performances by the Knights southpaw.

Surkamp has gone seven innings in consecutive starts and, on both occasions, managed to keep his pitch count to a point where he could have easily gone deeper into the ball games.

Here are the lefthander’s last two starts:

June 16 @ LHV – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 8 K. (84 pitches, 53 strikes)
June 21 vs. TOL – 7 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K. (92 pitches, 58 strikes)

The recent success for Surkamp has come after the 26-year-old was given two starts off to rest a lingering leg issue that he says had bothered him off and on since the beginning of this season.

“I had a little thing that went on in spring training and it would pop up here and there,” Surkamp said. “Taking a couple days completely off and resting it has made it so I haven’t noticed it at all. It’s feeling a lot stronger.”

Knights manager Joel Skinner spoke after last night’s win about Surkamp’s improvement since his return to the rotation.

“Since he’s come back from his leg issue, he’s thrown the ball well,” Skinner said. "(Saturday) he was able to go seven innings and kept his pitch count down. He mixed up his pitches and, obviously, with his breaking ball he was able to get some strikeouts.” 

Surkamp’s seven punch outs on Saturday gave him 84 for the season and sole possession of first place in the IL in that category, despite possessing a fastball that sits between 85-88 mph on the BB&T BallPark radar gun.  

“It’s his breaking ball,” said Skinner when asked what Surkamp throws that’s able to generate such a high rate of swing and misses. “That sets everything up. Not only is it a strikeout pitch, but also it allows his fastball to play up a little. It’s just a good combination.”

Following last night’s game, Knights centerfielder Jordan Danks shared some of his thoughts about Surkamp’s hook that the Observer first ran in its game story.

“(It’s) not one that I’d like to see,” Danks said. “It’s one of those pitches that I look at from the outfield that makes me glad that he’s on my team. (Surkamp’s) not overpowering, but he’s around the strike zone, changes speeds and hits his spots. That’s harder to hit sometimes than a guy throwing 98.”

Here’s Surkamp’s take on the pitch:

“It’s definitely my best pitch. It really has been my whole career, except for last year when I was coming back from Tommy John surgery. It’s good to get that back and have it as a weapon to use against guys.”

The N.C. State Alumni’s path to the Knights has been a bit of a strange one.

After being drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth round (177th overall) of the 2008 Amateur Draft, Surkamp threw well and was the No. 10 prospect in the Giants system after 2010, earning awards from Baseball America for the best curveball, change up and control in the team's system.

The following season, Surkamp made his Major League debut. 

At the time of his call up, the Cincinnati, OH native was leading the Eastern League in wins, ERA and Ks. He went on to post a 2-2 record with a somewhat disappointing 5.74 ERA in 26.2 innings.

Tommy John surgery wiped out most of Surkamp’s 2012 season. 

Although he was able to post a 7-1 record and a 2.78 ERA in 71.1 innings with Class AAA Fresno in 2013, the Giants designated Surkamp for assignment in December to make room on their 40-man for Michael Morse. It was then that the White Sox claimed the 6-foot-5-inch lefty. 

That the Giants gave up on Surkamp so easily seems to have added something to the fire this season.

"You always want to pitch well," Surkamp told following his June 16 win. "But you also want to be in a place where the team wants you and everything like that. I feel like this is a good place to be. It's a good organization to be in."