Goss: Ethan Hollingsworth changing uniforms again
December 20, 2012 8:20PM
Plainfield South graduate Ethan Hollingsworth (right, with Brian Stroud) was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Kansas City Royals organization in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. | File photo
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:09AM
The Rule 5 draft at the conclusion of the baseball winter meetings earlier this month came and went without fanfare.
That’s especially true of the minor league phase.
But for right-handed pitcher Ethan Hollingsworth, it may provide the opportunity to reboot his career.
The Plainfield South graduate, who also pitched at Western Michigan University, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates off the roster of the Kansas City Royals. Unlike the major league phase of Rule 5, a player selected does not have to be offered back to his former team if he is not kept at a certain level.
“I was one hour into my first day of my job with Servpro, so I felt bad I had to step away from work to take the phone call,” Hollingsworth said. “But I saw it was Gene Watson (the Royals’ coordinator for professional scouting). He said, ‘The Pirates just Rule 5 drafted you.’ He thanked me for last season, and a half-hour later I got a call from the Pirates telling me they picked me up.”
How it will work out is a definite unknown.
“This is my third time changing teams in three years,” said Hollingsworth, a fourth-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2008 who was traded to Oakland on Jan. 24, 2011, and to Kansas City on Sept. 27 that same year.
“I’ll be walking into a clubhouse at spring training with 150 to 200 players, and I don’t know anybody with Pittsburgh. But that’s what I did last year with the Royals, where I didn’t know anybody, either. I guess I’m kind of used to it.”
Hollingsworth described his season with the Royals as disappointing. He hopped between Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas and had a combined 5-11 record with a 4.82 ERA. That was after two straight seasons where his ERA was below 4.00 and he appeared to be headed toward his major league debut.
In 102⅔ innings, he allowed 125 hits and 30 walks while striking out 66.
“They put me in the (bull)pen right away and I struggled,” said Hollingsworth, who had been a starter most of his first three-plus minor league seasons. “It was kind of hard to get to that mind-set. I wanted to come in like I was starting, then I tried to throw harder, and it didn’t work for me, either.
“When they needed a starter, they had me start. It was frustrating that I couldn’t get into a rhythm. I pitched poorly in Triple A. The last month and a half I turned it on more in Double A, so at least I had that.”
Hollingsworth threw the same assortment of pitches last season — fastball, sinker, curve, slider and changeup — and it’s not that he walked many hitters.
“I was able to keep walks down pretty much,” he said. “I walked more out of the pen. I don’t know what that was, it just kind of worked out that way.
“But I did give up a lot of hits, especially in Triple A. It’s hard to put zeroes up when you’re pitching with men on base all the time. The problem was I wasn’t getting ahead of hitters, and that’s always been my strength.”
Hollingsworth said as a reliever he was clocked at “88 to 93 or 94 (mph). As a starter, it was around 88 to 92, with the average around 90.”
As with most pitchers, however, velocity is not the most important measure.
“I noticed when my velocity was a little higher, my ball flattened out and was up in the zone,” he said. “It didn’t have the movement down toward the knees. If I can keep it at the knees, it can be a valuable tool.”
Hollingsworth, 25, views 2013 as “a do-or-die year.” At least he will go in with a feel for what he is doing regardless of whether the Pirates use him as a starter or reliever.
“Working out of the ’pen a lot is definitely a positive I can take from last year,” he said. “If I do make it to the bigs, I’m sure I’ll have to throw out of the ’pen at some point. It’s good to learn the ropes in the minors.”
Hollingsworth will have things to learn this year even in the minors. He previously has not gone through spring training in Florida, and the Pirates train at Bradenton. The Double-A affiliate is at Altoona, Pa., in the Eastern League and the Triple-A team is at Indianapolis.
“I played in the Texas League (Double A) with three different organizations,” Hollingsworth said. “I saw quite a lot of the same hitters.
“Now, they’ll all be new. But the good thing is they haven’t seen me. I can I learn quick how to get them out.”
You also may ask, will opposing pitchers know how to get Hollingsworth out?
“Hitting is one thing I am looking forward to, coming to a National League team,” he said. “National League teams usually have pitchers start hitting in Double A or Triple A. If I get a change to swing the bat, I’ll get a little bit excited.
“I’m not sure how that will go. I’ve never faced anything but high school pitching. But I’ll be ready to give it a shot.”