For the second consecutive season, the Lansing Lugnuts have enjoyed the services of versatile right-handed pitcher Kramer Champlin. His return came as a bit of a surprise, as he did a great job in 2012, but he has taken his 2013 assignment in stride.
“Returning to Lansing is just a bump in the road,” he said. “It’s obviously not where I wanted to be, but I know we have a lot of pitchers in our organization and I need to wait my turn. I just need to perform when I get the chance to pitch and everything will work out.”
Champlin posted a 4-1 record to go with a 4.09 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 19 walks in 70 1/3 innings of work last season. After a string of strong outings, he finished the season in the Lugnuts’ talented rotation, and it was an opportunity he spoke highly of.
“I loved being able to start,” he said. “I’ve been a starter pretty much my whole life. I’m comfortable in that role, but when you go out there you have to perform whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen.”
After closing out last season on a high note, Champlin enjoyed his winter in Arizona preparing for the 2013 season.
“My off-season was really good. I worked hard down in Arizona,” he said. “It’s nice weather so it’s great to get outdoors to throw and play long toss. I was just strengthening my arm for the season.
The conditioning paid off in spring training in Dunedin, when Champlin allowed only one player to cross the plate. “I had a really good spring. My pitches were hitting their spots and I got a lot of outs. I only gave up one run; it was a really good spring training.”
Entering the 2013 season, Champlin is one of the few Lugnuts to have already played a full minor league season, something many of the younger pitchers had admired as they tried to find their own routines in full-season ball. Knowing how to approach a full season has also been an advantage for Champlin, who feels he’s been a better pitcher this year.
“Earlier in the year some of the guys looked at my routine to try and prepare themselves for the entire year,” he said. “I feel my season is going well. I’m pitching better than last year. I’m using my changeup a lot more than I did in the past. I’m locating my fastball and I think the results are coming from the work I’ve put in.”
Currently 4-2 with a 3.97 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings, Champlin had one start on June 8 that was particularly special, as he came within one out of throwing a perfect game against the West Michigan Whitecaps.
“It was a really good game. I did everything I was working on all year, which is locating my pitches,” he said. “Three outs an inning turned into another one and another one. I just kept executing my pitches and it turned out well. When I got one hitter away, I was just thinking about doing what I did all game, which was locate my fastball away.
“I did and [the last batter] hit it on the ground—which is exactly what I wanted—and the hit found a hole and got through. It is what it is.”
Using a four-pitch mix of fastball, slider, changeup, and curveball, Champlin has found success this season through consistent fastball velocity and increasing how much he throws his changeup.
“My curveball and slider has always been there for me and I rely on those in different situations, but my fastball velocity and working on my changeup have been big for me,” he said. “Being able to add a fourth pitch I can rely on has helped a lot.”
“Kramer does a great job. Look for him to continue what he does all season,” said Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman. “I’m looking for him to continue locating his fastball and he has a very good breaking ball as well.”
Champlin has enjoyed the opportunity to work with Horsman for the second year in a row.
“Vince is a great coach. What he talks about is hitting your spots and taking it one pitch at a time,” Champlin said. “That’s how I’ve looked at pitching for a long time. I’m not a guy who is going to throw pitches right by guys. I need to locate my pitches and embrace contact having them hit it into the ground.”
No matter what happens on the diamond, one aspect Champlin enjoys as the season goes on is the support that he receives from his large family.
“I get a lot of support I have 19 cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents they’re always texting me wishing me luck. My parents and sister are always there when I need them. I really enjoy the support from all of them.”