Former Catonsville High pitcher Adam Kolarek was used to putting our fires when he came out of the bullpen to close games this summer for the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League.
But if the 2007 Catonsville High graduate thought he was going to ease into the bullpen rotation when he was promoted to the New York Mets Double-A affiliate in Binghamton on July 27, he was mistaken.
Instead, he was thrown right into the back end of the bullpen when the game is on the line.
That suits the 6-foot-3 southpaw just fine and he responded by earning his first Double-A save and victory in his first week with Binghamton.
After getting the phone call for the promotion after his game on July 26, he was in Binghamton the next day and pitched a hitless inning with two strikeouts in his first appearance.
"It was a great feeling, but I tried not to put any more pressure on myself," Kolarek said. "But, there is no hiding it, I was really excited to be there."
His teammates, that included former St. Lucie comrades Wilmer Torres, Wilfredo Tovar and Francisco Pena, were even more excited when Kolarek notched a save in a 3-2 victory over Harrisburg on July 31.
He struck out the first two batters in the ninth inning before allowing two hits and putting the tying run on second base. He ended the drama by striking out the final hitter.
Of his 22 pitches in the inning he threw 15 strikes.
In his next outing, on Aug. 2, Kolarek pitched a scoreless top of the 12th inning and earned the triumph in the bottom of the inning.
He walked the first batter, but vanished the next three.
Pitching coach Glenn Abbott, a former Major League pitcher who started in the Oakland Athletics organization, was familiar with Kolarek because he coached him last season with the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Class A South Atlantic League.
"I've seen him grow a lot as a pitcher," said Abbott, now the pitching coach at Binghamton. "He's pitching with such confidence."
Kolarek, 23, gained that confidence In the Florida State League where he represented St. Lucie in the Florida State League All-Star game.
At St. Lucie, he notched 15 saves in 49 innings, while pitching to an earned run average of 1.65.
His 38 hits and 15 walks produced an impressive ratio (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 1.08.
Kolarek allowed only nine earned runs in leading St. Lucie to first place after the first half of the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
The 11th-round 2010 draft pick out of the University of Maryland made his debut in the Mets' organization with Kingston.
He also pitched in Brooklyn and Savannah before a promotion to St. Lucie late in the 2011 season.
In 152 2/3 minor league innings, Kolarek has yielded only 121 hits, while striking out 174.