PAWTUCKET, R.I. — If the call came today from Boston, Pawtucket Red Sox starter Kyle Weiland believes he would be ready to pitch in the majors.
"I think I could go up there and be successful today," Weiland said. "I know I still have a ton to improve on ... but that's with everybody throughout a career. Everyone has something to work on and you can never be satisfied with where you're at."
While left-hander Andrew Miller will be the next Pawtucket pitcher to receive a promotion to Boston (Miller is expected to start tomorrow against the Padres), Weiland might not be too far behind.
Once word spread that Daisuke Matsuzaka needed Tommy John surgery, almost every Boston media outlet made a list of the in-house options the Red Sox have to replace the Japanese right-hander in the starting rotation. Weiland, Miller, Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves were on most lists.
"I try to stay away from all the media stuff," Weiland said. "That can only be a distraction, whether it's good or bad."
Weiland, 24, has done a fine job for the PawSox this year, going 5-5 in his first 13 starts with a 3.29 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings.
"He's a young kid who's got electric stuff," Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler said. "He needs to go out there and pitch and continue to get better and get reps and keep going, working, and continue to improve every time out. That's what he's done."
The right-hander, who was drafted by the Red Sox in the third round in 2008, has seen his career take some unexpected twists and turns.
Coming out of nowhere
Weiland wasn't highly recruited out of Eldorado High in Albuquerque, N.M.
Few colleges knew of him except for some local ones. He had to be proactive by writing letters to colleges.
Weiland ended up at Notre Dame. He never would have even written Notre Dame if it wasn't for Christian Parker, who played at Eldorado and ND.
Parker, who pitched one game for the New York Yankees in 2001, would return to his old high school to work out during the offseason. He saw that Weiland had some talent and urged him to contact Notre Dame.
Weiland said, "I thought (Notre Dame) was kind of a reach but (I wrote them) because of Christian. ... I was like, 'Hey, might as well. It can't hurt.'"
Then-Notre Dame head coach Paul Mainieri, who is now at LSU, took Weiland's letter seriously and quickly contacted Parker and Weiland's varsity coach.
After they saw him pitch in South Bend, Weiland was offered a scholarship and quickly became a star for the Fighting Irish.
After posting a school record 16 saves, he was one of 14 players on Baseball America's Freshman All-American team. Weiland spent most of his three-year Notre Dame career as a closer. He did start six games his sophomore year after recuperating from a broken collarbone.
Closer to starter
In pro ball, it is much more common to go from reliever to starter. Weiland did the opposite.
"One of the things with me is that I didn't have many innings in college so they wanted me to get some innings," said Weiland who pitched in the Cape Cod League the summer before his junior year. "As a starter — that's how you get the innings.
"It was definitely a learning experience. The Red Sox did a great job of kind of transitioning me into that role. They took it really slow and didn't expect too much out of me early."
He said the most difficult aspect of the transition was forming a different mindset.
"As a closer you're going in there with a lot of adrenaline," Weiland said. "You can't do that as a starter because you'll burn yourself out early. That was one thing I had to do — find an intensity level that I could get through to the later innings with."
He has incorporated a cutter into his repertoire this season. The cutter was effective for him in college.
"It's definitely been a pitch I've used a lot this year," Weiland said. "It's something I've got to continue to refine and improve on because I have a tendency — like a lot of guys do — to get on the side of it and it turns into a little bit of a slider, which I don't want."
Weiland added that the biggest difference this year is consistency.
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