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Wichita vs. Lincoln Saltdogs, 5/22/18

Lincoln relief pitcher Kyle Kinman delivers to the plate against the Wichita Wingnuts in May at Haymarket Park.

Pick your poison when it comes to the Lincoln Saltdogs' Kyle Kinman.

The Bellevue University product has the ability to throw all nine innings, come out of the bullpen or find himself taking swings in the batters box. 

Kinman made 21 appearances for the Saltdogs in 2018 on the mound, making 15 starts, and finished with a 3.90 earned-run average and a 6-5 record.

The 5-foot-10, left-handed hurler has since found himself a staple in the starting rotation in his second year with Saltdogs, sporting the American Association's lowest ERA through Friday (2.65), and was selected as the league's pitcher of the month for June. Kinman is 1-2 and made Saturday's start for Lincoln against the Kansas City T-Bones at Haymarket Park.

"Last year was my first year back from TJ (Tommy John surgery)," Kinman said. "That was my first season back, and it was just like everyone says. It was an absolute roller coaster. You just didn't know how your arm was going to feel, and usually the second year is as close as back to normal."

Kinman was a 25th-round draft pick out of Bellevue by the Atlanta Braves in 2014, sporting a 5-2 record in relief in 76 minor-league games between 2014-16. In 2015, the he had 65 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings and recorded 18 saves as he climbed three levels to Double-A Mississippi. He had a total of 23 saves in the affiliated minors before suffering an elbow injury in early 2016.

"I feel like I'm hitting that stride right now. It's close to back to normal," Kinman said. "It comes and goes, because each outing is a little different. For the most part it feels as good as it has been to being back to normal."

Before being selected by the Braves, Kinman was a two-way player for Bellevue. In his two-year career for the Bruins, the versatile Omaha Northwest graduate had 14 home runs, a .345 batting average and 102 RBIs. As a pitcher, he went 14-6 with two saves and 11 complete games while being selected as the Minnesota College Athletic Conference 2014 pitcher of the year.

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Kinman's versatility has even allowed him to take a couple of at-bats in the minors and with the Saltdogs. Though he has not recorded a hit since his college days, Kinman has struck out just once in five professional at-bats, two coming with the Saltdogs including one this season in an extra-inning contest.

"It was pretty tough," Kinman said of his lone 2019 at-bat. "I hadn't seen live pitching since last year, and I went down with a blaze of glory with a strikeout with the bases loaded and one out, I think it was.

"It's really tough to come in to hit when you haven't seen live pitching in how long. Especially in this league with how good as they are."

Kinman has taken a different approach this season, even joining some batting practice sessions before games just in case the situation calls for him to come to the plate.

If Lincoln manager Bobby Brown asked Kinman to play left field in the future, Kinman already has his answer.

"There is no question," Kinman said. "For the first half of the season I was taking BP just in case we had a situation I needed to hit or play the outfield.

"I actually enjoy hitting way more than I do pitching."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or tgray@journalstar.com.

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