AquaSox’s Kiel happy to be back home

EVERETT— Nick Kiel knows the mound at Everett Memorial Stadium.

The Everett AquaSox pitcher played many a game at Everett Memorial during his time at Jackson High School and Bellevue College. Now the local product is thrilled to have the opportunity to walk onto the same field, this time as a professional.

“I’m excited to be here the rest of the year,” said the Mill Creek native, who joined the Sox just before its recently-completed three-game road trip against the Vancouver Canadians. “It’s pretty special to be here and share it with my friends and family.”

Kiel, a 21-year-old left-hander, is a 2011 graduate of Jackson. He spent the past three seasons at Bellevue College before being selected in the 18th round of this year’s amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners.

Kiel had immediate success in the pros. He began the season with Peoria, Seattle’s affiliate in the rookie Arizona League. In 12 relief appearances there he was 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA and three saves. In 202/3 innings he walked just two and struck out 25. That earned him a promotion to Everett.

Kiel accomplished that despite lacking a blazing fastball — his heater generally sits in the high 80s. However, a good slider and good command served him well in Peoria.

“I was, I guess you’d say, a crafty lefty,” Kiel explained about the reasons behind his success in Peoria. “I had all these pitches with balls moving each way and not knowing which was going where. I’ve steered away from that just because out of the bullpen you have to repeat two or three pitches, and I’ve been successful with that.

“I was kind of a four- or five-pitch guy in high school and college, being a starter,” added Kiel, who has dumped his curve and cut fastball. “Since I’ve been in the bullpen relieving I’ve started maintaining just three pitches — fastball, slider and changeup — and being able to just focus on those three pitches instead of five pitches made me more effective because I’m more efficient.”

Kiel has also benefitted from physical development since his high school days. At Jackson Kiel was listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds. He’s still 5-foot-11, but he’s added 25 pounds of muscle to his frame.

“I’ve just matured,” Kiel said. “I got a lot stronger, learned a lot about pitching and mechanics, and kind of learned more about the game. Looking back at high school I didn’t know nearly as much about pitching mechanics as I do now.

“I throw a lot harder than I did in high school,” Kiel added. “The velocity has helped a lot in getting guys out. Everything is just developed a lot better than I was in high school. I was a good high school pitcher, but I took things seriously this offseason and trained hard, hoping this would be the eventual outcome.”

Kiel had a quick cup of coffee with the Sox earlier this season. He was one of four pitchers flown into Vancouver in July when Everett was severely short-handed because of players who couldn’t get into Canada because of visa issues. Coincidentally, his first appearance upon being called up again was also in Vancouver. He allowed two runs in four innings during his first two appearances with the Sox.

This time Kiel is in Everett to stay, and he’s hoping to help his hometown team win games over the final three weeks of the season.

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