A 28th-round draft pick in 2011 by Detroit, Guido Knudson has posted a 1.66 ERA for the Mud Hens this season. BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Before every season, Toledo manager Larry Parrish says that bullpen roles will be determined by the pitchers in the ’pen.
Guido Knudson is proof positive that Parrish’s words are not hollow.
The 25-year-old right-hander has pitched his way up from Double-A Erie to his current role as the Hens’ closer.
Not bad for a pitcher who last season posted a 1-6 record and 4.26 ERA in 28 games for the SeaWolves.
“I didn’t have the best season there last year,” Knudson said. “I just wanted to have a strong spring, and I had a strong spring.
“When I was put on the Erie roster, I just felt it was what it was.”
AT THE PLATE with Guido Knudson
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Knudson was much better for the SeaWolves to start this season, posting a 3.12 ERA in eight appearances, allowing just 16 hits and eight walks while fanning 16 in 17 1/3 innings. The difference, he said, was that he was more aggressive in throwing strikes.
“I thought I attacked the strike zone better,” Knudson said. “I got into a lot of advantageous counts, and I thought things felt right.”
Knudson was promoted to Toledo in mid-May and enjoyed instant success. He threw two scoreless innings in his first appearance and has kept rolling along, posting a 1.66 ERA in his first 18 Mud Hens games.
“We keep throwing guys out there, and he’s the guy who keeps throwing it over [the plate] and getting guys out,” Parrish said of Knudson. “Some times it’s as simple as that.
“As long as you do that, you’ll keep getting chances.”
Knudson said pitching in “high-leverage” situations has helped him pitch better.
“Coming in to closer games helps you lock in quicker, because there’s no room for error,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of coming in with someone else’s runners on base and keeping them from scoring.”
Knudson has held International League opponents to a .164 average, surrendering just 12 hits and 11 walks in 21 2/3 innings while fanning 24.
“He’s got a pretty good arm, but he also gives you a lot of deception,” Parrish said. “He throws the glove-hand up in your face, and I don’t think you see the ball until it’s on its way to you.
“He’s been throwing the fastball and breaking ball for strikes, and keeping the ball down in the zone.”
This season is not the first time the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has had to overcome expectations. Knudson was a 28th-round draft pick of the Tigers in 2011, and he came into this season with just seven career saves.
His best season before this one came in 2013, when he posted a 1.79 ERA in his second year at Lo-A West Michigan. Last season he began with Hi-A Lakeland and had a career-best five saves to go with a 3.06 ERA to earn a promotion to Erie.
“He has a lot of success when he goes after hitters and pitches to contact,” said Mud Hens pitching coach Mike Maroth, who also served as Knudson’s pitching coach when both were at Lakeland last season. “He gets a lot of easy outs when he does that.
“The few outings where he has struggled have been because he has fallen into hitter’s counts.”
Given the Tigers recent bullpen struggles, it would not be impossible for Knudson to get the call to Detroit. If he continues to pitch as he has this season for the Mud Hens, he will have earned that promotion.
“My expectation was to just go out there and pitch every day,” Knudson said. “As far as teams and levels, my goal is to get to Detroit.
“But the path to get there? I had no expectations.”
Whether he gets to the Tigers this season or not, Knudson said he has enjoyed earning the promotion to Toledo.
“This place is awesome — this city, these fans, they’re awesome,” Knudson said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.
“It’s fun coming to the ballpark every day and playing in front of the big crowds we play in front of here.”
AT THE PLATE
■ Name: Guido Joel Knudson
■ Position: Pitcher
■ Ht./Wt.: 6-1/185
■ Hometown: Bonita, Calif.
■ Age: 25
■ Family: Engaged to Marie Albano
■ Nickname: The guys call me “Geets” and my family calls me “G-Man.”
■ Favorite way to spend time away from the field: I like exploring new places and trying out new restaurants. I also like to golf and I’m a big book reader.
■ Baseball player you admired growing up: Being from San Diego, I’m a big Trevor Hoffman guy. It was awesome to hear “Hell’s Bells” when he came into the game with the stadium rocking, and then watch him pitch.
■ Favorite sport other than baseball: I love watching the NFL. I’m a big Chargers fan. I also enjoy watching hockey. I grew up an LA Kings fans.
■ Favorite music: I like to mix between things. I’m a big country guy, and I love rock ’n’ roll. My favorite band ever is Incubus; that’s what I listen to when I don’t know what to listen to.
■ Favorite meal: My mom’s shepherd pie. I ask for it from her all the time.
■ Favorite beverage: I’m a big ginger ale guy. I always get it on planes, and it’s a real treat for me.
■ Favorite movie: I love The Dark Knight . And I’m kind of nerdy, so I’m a big Harry Potter fan.
■ Favorite TV show: I loved Breaking Bad and I’m a big House of Cards fan. I’ve loved all of the Netflix series recently. I also was a Lost fanatic. I love watching TV shows, so it’s hard to pick one.
■ Do you have a Twitter account? @GKnudson15
■ Person you most admire: My mom, Lori Noe. She’s so awesome. She’s so selfless, and he has provided anything I’ve needed. She sets a great example on how to be responsible in life and how to care for others.
■ If you could meet any person, who would it be? I would have loved to have met my grandfathers, Mons Knudson and Joe Noe. I wasn’t old enough to meet either of them, but I would have loved to learn from them. I loved my grandmothers to death because they were great ladies, so I know my grandfathers were awesome, too.
■ Top sports moment: Getting to the College World Series twice at UC-San Diego was great. I love winning, so that was the best.
■ Baseball superstitions: I’m not crazy superstitious. I’m more routine-oriented. I do brush my teeth 10 minutes before every game.
■ Something nobody knows about you: I love doing crossword puzzles. Thad Weber and I do the USA Today crossword puzzle every day — in pen. Lately we’ve been pretty successful. Doing a good crossword while drinking a good coffee is great for me — I’m a pretty simple guy.