With another loss Wednesday night, the Cleveland Guardians have been losers in eight of their last eleven.
At the beginning of the month, the Guardians and White Sox were in a dead heat for second in the AL Central.
Chicago started the season slowly, while Cleveland fielded one of the most electric offenses across the majors.
Since then, the two clubs have gone in entirely opposite directions.
The Guardians are two-and-a-half games behind the White Sox and a full seven behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
Cleveland failed to pick up any ground in two pivotal contests against both clubs, before falling even further behind with recent drops against the Reds, Tigers, and Astros.
The reeling ball club faces off against Detroit again Thursday in the Motor City, the first of a four-game series.
Had things not gone so far south lately, Cleveland would be primed to go on an even bigger run, with games against the scuffling Orioles, Rangers, and Royals on the horizon.
Instead, the team is hoping to find any momentum, any spark it can before things get too far out of hand.
Taking the mound for Cleveland on Thursday is Konnor Pilkington, who replaces injured Aaron Civale.
LHP Konnor Pilkington expected to start tomorrow for the Guardians at Detroit with Civale going to the 15-day injured list. #Guardians
— P.J. ZIEGLER (@PJFOX8) May 25, 2022
Here are three things to know about the pitcher tasked with leading the turnaround charge:
A Southern Bulldog in King José’s Court
For most of his life, Pilkington only played ball in The Magnolia State.
The lefty was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and played high school ball in Moss Point, near Jacksonville.
While suiting up for Moss Point’s East Central High, Pilkington went 25-7, with a nasty 1.70 ERA.
He also totaled 307 strikeouts during his varsity career.
When he was 16, Pilkington didn’t have to pull out a big map to announce his commitment.
He stayed close to home, selecting Mississippi State University to play college ball, a roughly three-and-a-half-hour drive north from Moss Point.
Before his junior year in 2018, Pilkington was earning all kinds of praise, appearing on several All-American Second Team lists.
The season before, he led the Bulldogs in starts with 17, going 8-5 with a 3.08 ERA.
Further, he was named to the Cape Cod Baseball League’s 2016 End of Season Team, after posting the league’s third-best 1.37 ERA.
In his final season in 2018, Pilkington earned the honor of being Mississippi State’s Friday night starter, an achievement roughly equal to being the Opening Day starter.
Pilkington was not a Cleveland draft selection.
In fact, the lefty was chosen by none other than the Chicago White Sox, who took him in the third round.
After three seasons in the Sox’s system, Pilkington came over to Cleveland in an unusual inter-division exchange.
The Guardians moved César Hernández to Chicago in exchange for the pitcher.
Over seven starts in Cleveland’s system, Pilkington went 3-2, with 49 Ks and a 2.33 ERA.
This was the scouting report on him, put together by MLB.com:
“Unless he can add some velocity or life to his fastball and find the sharper curve he flashed in college, Pilkington won’t be more than a back-of-the-rotation option. He throws strikes but needs better command, in particular to keep hitters off his fringy fastball. He’s strong and durable, so he could provide value as an innings-eating No. 5 starter.”
Given the arm depth in Cleveland’s current system, the club may not need Pilkington to be more than an “innings eater.”
Every successful team needs a durable workhorse, and Pilkington should carve out a niche for himself as such.
It may be time to give Konnor Pilkington or Eli Morgan a shot at the rotation #ForTheLand
— Chuck 22 (@Chuck63618910) May 25, 2022
Given the club’s current pitching woes, it can’t hurt to get a new arm in the rotation.