By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Looks like pro baseball agrees with former West Chester University hurler Joe Gunkel.
It has taken him just nine games to make his first all-star team.
The right-hander was a late addition to the American League roster for Tuesday night’s New York-Penn League All-Star Game.
“It’s been quite a journey so far,” Gunkel tells KYW Newsradio. “A lot of success in a short amount of time.”
Gunkel, 21, has been dominant out of the bullpen for the Lowell (Massachusetts) Spinners, the Class-A short-season affiliate of the Red Sox. In eight games with the Spinners, Gunkel is 3-0 with four saves and he has yet to allow a run in 11 1/3 innings of work. He’s only been touched for three hits and he has struck out 16 batters while walking just three.
“I’ve just been doing what I’ve always been doing,” Gunkel says. “I’ve just been attacking the zone with all of my pitches, trying to get ahead of hitters. Luckily I’ve missed some bats every now and then, had some weak contact here and there. Just been very fortunate on the mound so far.”
Gunkel started his pro career with the Red Sox of the Gulf Coast League after being selected by Boston in the 18th round of June’s MLB Draft. After throwing a scoreless inning in the GCL, he was quickly promoted to Lowell, where he has had nothing but success.
Yet despite the numbers, he wasn’t thinking about an all-star berth.
“It was quite a surprise — I found out a few days ago,” Gunkel says. “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it just because I’d only been here for a short amount of time and the all-star team was picked a couple of weeks ago. But it was a nice little surprise when my manager called me into his office and gave me the news.”
Gunkel helped lead West Chester to the Division II National Championship in 2012 and showed he was big game pitcher in college by going 4-0 with a 0.25 ERA in four career playoff games. Now his success with the Golden Rams came almost exclusively as a starter, and so far as a pro he’s worked solely out of the bullpen. So where does his future lie?
“I’m not really sure at this point,” Gunkel says. “My coaches are telling me we’ll see what happens when we get down to spring training. It hasn’t been a bad transition, I like throwing out of the bullpen. I only did it a few times in college. It’s been, not easy, but it’s been successful so far.”
Gunkel is not the only local product taking part in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, which is set to be played in Norwich, Connecticut. Former St. Joe’s Hawks right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis earned a berth in the game as a member of the Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles). He also was drafted in June.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.