Baseball

Charlotte Knights left-hander quietly climbs through White Sox farm system

Left-hander Kyle Kubat donned a 1969 Charlotte Hornets throwback jersey when he made his debut for the Knights on Saturday.
Left-hander Kyle Kubat donned a 1969 Charlotte Hornets throwback jersey when he made his debut for the Knights on Saturday. Charlotte Knights

Charlotte Knights fans have become accustomed to seeing big-name prospects move up the ranks of the Chicago White Sox organization, spend some time in the Queen City, then head to the major leagues.

Kyle Kubat, one of the recent arrivals in Charlotte, hasn’t gotten the fanfare accorded to players like Michael Kopech, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez. But Kubat is making steady progress through the farm system and sits one step away from the White Sox roster.

Kubat, 26, a left-handed pitcher, played college ball at Nebraska – not typically considered among the elite programs. He wasn’t even drafted coming out of college. His fastball doesn’t get much above 90 mph.

But Kubat has succeeded everywhere he’s pitched, using the formula of control, mixing his pitches, and getting batters to hit ground balls.

Armed with the not-so-blazing fast ball, a slider and a changeup, Kubat is winning.

Last season, he walked only 13 batters in 91 1/3 innings pitched, playing in both High-A and AA ball. He started the 2019 season with the High-A Winston-Salem Dash, going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA. Kubat then moved up and went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA for Class AA Birmingham.

He made his first appearance with Charlotte in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Louisville, working five innings and giving up three earned run on four hits.

After college, Kubat went undrafted in 2015 and signed with the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox acquired him for cash in 2017.

Here is how the Knights fared last week, and what’s ahead:

Tuesday: Catcher Zach Collins was promoted to the White Sox, while reliever Thyago Vieira was sent down to Charlotte from Chicago. On the field, the Knights dropped a 4-3 decision to Syracuse in 10 innings. Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and Seby Zavala each had three hits for Charlotte.

Wednesday: The White Sox signed outfielder Jacob Scavuzzo, 25, formerly of the San Diego organization, and sent him to Charlotte. The Knights then rallied for a 9-7 victory over Syracuse, getting the tying and winning runs on an Alcides Escobar double.

Thursday: Catcher Yermin Mercedes was promoted from Birmingham to Charlotte. Pitcher Donn Roach had his best outing of the season for the Knights, working five innings and allowing one run, as Charlotte beat Syracuse 6-1.

Friday: Escobar thrilled a capacity crowd (10,454) at BB&T Ballpark with a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, and Charlotte beat Louisville 9-6. Palka had three hits for the Knights.

Saturday: The Knights swept a day-night doubleheader from Louisville, winning 11-4 and 7-6 and increasing their win streak to five games. Justin Nicolino pitched eight innings in the opener for the Knights, giving up five hits in the longest outing this season for a Charlotte pitcher. In the nightcap, Kubat was the winning pitcher, and the Knights’ Palka, Danny Mendick, Matt Skole and Zavala hit home runs.

Week ahead: The Knights entered Monday at 41-33 and 4 1/2 games behind Durham in the International League Southern Division race. They play in Durham at 1:05 p.m. Tuesday. Then they return home for games at 7:04 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday against Gwinnett. After that comes four games in Norfolk, Va., – two on Friday (including the completion of a May 5 game halted by rain), and one each Saturday and Sunday.

The Knights then open a brief road trip Monday in Durham.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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