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McCurdy thrives in closer’s role

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran in Tuesday’s Dispatch.

Nick McCurdy does not have Mariano Rivera’s cutter.

Or Billy Wagner’s fastball.

Or even Trevor Hoffman’s signature change-up.

In fact, McCurdy is nowhere close to your typical closer. He’s never held the job full-time before this year. And after starting games in his two years at Oklahoma State, the most saves McCurdy had registered in any of his six professional seasons was a whopping three.

But all these nuggets of information just make McCurdy’s story more intriguing. He’s been the York Revolution’s most consistent reliever all season and a dominating closer — and he’s done it in relative anonymity.

That’s mainly because the Thomasville, Ala., native has a smooth way about him and a southern drawl that make you think he rolled right out of an old western. But McCurdy’s numbers prove just how nasty he can be. The 28-year-old has a 1.82 ERA this year and has averaged more than a strikeout per inning (52 in 49 1/3 innings) while only allowing 11 walks all season.

“I don’t consider myself a closer because I pitch to contact and in the closer’s role you need no contact,” said McCurdy, who picked up the save in this year’s Atlantic League All-Star Game and is 7-for-8 in save opportunities with York. “But the way I look at it, you have to go out there and get three outs. Whether you’re middle relief, the set-up guy or the closer, you have to get three outs without giving up a run.”

McCurdy started the year as a set-up option for the Revs behind former major league veteran Dave Veres (95 major league saves). But various injuries to Veres opened the door for McCurdy and he’s made the most of the opportunity. The 6-foot-3 right-hander is allowing a measly .231 batting average against.

McCurdy’s success has hinged on two things: his pinpoint control (he had a string of 23 innings and 17 straight appearances earlier this year with only one intentional walk; and a sinker that’s been unhittable all year.

“We feel very confident giving him the ball in any type of situation,” said Adam Gladstone, the Revolution’s director of baseball operations. “His demeanor is fantastic. I think for someone who’s never been in the Atlantic League, he’s come in with the right attitude and he’s trying to utilize this to put up some great numbers.”

It’s hard to imagine McCurdy, property of the Baltimore Orioles’ system for his entire career before this year, improving his performance drastically the rest of the season. His ERA is more than a half-run better than Veres’ (2.33), the next best pitcher on York’s roster.

But McCurdy isn’t concerned with lighting up the radar gun for scouts. He plans to stick with what’s been working for him all year — his deadly sinker.

“Everybody in the world knows Mariano Rivera is throwing a cutter and they still can’t hit it,” McCurdy said. “Every time you try to trick somebody you’ll get in trouble. Nine times out of 10 you’ll get beat trying to go away from the book. Everybody knows I’m going to throw a sinker. So here it is. Go hit it.”

*John Pavoncello photo.

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