Kuehl McEachern is grateful.
The Eustis native’s college baseball career has been over for a few years. But at 23 years old, he is in his third season as a professional baseball player, pitching for the Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox Short-Season A Minor League affiliate).
Selected in the 34th round of the 2014 MLB draft, McEachern made quite the jump from Flagler College. He went from Division 2 competition to playing against nationally recognized high school baseball players, standouts from across Latin America and, of course, top-tier college baseball players from bigger schools. Even so, the drastic change in skill level did not affect him too much.
“It’s a lot different because I’m on my own now and just the lifestyle of a player is something you definitely have to get used to,” he explained. “But over the years, it’s definitely gotten a lot better. It’s just nice to get to know so many new players, new people that are playing at the professional level too.”
Over parts of three minor league seasons, McEachern owns a 3.57 ERA in 76 games and this year, he has struck out 46 batters in 43.1 innings. In the past, swings and misses had not been a big part of his game.
“Mostly, I’ve just been keeping the ball down,” he explained. “My slider has been a lot better, so I’m working on throwing that a little firmer and less loopy.”
After a successful tenure closing out games for the Greenville Drive (Red Sox Low-A affiliate) in 2015, McEachern had a few rough outings to start the year and he was sent to Lowell for developmental purposes.
“I’m just getting back to getting the feel again and going through the right motions,” he explained. “I was changing some things earlier this year, and I just needed to find out where I needed to be where I’ve been the past few years. I’m just getting back on track.”
McEachern, who tends to have good control, has walked just one batter in his five outings for the Spinners this season and he has allowed just one run in 10.2 innings (0.84 ERA).
What he has not done thus far that he has in the past is close out games. Last year, not only did he have the lowest ERA among qualifying Drive relievers (2.52), but he also led the team with nine saves. While he did not close out every game, it was something many pitchers struggle with but he was comfortable doing.
“I like going in for the ninth inning for sure,” he explained. “I closed out games in college a lot. I’d rather do that then come in mid-inning, but that’s because it’s definitely my favorite. It gets the adrenaline going. It really counts for me when I get those outs.”
During his college years, McEachern had an experience which helped ease the transition to pro ball as he pitched in the Florida Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2013.
Playing for the Leesburg Lightning, McEachern ended up having 46 outings between school (at Lake-Sumter State) and his summer team, similar to what he would endure as a pro. And he definitely saw the benefit of playing in the league.
“I absolutely loved doing that,” he reflected on his FCBL tenure. “I definitely wouldn’t go back and not do it again. I had some of my best times there and just getting those extra innings definitely helped me out.”
Allowing just one run in 13 outings that summer, it was a performance which helped turn McEachern gain notice from Boston with the scouting presence at summer collegiate games.
Despite growing up a fan of the Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays, McEachern was excited when it was Boston, who wanted him in the professional ranks.
“The Red Sox are a big team and everyone knows who they are,” he explained. “They had the most interest in me and talked to me a lot. It just felt like it was definitely the right way to go.”
Thomas Joyce, Writer