Last season, I started the series – “Behind the Dream” – chronicling Cleveland’s young players journeys to the major leagues.
My series not only shows the path the player took to The Show, but it gives fans an insight into names they may not be familiar with.
This installment belongs to pitcher Konnor Pilkington. Yes, that’s Konnor with a “K” and to my knowledge he’s the only player named “Konnor” in the history of major league baseball.
The young pitcher was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi in 1997. He graduated in 2015 from East Central High School in Moss Point, MS. Pilkington was named First-Team MHSAA All-State as a junior and senior. The lefty earned 2015 Perfect Game All-American honors when he tossed a no-hitter and struck out 18 batters in high school.
Pilkington made his collegiate debut, with Mississippi State, on March 1 throwing two hitless innings. He earned his first career start on March 22 against Mississippi Valley State, tossing five shutout innings with six strikeouts.
In 2017, he took over the ace role and started a team-high 17 times on the mound . The southpaw led the team in innings pitched (108) and strikeouts (111) while second in ERA (3.08)
Pilkington threw eight shutout innings against Georgia in the first game of the SEC tournament. He fanned nine batters over seven innings to help MSU beat UIC in regional play. Pilkington spent that summer playing for the USA Collegiate National Team, where he held a 2.65 ERA in five appearances.
In 2018 he was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 3rd round (81st overall) of the MLB Draft. He found his way to Cleveland, via the trade with the White Sox and the Guardians, for Cesar Hernandez. Pilkington was impressive over eight outings at Double-A. He helped lead Akron to the Double-A Northeast League Championship to finish the season.
Pilkington has put in long hours to develop pitches for his arsenal. He already had a strong fastball but he added a curveball, slider and a change up. The latter he began perfecting, during his time in double-A Birmingham, while with the White Sox organization. He worked to get his curveball and slider to be efficient pitches. If he can master these pitches he’ll be a hurler with a solid four pitch mix. He has an additional advantage of throwing from a three-quarter arm slot thus making him potentially lethal against lefties.
When Pilkington isn’t on the field you can find him offshore fishing or deer and duck hunting. While growing up his favorite baseball team was the Los Angeles Dodgers. He looked at Clayton Kershaw as his favorite player. The rookie is a huge New Orleans Saints fan.
The 24-year old left-hander made his major league debut on April 15, 2022 during the Guardians’ Home Opener. He was one of three rookies to make the Opening Day roster for the team. Pilkington entered the game in the 9th inning against the San Francisco Giants. The former Bulldog pitched a scoreless frame while recording a strikeout.
As of print time he’s appeared in three games and has yet to give up a hit. He’s fanned five batters with only giving up one base on balls.
While the season is just beginning, Pilkington has been impactful. He’s given the Guardians much needed solid relief out of the pen.
Largely a starter throughout his career in high school, at Mississippi State and in the minor leagues, Pilkington spoke of his new role with the Guardians:
“This is going to be a whole new animal to me, and I’m looking forward to it,” speaking to the adjustment of starter to bullpen “I’m just a phone call away now. Whenever they ring I’ve got to be ready.”
So far, he’s been more than ready each time he’s gotten that call.
Congrats #45, welcome to The Bigs.
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