It was announced on Saturday that Nationals pitcher Cole Kimball was the winner of the Arizona Fall League’s Darnell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. The award, named after the late Cincinnati Reds prospect, is awarded annually to the player “who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership.” (via MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo)
Originally drafted by the Nationals in 2006 out of Centenary College of New Jersey, Kimball’s story is one that certainly has its highs and lows.
It started in 2007, where Kimball pitched for the Short-Season Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York-Penn League. He would go on to pitch to a 1-4 record with a 5.82 ERA.
After three more years in the low minors, none in which he posted an ERA below 4.20 (2007 – Vermont Lake Monsters), Kimball finally found his groove in 2010 when he pitched to a 3-0 record with a 1.82 ERA in 19 games at A+ Potomac. The strong start would get him moved up to AA Harrisburg, where he would continue dominating opposing hitters.
The 2011 season found Kimball starting the year at AAA Syracuse, a true indicator that the big leagues were near. After pitching 13.2 scoreless innings through 12 appearances, Kimball would get called up make his big-league debut on May 14 against the then-Florida Marlins, pitching a scoreless inning.
After 12 games, it appeared that Kimball was going to end up as a mainstay in the Washington bullpen. He had pitched to a 1.93 ERA through 12 games, but then things took a turn for the worse.
Kimball had a tear in his right rotator cuff, and would require shoulder surgery to fix it. He would miss the remainder of the 2011 season recovering, as well as the majority of the 2012 season. After beginning his throwing program in June, Kimball made six minor-league appearances spread across Hagerstown, Potomac and Harrisburg, pitching to a 6.35 ERA in 5.2 innings.
And that brings us to the Arizona Fall League, where Kimball has continued on his path that will hopefully land him back in Washington at some point. He showed signs of improvement, pitching to a 4.80 ERA over 15 innings of work against some of the top prospects that the game has to offer.
“Hard work does pay off,” said Kimball (via MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo). “Next year, I’m going to come out, do what I always do — bust my butt and hopefully help the club. The award is icing on the cake, and playing in the championship is even more icing.”
Kimball will likely start the season in either A+ or AA next season as he looks to find his way back to the major leagues.