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Kevin Ziomek ready for first professional camp

The phrase “pitchers and catcher report” has two meanings.

To baseball fans, it means the season is starting and the winter months are coming to a close.

To professional baseball players, it means get the spikes packed because it’s time to go to work.

Kevin Ziomek is about to experience the latter.

The Amherst native was invited to Detroit Tigers minicamp and will report Saturday for his first professional spring training.

“I’m just excited to get down there and when I heard that I was reporting for minicamp I was fired up,” Ziomek said earlier this week from Nashville, Tenn. “I just can’t wait to get there, get in warm weather and get on the mound.”

The Tigers’ big league pitchers and catchers officially reported to their spring training facility in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday. Detroit’s first team workout is scheduled for Friday. The minicamp, which is for select players and top prospects, runs in conjunction with spring training.

“It’s a good thing to be invited to it and it’s another chance for you to get seen by some of the guys in the organization, which is good,” Ziomek said. “I feel like I’m getting close to being ready to compete and I’m excited to see what it brings.”

Last year was a whirlwind for Ziomek. As a junior left-hander, he was the No. 1 starter for nationally ranked Vanderbilt. His season started in January and ran through June with the NCAA tournament.

He was selected by Detroit in the June amateur draft then signed later that month. After a short visit to the minor league complex in Lakeland, he was assigned to the Class-A short season Connecticut Tigers, where he made four uneventful starts and pitched a total of eight innings.

“It’s a lot different than college ball and the atmosphere is different,” Ziomek said. “I think the biggest thing for me was to get acclimated and try and get my feet on the ground and figure that all out.”

Ziomek made his last start on July 18 and gave up three earned runs on two hits and a walk over two innings against Jamestown. He was shut down shortly after that and did not pick up a baseball for three months.

“It was nice to have a full off-season where I felt I could do what I needed to do where I could have my body recovery,” Ziomek said. “I’m feeling great and ready to rock. I think it was good to have a routine and be able to prepare over a longer period.”

It was the most time off Ziomek has had since high school.

“I definitely needed that,” he said. “I haven’t had that (much time) off in a while so it was good to take a little break and let my arm rest and get after it in the weight room.”

Under guidance from the Tigers, Ziomek worked on strength and conditioning. He spent a lot time in the weight room and added about 10 pounds to his frame.

“Once it was time to pick up a ball again I just had to take it slow,” the 6-foot-3, 205-pound southpaw said. “I hadn’t done it in a while. At first it was baby steps but I was able to build back up into it. It felt good and now it feels real good. I’m excited about that.”

Ziomek spent his offseason in Nashville, where he has an apartment. He used his down time to catch up with classmates and tour the city’s music scene. He also took a full course load this past semester at Vanderbilt and is scheduled to graduate on time this spring with a degree in managerial and organizational studies.

While in school he took full advantage of Vanderbilt’s baseball facilities.

“We have a professional locker room at Vandy and a bunch of us pro guys all get together and we’re all working out together, which is really awesome,” he said. “There is probably 25 to 30 guys, past players and other professional guys from around the country who are in and out through the off-season.”

Ziomek hopes the workouts pay off when he reaches Lakeland. Minicamp runs for three weeks and then he will participate in minor league spring training. He does not know where he will be assigned following camp. A likely destination is either the Class-A West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League, or the Class-A Advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers of the Florida State League.

“It’s been good to get back up on the mound and kind of feel what throwing live is like,” he said. “I’m excited to get down there and get rolling.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.

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