It was not an ideal 2023 debut for James Karinchak. Slotted as a key arm in the Guardians bullpen, Karinchak was called upon in the eighth inning to maintain the 0-0 score. It was a situation that the right handed hurler has encountered many times before, but familiarity was not enough to salvage his outing.
If there is something that Karinchak is known for on the field, besides his ability to accumulate strikeouts in quick order, it is his routine in between pitches. Taking time with his elaborate calling card routine, a quick tempo is not necessarily synonymous with a Karinchak appearance. The elaborate routine of Karinchak was an ominous warning to what came next.
After throwing two fastballs past J.P. Crawford to get ahead 0-2, Karinchak became the first pitcher to be penalized by the new pitch clock, resulting in an automatic ball. This is when things would go off the rails for Karinchak, as he proceeded to walk Wong, putting the winning run on base with none out in a crucial spot. Despite bouncing back and getting Julio Rodriguez to fly out in the next at-bat, it was a brief reprieve for what was coming. Karinchak would hit Kolten Wong in a 3-2 count which would set up the next disastrous at-bat.
Seattle’s Ty France would find himself in a 1-1 count against Karinchak after two straight fastballs. Unwisely it was Karinchak who tried to sneak in a third consecutive fastball with France responding by hitting it into the right field seats. With the Guardians now trailing 3-0, Karinchak’s night came to an unceremonious end.
James Karinchak was simply ineffective and that is a problem if the Guardians are going to be successful this season.
Is it accurate to attribute Karinchak’s unraveling to the new pitch rules? Not necessarily. However, it is noteworthy that he threw 10 balls to the first three batters of the inning after the penalty. This includes three-ball counts to those three batters before giving up the long ball to France.
At the current moment it is not the time to go full on panic mode. For now this is just something to keep tabs on if this becomes a recurring issue. Perhaps the Guardians put Karinchak in lower leverage situations in an attempt to help him find his groove again. If things do not improve that is when other conversations would need to take place.