- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Kevin Slowey learned years ago he’d never be able to rely on bringing the heat to establish himself as a major league pitcher.

The Twins right-hander pitches to fit his last name, though the family heritage is purely coincidental. With a fastball that infrequently reaches 90 mph, Slowey has figured out how to fool enough hitters and keep the opposition from getting comfortable against him to carve a spot for himself in the middle of Minnesota’s young rotation.

His nine wins are tied for the second most in the majors, after using a season-high 10 strikeouts over six innings in Friday’s win over the Chicago Cubs.

Support from his teammates sure helps (the Twins are averaging more than six runs per game when he starts), but Slowey’s success comes from being one of baseball’s best control pitchers. He has walked only 10 men in 78-plus innings, a rate of 1.144 walks per nine innings that ranks slightly behind league leader Roy Halladay’s 1.049. Halladay has a majors-best 10-1 record for the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I never really threw hard enough to just say, ‘Here it is, hit it,’” Slowey said recently.

So he works the corners instead, moving the ball in and out and up and down to _ as pitching coach Rick Anderson puts it _ change the eye level of the batter while catcher Joe Mauer guides his choices from behind the plate.

Without that blazing fastball possessed by some of his peers, Slowey must constantly make sure sluggers on the other team don’t dig in the box and sit on one of those fastballs on the edge of the zone.

Even if that means whizzing one near a guy’s neck.

“Maybe throw a ball up and in a time or two, just to keep ‘em from being real comfortable,” Anderson said.

At first, Slowey had a hard time adjusting to that philosophy. But the slender 25-year-old, who’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, is a quick study _ one of Anderson’s favorites.

“He’s a lot of fun to work with,” Anderson said. “He’s bright, and when you tell him something you know he’s getting it. … You do things in the pen between starts, and he understands. But not only understands: He can apply it.”

There isn’t much variation in speed between his fastball, slider, changeup and curveball, so effectively changing location is essential. He gives up a lot of sharp line drives and long fly balls, relying on the team with the fewest errors (just 23 in 65 games) to catch the ball. Slowey has surrendered a whopping 99 hits, including 12 home runs, a glaring reminder of how vulnerable he can be when he’s not sharp.

“I’d love to be able to throw like Joe Nathan, coming out and throwing 92 mph sliders, but that’s not how I pitch,” Slowey said, praising Anderson for his help. “In order to be successful, I have to use my strengths. That’s something Andy really pounds into us. One of the reasons why he’s such a good pitching coach is he treats us all as individuals. Anthony Swarzak, Scott Baker and I might all be righties, but he’s not going to treat any one of us the same.”

In 53 career starts, Slowey has 25 victories. If he stays healthy and stays with the Twins, he’ll hear many more comparisons to Brad Radke. The right-hander retired after the 2006 season in the top three in team history in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts, after finding success the same way _ rarely overpowering, but always in control.

That would mean a lot to Slowey, who met Radke last year and was impressed with his professionalism and class.

“Just a very genuine, good guy,” Slowey said. “For as many times as I have or will be compared to him, I think if people talk about me as a person the way they did him, that would be the best.”

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