08/12/2014 10:05 AM
Kris Regas has been one of the best closers in the American Association in 2014. (Photo by Mark Shaiken.)
By DOMINIC HOLDEN
On May 12, T-Bones manager John Massarelli and Vice President/General Manager Chris Browne were sitting in a room with local news reporters for the T-Bones annual media day. When a question was asked about the Kansas City bullpen, Massarelli made a note about how he won’t have a player who is close to the league lead in saves. Instead, he said, the club would have a closer by committee.
That didn’t last long, and it was for the better. Veteran left-handed pitcher Kris Regas has been the anchor of the T-Bones bullpen throughout the entire season. Leading the team with 16 saves, Regas has proven himself as the club’s closer. (Jared Messer is second in club saves with two.) Before this season, Regas had not recorded a save since 2011. Heading into the second half of this current road trip against Amarillo, Regas has pitched 55 1/3 innings in 2014, and leads the team in ERA at 2.28, games (37), strikeouts (57). Oh, and he has the most wins on the team, sporting a 6-3 record.
Although he picked up two of his losses at Laredo this week, Regas has a knack for high-pressure situations.
“Pitching at the end of games, I like the pressure and the need to be next to perfect,” he said. “It requires constant concentration and focus, and is very rewarding when the job is done. Strikeouts are fun, too!”
This is Regas’ first season in Kansas City. He has fully embraced the city and his new club. When asked about life in Kansas City, he responded simply with, “Oklahoma Joe’s is all I have to say.”
Regas has also enjoyed playing at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in front of large crowds every night.
“It is great to be in an environment with so many fans,” he said. “The season can become a grind, but when the stadium is packed it’s easy to get motivated. It definitely helps. Except for when I’m struggling with control and they yell, ‘Throw strikes!’ I know…. I know…. I know… hahaha. But nothing is better than getting out of a jam and hearing the excitement and approval from them.”
Not only has Regas posted great stats this season, but he has also made some friends in the T-Bones’ bullpen. “What happens in the bullpen stays in the bullpen. Except for bubblegum lawn darts. Those only stay in the bullpen if they are duds,” said Regas, 34, who’s been nicknamed “The General” by his teammates.
Regas played college ball at St. Joseph’s University (Ind.) and Jacksonville University (Fla.) as a starting pitcher. At the beginning of his career (2002-2004), he was primarily a starting pitcher, before moving to the bullpen. Regas can still make a spot start if needed, making four in 2013 for the York Revolution of the Atlantic League.
Regas has been on his fair share of teams throughout his 12-year career. He has spent time in the American Association, Frontier League, Atlantic League, Mexican League and International League (triple-A). In 2009, Regas played for the Toledo Mud Hens, the triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, alongside future major leaguers Ryan Raburn, Don Kelly and Casey Fien just to name a few.
Last season, Regas struggled mightily. After a series of injuries during his career, Regas’ strikeout rate plummeted in 2013, averaging only four strikeouts per nine innings. Playing for two Atlantic League teams, York and Lancaster, he finished the year with a 1-2 record, a 5.50 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and zero saves.
Regas’ career has truly come full circle. All of his hard work and success since coming to Kansas City earned him a trip to Winnipeg at the end of July for the 2014 American Association All-Star Game along with now former T-Bone David Espinosa, who was traded to Wichita earlier last month.
“It’s a huge honor,” Regas said. “And I got a cool backpack! I feel as though we had a couple of other guys who were worthy of a nomination, as well, but what do I know.”
In spite of the season Regas has had, he says one thing would top it off.
“Not much is better than winning a ring.”
If the T-Bones can get the ball to Regas late in games during this last month, anything is possible.