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Guilmet is in the (strike) zone in Class-A ball

Oakmont High graduate piles up strikeouts, limits walks
By: Bill Poindexter
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Preston Guilmet’s minor-league statistics this season stand out in a very Cliff Lee sort-of way. Like the hard-to-hit left-hander with the Texas Rangers, Guilmet is making hitters in the Class-A Midwest League look clueless. Playing for the Lake County (Ohio) Captains in the Cleveland Indians organization, the 2005 Oakmont High School graduate has walked all of seven hitters in 40 innings. That’s 1.6 walks per nine innings. He has allowed just 26 hits (5.9 per nine innings) and racked up 57 strikeouts (12.8). His WHIP – this flavor-of-the-month stat, meaning walks and hits per inning pitched, is a favorite of fantasy players everywhere – is a head-shaking 0.83. But this is no newfound success. The right-hander has been commanding the strike zone since he was a kid in Roseville. Oakmont head coach Dean Perkins noted that Guilmet walked 10 hitters as a sophomore, 10 as a junior and 10 as a senior. He was All-Pioneer Valley all three years and the league MVP as a senior, when he went 9-1 with a 0.50 ERA. Guilmet allowed 25 hits and 10 walks and struck out 114 in 70 1/3 innings in 2005. See any similarities? “You develop, and you mature. From my standpoint. I was the same kid I’ve always been,” Guilmet said Saturday, one night after striking out four and walking one in 2 1/3 hitless innings against Fort Wayne. “The walks this year, it’s a personal goal. I’ve tried to slim it down.” In this day and age of private lessons, specializing in one sport and playing year-round, Guilmet, 23, has climbed the baseball ladder to his current rung the old-fashioned way: He does what his coaches ask of him, and he works harder than most players. “After a game, he wasn’t done,” Perkins said. “He’d run 10 to 18 sets of poles, win or lose. Not very many high school or college kids do that on their own. He was just a wonderful player to coach.” Guilmet said he has had some good ones, starting with his dad, Roger, all the way back in tee ball and carrying into tournament ball through high school. Dad stressed strikes over velocity. There was Perkins and Oakmont pitching coach Anthony DeArcos, who supervised many of Guilmet’s bullpen sessions. There was four years of coaching Guilmet received at the University of Arizona. “I’ve been blessed with good coaching,” Guilmet said. “The nice thing is, they’ve all been different people. You pick parts out and take something from them.” From his dad, Guilmet learned his work ethic. At Arizona, he learned how to slow down a game. Now, he’s under the tutelage of Captains pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who’s making an impression on the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder. “He just finished up playing pro ball (overseas last year),” Guilmet said of Callaway. “You can tell he still wants to be playing. He can really relate to us more than a guy who’s been coaching 15 or 20 years. He’s been through it in this generation. You can believe it full-hearted. That’s huge.” Guilmet was a starter at Arizona, where he was a Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball first-team All-American and the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year in 2007. Not surprisingly, his strikeout-to-walk ratio was more than 4 to 1. In his first full season in the minors, Guilmet has been sent to the mound in long relief and as the Captains’ closer. He has nine saves. Guilmet is a fastball, slider, splitter pitcher. Despite the evidence, he doesn’t consider himself a strikeout pitcher. Nor does he keep track of his whiffs, impressive as they are. “The toughest thing for me is fastball location. I want to get that dialed in,” Guilmet said. That part of the game as stuck with him since his days with DeArcos at Oakmont. DeArcos did with Guilmet what baseball people refer to as coaching up. He prepared Guilmet for the next level. “He had to get the mind-set that he’s not just pitching for now. My thought process is next year, when he goes to the next level, and hopefully he does that when he goes to the next level,” DeArcos said. “When you’re walking 10 kids in 25, 30 games a year, you’re throwing strikes. He had that mind-set down. His consistency around the plate was amazing.” And still is. Bill Poindexter can be reached at billp@goldcountrymedia.com.