Bibens-Dirkx Mixes It Up At Iowa

(PHOTO/TENNESSEE SMOKIES)

DES MOINES – Since being promoted to Triple-A Iowa on July 9, right-hander Austin Bibens-Dirkx has compiled a 5-0 record and a 1.97 ERA.

"He's not a power guy, he's not really a finesse guy, he's kind of a mix guy," Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason said of Bibens-Dirkx.

"He'll go three-quarters, low three-quarters, and sidearm. He'll move his arm slot all over depending on his situation with the hitter, which gives hitters fits."

Since being promoted from Double-A Tennessee, Bibens-Dirkx is 5-0 with a 1.97 ERA in nine appearances. He has 22 strikeouts to 11 walks in 32 innings.

"I throw my fastball and slider from a lower arm slot [and] drop down sidearm," said Bibens-Dirkx. "It's just a different look to the hitters and I think it's paid off."

In addition to his fastball and slider, Bibens-Dirkx has been working on a changeup this season. He believes it's his best pitch, and it's what he relies on when he gets down in the count.

"I feel like I can throw it for a strike," said Bibens-Dirkx. "That's what's also helped me at this level: not having to throw the fastball in necessarily a 2-0 or 3-0 count."

"His changeup has been developing (nicely)," said Mason. "He's learning how to mix it in with the rest of the stuff that he's got and he's been very effective with it."

Bibens-Dirkx has also been working on pitch location to adapt to the more disciplined hitters that Triple-A offers.

Mason said that when Double-A pitchers are promoted, they must make the transition toward throwing more strikes to each hitter, and throw quality strikes early on in order to get the hitter chasing later in the count.

"Getting ahead of hitters and locating pitches, that's the biggest thing," said Bibens-Dirkx. "Especially at this level, if you're not locating pitches, you're going to get hit hard."

Despite picking up the win while allowing one run on four hits in five innings of work against the New Orleans Zephyrs in his Iowa debut on July 9, Bibens-Dirkx was moved to the bullpen for his next outing.

Mason said that when a pitcher is called up to Triple-A, it's usually not as a starter. So putting a pitcher in the bullpen is done to look at two things.

The first is to see whether the pitcher's arm can handle throwing out of the bullpen. Secondly, if that pitcher's velocity rises, perhaps he's better suited as a reliever.

"With all his various arm slots, he handled it very (well)," said Mason.

Bibens-Dirkx came out of the bullpen five times from July 15-27, a span of nine innings. He did not allow an earned run in any appearance.

He has won all three of his starts since returning to the rotation on August 2, going seven shutout innings in his last outing on August 13 against Fresno. He allowed just three hits in that start.

But his stint as a reliever was nothing new to Bibens-Dirkx.

Bibens-Dirkx spent the majority of the 2006-08 seasons as a reliever in the Seattle Mariners' farm system before being released in spring of 2009.

He went on to play for the Victoria Seals of the Independent Golden Baseball League, posting a 2-2 record with a 3.40 ERA before signing with the Cubs and joining Class-A Peoria in July, 2009.

In a little over a year's time, Bibens-Dirkx has gone from being out of pro ball entirely to rising through the Cubs organization. Now he is one step below the big leagues.

"I didn't really see myself getting here (to Triple-A), at least this fast," said Bibens-Dirkx. "But I'll certainly take it."

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