Kohl Franklin – Picture by Todd Johnson

After covering this game for the longest time, thoughts creep in that this game is 90% mental and 10% physical. It has to be especially difficult on players who missed time due to injuries. IL stints are not exactly the easiest things to come back from especially when you miss an entire year and then add the pandemic on top of that.

For Kohl Franklin, the hardest part about adjusting to being back is being held back. The Cubs were aggressive in their assignment this spring by putting Franklin at High-A South Bend. If you look at the stats, some of you would question why he was put there. If you’ve seen him pitch in person, you would understand why he was put there. 

Everybody and their mother knew that Kohl would be on a pitch count or innings limit the first half of the year coming back from two missed seasons. Even Kohl understood the reasoning behind the restraints but was more than excited to get back to competitive baseball. That doesn’t make it easier.

However, it’s one thing to go into a game knowing that you’re going to throw 70 to 80 pitches and possibly pitch five or six innings versus only knowing you have 30 to 40 pitches. You can tell yourself that you only get to pitch two innings today. That’s not the easiest thing to do in the world as your body wants to just burn from the get-go as you know you only have so many pitches. 

That was a huge problem for Kohl over the first two months of the year. It was hard to keep himself from going at it hard, he needed to relax and focus.

Now that Mr. Franklin is getting more stretched out, things are beginning to come together quickly. So, in other words, the longer he pitches, the better he pitches. You can see it when you watch him pitch. He just looks calmer.

In his last start on June 30, he went four innings in Beloit and gave up one earned run on a homer. I was there and he looked good except for one pitch. He was focused, in the zone, relied on his defense. He pitched well.

Kohl Franklin – Picture by Todd Johnson

Over his last 3 games he had thrown 10 innings with a 2.70 ERA. That might not impress you, but it’s a hell of a confidence booster and a relief off your mind to know that you’re getting more pitches and you don’t have to try and prove everything in an inning or two.

Knowing that he gets to have 60 pitches now is having a huge calming effect on him and you are going to see why a lot of us at North Side Bound are still very high on the kid, even though the stats were not there in April and May. In June, they got a lot better. 

As for Thursday’s start…

All year, once Kohl gets past the first inning, things go much better. This adage was true again last night. After a triple, an error, and one earned run, Kohl settled down as he went 4 frames with 6 Ks (a season high) and just 1 earned run. He mixed his pitches well and didn’t need a lot of pitches to get it done. In total, he threw 56 pitches in 4 frames, 37 for strikes and he gave up just 2 hits on the night. That’ll do!

July is a new month, and everything can turn on a dime in this game and we have seen guys make changes and next thing you know they’re clicking on all cylinders. I know it sounds cliché, but Franklin’s arm had to be built back up to normal strength. Getting to the fourth inning the next few starts should be the goal to help do that. He’s very close now at two four-inning starts in a row. 

If he starts once a week for the next ten weeks, and goes 4 innings the next month and 5 innings the last six weeks, that is 54 innings giving him a total of over 80 innings for the year, which is perfect for him. Just perfect. Then he can stretch that out to 110-120 next year and 140 the year after that.

If everything goes well in the second half, Kohl should be at Double-A next year at 23-years-old where he is still going to be two years younger on average than everybody else there despite missing all of 2021. Think about that for a while.