Akron, OH -- After a successful 2009 season, in which he posted a 2.83 ERA combined at Lake County and Kinston, Akron Aeros reliever Kyle Landis lost feeling in his throwing arm.
At first, no one, not even doctors, knew why.
“My first question was, ‘When can I start throwing again? When is it going to be better?’,” said Landis. “It’s never good when [the doctors] say, ‘We don’t know.’”
After missing the start of the season with a lat injury, Landis missed the rest of the 2010 season after overtaxing the right musculocutaneous nerve in his arm. The injury, a rare condition that required several months of treatment for a full recovery, caused the numbness and weakness in his throwing arm.
“It was pretty weird and scary at first because I had no idea what was going on,” said Landis. “Really, that was my first time being injured and missing any time in my whole career. It was unlike anything else, because my arm was pins and needles for almost a year.
“I followed their instructions to a tee -- that was really hard because I couldn’t pick up a baseball for eight months, which is probably longer than any time in my life.”
Since his rehabilitation, Landis has pitched without discomfort and has continued his effective relief pitching in the Cleveland Indians farm system.
Landis, drafted in the 18th round by the Indians in 2007 out the University of Pittsburgh, won 10 games while finishing with a 2.54 ERA between A, A+ and AA ball in 2011. His 10 wins were tied for fourth in the organization and firmly put him back on the prospect map.
After appearing in nine games with the Aeros in 2011, Landis started out with the team in 2012. In 45.1 innings (28 games), he has a 3.77 ERA while striking out over four batters for every walked batter. He credits the development of a changeup for his success so far, along with his ability to keep the ball down in the zone.
“Just being able to hit my spots [is key],” said Landis. “I added a changeup this year and I think that’s really complemented my stuff and made my fastball better.”
After cementing himself in the back of the Akron bullpen, Landis represented the Aeros in the Eastern League All-Star Game in Reading, PA on July 11. He pitched one scoreless inning of relief in the game for the Western Division team, though the Eastern Division ultimately won on a walk-off hit by Mets prospect Eric Campbell.
“It’s an honor any time you’re selected to an All-Star team,” said Landis. “It’s just great to be able to represent my organization, this team and myself.
“The game was as fun a game as I’ve been a part of,” said Landis. “It was really close, right down to two outs in the ninth.”
Despite his mid-season accolades, Landis has struggled as of late, posting a 7.53 ERA in his last 10 games. During the 10-game span, he has allowed 24 hits, 12 runs and two home runs.
“It’s been frustrating for me,” said Landis. “I feel like I’ve been doing pretty much the same thing but I’m just getting hit as of late. I’m just trying to stay level-headed and fight through it.
“If you pitch up in the zone, you’re going to get hit. I think for some reason, my ball is creeping up in the zone.”
Part way through the season, Landis had a one-game stint with AAA affiliate Columbus. He pitched three innings of effective relief in the appearance, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out two.
“For me, it was more of a confidence booster,” said Landis. “I went up there, threw strikes and did well. I realized that if I do what I’m capable of doing, I can get outs at that level.
“When you move up levels, you don’t know what to expect. To go up there, it takes a little bit of that off your mind,” said Landis.
After getting his first taste of AAA baseball, Landis is confident that he can continue his success with the Clippers when he gets the chance.
“I’d love to be there,” said Landis, “but it’s not really for me to decide. I have work to do and I’m doing it every day. If they decide that I’m ready for that, then that’s what will happen.”
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.