Left-hander Tyler Kehrer has a priority as he moves from the Los Angeles Angels organization to the Miami Marlins: Throw strikes.
"It's pretty simple: My control's got to get better," said Kehrer, a New Baden native and 2006 graduate of Wesclin High School. "Just throwing strikes and attacking hitters, not hurting myself by walking hitters. It's as simple as that. I've got to throw more strikes."
Kehrer, 24, was taken by the Marlins in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. Last season, Kehrer was 2-3 with a 5.82 ERA in 33 games, all in relief, with Inland Empire of the high-Class A California League.
If the hard-throwing Kehrer remains at high-Class A, he will pitch this season with the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Florida State League. Kehrer's home would be Roger Dean Stadium, the complex in Jupiter that is shared by the Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
Kehrer, who touches the mid-90s with his fastball and also throws an above-average slider, allowed 39 hits and walked 39 batters in 33 games and 38 2/3 innings last season at Inland Empire.
"(The walks) were much higher than I would have liked, especially this year. They were a lot worse," the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Kehrer said. "But that's what the offseason is for, to try and make improvements and get better with that kind of stuff."
Kehrer hopes 2013 will be much different than 2012.
"It's always just a simple adjustment," Kehrer said. "It's never anything really major. It just takes somebody to make a minor adjustment for you."
Thursday started like any other day for Kehrer.
"I woke up and was getting ready to eat some breakfast," he said. "I was watching SportsCenter and I got a text from one of my buddies that said, 'Hey, congrats, you're heading to the Marlins.'
"I had no idea. My agent (Greg Landry) hadn't called me yet --or anybody. Five minutes later, I got a call from my agent. So I got surprised by my friend. It wasn't even anybody from the Marlins or my agency (CAA Sports)."
Kehrer said he was somewhat shocked when the news of the draft was confirmed to him in a call from the Angels, and later the Marlins.
"You always have it in the back of your mind because I knew it was my Rule 5 year," he said. "But no, I didn't really expect anything to happen because I didn't hear anything from my agent."
Kehrer said he is optimistic about joining the Marlins organization, even though he will miss the relationships he has developed in four seasons with the Angels.
"I'm definitely excited about the fresh start and the change of scenery," he said. "But you make a lot of good friends with an organization and you're familiar with them. Now all that's gone and you start fresh. It's a little bittersweet, but I'm very excited about it."
Kehrer was selected by the Angels in the supplemental round of the 2006 draft (48th overall), following his junior season at Eastern Illinois University. He is 13-12 with a 4.72 ERA in 109 career minor-league games, including 28 starts. He has issued 166 walks in 257 1/3 innings.
Kehrer said Marlins Farm Director Marty Scott did not indicate to him where he would pitch or how he would be used.
"I'm going to go into it ready to go," Kehrer said. "I'll try to make a good first impression and go from there. That's the best I can do."
Kehrer hasn't started a game since midway through the 2010 season, so he likely profiles as a reliever with the Marlins.
"It takes a while to get used to, but I definitely like it," Kehrer said of bullpen work. "I like the chance that you can throw every night, and if you have a bad outing, you've got that chance the next night to redeem yourself. I do like that aspect of it."
Transitioning from a starter to a reliever had its challenges.
"My first year of relieving, which was two years ago, you think you have forever to warm up rather than the reality that they need you ready in about two or three minutes, which is totally different from a starter," Kehrer said. "You definitely get a bigger adrenaline rush as a reliever. That helps a lot, too."