Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays' Nate Karns has same goal with new team

Right-hander Nathan Karns, shown here in a multiple-exposure photograph, measures 6 feet 3, 230 pounds and is impressing the Rays with his size, stuff and mound presence.


Right-hander Nathan Karns, shown here in a multiple-exposure photograph, measures 6 feet 3, 230 pounds and is impressing the Rays with his size, stuff and mound presence.

DUNEDIN — Throughout his childhood, Rays right-hander Nathan Karns' home was a moving target.

Karns' father, David, was a Navy commander, and the family lived in five states before he turned 12. Born in Franklin, Pa., Karns adjusted quickly in military bases in Pensacola, Hawaii and New Orleans before settling in Dallas, loving how fighter jets often flew overhead.

"To be able to live across the country for several years at a time is very rewarding," he said. "I think it prepared me for the lifestyle I try to live, different states to call home."

Karns, 26, had to make another unexpected move last month, when he was acquired from the Nationals for catcher Jose Lobaton and two prospects the day before the Rays reported. His spring address might have changed from Viera to Port Charlotte, but his goal remained the same: crack a big-league rotation.

And manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday that Karns is still in the mix for the fifth starter's spot, along with Jake Odorizzi, Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos.

"He's a very confident young man," Maddon said. "He knows he's good, and I kind of like that. He's competing for a job, and he made no bones about that in the beginning. He's interesting, and a lot of it has to do with his self-confidence."

Karns backed it up on the mound Wednesday, throwing 3⅓ scoreless innings against a Blue Jays lineup that included Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder scattered three hits in a 46-pitch outing. He hit 92-94 mph with his fastball and struck out Colby Rasmus with a nasty curveball.

"Made me look stupid," Rasmus said, "so I guess that's good."

Karns flashed potential in the lower minors, going 11-4, 2.17 at two Class A stops in 2012 and 10-6, 3.26 at Double-A Harrisburg last year before making three starts with the Nationals (0-1, 7.50). The Rays love his mound presence and the downward angle on his pitches (fastball, curveball, sinker, changeup), believing he has the strength and size to grow into a 200-inning type starter.

Whether Karns is ready for the rotation now, he said, is up to the Rays to decide. "I don't know who's in the running still, they said there are four names," he said. "I'm going to focus on what I can control and let everybody else worry about that."

Karns gained plenty of perspective in his difficult journey. He transferred from North Carolina State to Texas Tech after his freshman season to be closer to home and help his mother, Tambra, who battled cancer and a debilitating stroke.

"She's good now, but it was a bad time in her life," Karns said. "She's a tough woman that keeps on trucking."

Karns showed resilience, too, going through a grueling rehab after shoulder surgery in 2010 to repair a torn labrum. A 12th-round pick in 2009, Karns said it was tough to watch others get promoted while he was "still in the starting gate," as he barely pitched the next two years.

"That really built an understanding of how important a second chance really is," Karns said. "And it showed how much this game meant to me."

He bounced back in a big way, getting named Nationals minor-league pitcher of the year in 2012, his first full pro season, and turning into the touted prospect the Rays coveted.

"I started two years behind everyone," he said. "So to be where I am today is just mind-blowing, to be honest with you."

Joe Smith can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.

Rays' Nate Karns has same goal with new team 03/12/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 10:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa lawyer Fred Ridley to be new chairman of Augusta National, Masters' home (w/ video)


    AUGUSTA, Ga. — Fred Ridley first came to Augusta National to compete in the 1976 Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion, and he played the opening round in the traditional pairing with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

  2. Rays send down Chase Whitley, Andrew Kittredge; add Chih-Wei Hu, acitvate Alex Cobb


    After having to cover more than five innings following a short start by Austin Pruitt, the Rays shuffled their bullpen following Wednesday's game, sending down RHPs Chase Whitley and Andrew Kittredge,

    The Kittredge move was expected, as he was summoned to add depth to the pen Wednesday in advance of RHP Alex …

  3. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred moves closer to wanting a decision on Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred called Wednesday for urgency from Tampa Bay area government leaders to prioritize and move quicker on plans for a new Rays stadium.

    MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talks with reporters at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Wednesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    The Austin Pruitt experiment might be over, or at least put on pause. After allowing six runs over seven innings to Seattle on Friday, the rookie didn't get through the fourth Wednesday, giving up five runs on four homers. His ERA for past six starts: 5.29.

  5. Six home runs doom Rays in loss to Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — A curve that didn't bounce was the difference Wednesday as the Rays lost 7-6 to the Blue Jays in front of 8,264, the smallest Tropicana field crowd since Sept. 5, 2006.

    Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (11) greets center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) at the plate after his two run home run in the third inning of the game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017.