Make us your home page
Instagram

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.

KENT NISHIMURA | Times

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 [email protected]bay.com. 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

Loading...
  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning journal: Tighter defense fuels hot start

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — See what happens when you keep the crease clean, limit the traffic in front of G Andrei Vasilevskiy and limit Grade A scoring chances.

    BUZZER BEATER: Yanni Gourde gets the hugs with a goal with less than 1 second left in the first. 
  3. Red-hot Rowdies win playoff opener

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies entered Saturday night's United Soccer League playoff opener as the league's hottest team. First-round opponent FC Cincinnati did nothing to cool them down.

    Marcel Schafer carries a Rowdies teammate on his back after scoring his second goal against Cincinnati in Saturday night’s USL playoff game at Al Lang. Up next: another home game, Oct. 28 against New York Red Bulls II.
  4. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Those wide-open, end-to-end, shoot-at-will games are a lot of fun to watch, especially when those shots are going in the net. But if the players had their druthers, they would rather have a more controlled pace, one with which they can dictate the action.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  5. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Lightning-Penguins game

    Lightning Strikes

    Man, is Nikita Kucherov fun to watch. He has a goal in all but one game this season and points in all nine. You have to watch him each time he is on the ice because he is going to do something you do not want to miss: a goal, a shot that requires a tough save, a nifty pass to set up a linemate for a goal.