Frankos proving himself on the field

BY JACOB SHEYKO | APRIL 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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If not for Jimmy Frankos, Iowa baseball’s April 5 matchup with Indiana could have been the beginning of the Hawkeyes’ downfall.

On a groundball to the Indiana’s third baseman, then-starting catcher Trevor Kenyon tried to reach third safely. However, when he slid, he felt a pain in his left knee.

That pain was slight tear in his left PCL, forcing Kenyon to miss a significant amount of time. But what Iowa has received in return from Frankos has been more than enough for the Hawkeyes to stay afloat.

“It’s been awesome; he’s stepped up and played extremely well,” head coach Rick Heller said. “He’s taken the opportunity he has and made the most of it.”

When Kenyon went down, Heller’s options were limited.

He could go with sophomore Blake Hickman, a heralded catching prospect coming out of high school, but one who was slowly making a transition to the mound. He could go with the transfer from East Los Angeles Community College, Joe Tellez, who had yet to make a start in a Hawkeyes’ uniform.

Or, as he did, he could start Frankos, who last season played in 10 games, making just one start.

Almost 20 days later, it seems as if Heller’s made the right choice.

With 17 games, and 10 starts under his belt, Frankos is hitting .366 at the plate with a .447 on-base percentage, and he’s knocked in 4 runs while hitting in the back end of Iowa’s lineup.

“The hitting is what’s surprised me the most,” Kenyon said. “The only reason I say that is because he hasn’t seen a lot of balls.”

While Frankos hitting has been a surprise to some, his fielding has not. With just 1 error in his time behind the plate, he’s also allowed just two passed balls while making the adjustment to the starting lineup.

“The experience is coming,” Frankos said. “[I’m] feeling comfortable with our whole pitching staff, and game by game, we’re getting better.”

“The biggest thing is to act like you know what you’re doing,” Kenyon said. “As a catcher, that’s all you have to do. Just be smooth and block the crap out of the ball. “

But amid all the numbers, what had impressed Heller the most is Frankos’ demeanor.

“A lot of time when you get a guy who’s thrown into a situation where he hasn’t been starting, he goes out and tries to press and be something he’s not,” Heller said. “Jimmy’s done an awesome job of sticking to the plan and being who he is.”

For that, Frankos credits Kenyon, who Frankos says has helped him through this process, providing advice on how to call a game from behind the plate and how to be a leader.

“As a catcher, you’re part of every pitch, controlling every pitch, every part of the game,” Frankos said. “[Kenyon’s] really taught me that.”

Kenyon gives most of the credit to Frankos.

“He’s kind of been that guy just waiting to get his chance,” Kenyon said. “His work ethic speaks for everything … even when I was in the lineup, he kept working.”

With Kenyon likely returning some time before the conclusion of the season, one that could have Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, it’s unclear how Heller will handle the situation behind the plate.

What’s not unclear, however, is that Frankos has earned playing time, whether Kenyon’s healthy or not.

“Each game that he gets, he gets a little bit smarter,” Kenyon said. “Behind the plate, you have to be a smart guy, and as he’s learning and getting more chances back there, he’s going to become a great overall catcher.”

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