Lanky lefty Austin Kirk, Osage, 22, has made his pitch, and he’s earned a promotion. The Chicago Cubs recently moved Kirk up from their Class A-Advanced Daytona Cubs minor league affiliate to their Double-A Tennessee Smokies. With a strong second half in the Volunteer State, it’s expected he’ll continue his assent to the majors by starting next season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, big league Chicago’s top farm team.
Before the promotion Kirk was an All-Star with Daytona, posting a 7-3 record with a 3.13 earned run average this season. Drafted in the third round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft (109th overall) by the Cubs, the Owassa, Oklahoma native has steadily advanced through the minors. Last season, Kirk threw for the Class A Peoria Chiefs, where he pitched a no-hitter on July 4, 2011 and was an All-Star.
Regarded by many scouts as the top left handed starting pitcher in the Cubs system, it’s no stretch to see Kirk becoming only the fourth active American Indian player in the Major Leagues soon. Currently, Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox, Joba Chamberlain, New York Yankees, and Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals, are the only American Indian players in the big leagues. Given the recent housecleaning in Chicago at the trade deadline, there’s a youth movement afoot in the Windy City, and the sturdy southpaw definitely fits into plans of young Cubs General Manager Theo Esptein, who achieved huge success leading the Boston Red Sox.
Kirk aced his first appearance with the Smokies, filling in in relief and tossing a perfect inning on August 14 versus the Birmingham Barons. He should move into the rotation soon.
And from there, the sky’s the limit. Cubs fans—and Indian country—eagerly await.