Degree in hand, Funkhouser has no regrets

Degree in hand, Funkhouser has no regrets

DETROIT -- No, Kyle Funkhouser said. If he had a chance to do it all over again, he wouldn't change anything.

A year ago, Funkhouser was in speculation for the Tigers' top pick in the 2015 MLB Draft before going to the Dodgers later in the first round. The 35th overall selection was the highest pick not to sign, returning for his senior season at the University of Louisville.

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One year later, the big right-hander is a Detroit draftee, picked in the fourth round on Friday. In terms of the Draft spot, his drop was the Tigers' gain after Detroit gave up its second- and third-round picks as compensation for free-agent signings.

In Funkhouser's eyes, he gained a lot out of it, too.

"I don't regret a single thing I did last year, coming back," Funkhouser said Friday as he prepared for the Cardinals' NCAA Super Regional this weekend. "I wouldn't change a single thing about it. Coming back here, I had a great experience, a great time, got my degree."

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The degree means more than one might expect for a highly touted pitcher. Funkhouser graduated from Louisville last month with a degree in marketing, which meant as much for himself as it did to his family back home in Chicago. His mom is an accountant, while his dad worked in the printing business. Long baseball career or not, he says having the degree is a relief.

Funkhouser also furthered his education about baseball, the game and the business.

"I learned a lot, just the game of baseball and kind of the game of life," Funkhouser said. "You don't always have it as bad as you think, but you don't always have it as good as you think. I just feel like I grew up a lot. I just feel like I'm in a much better place mentally than I was last year."

After spending his junior season in the spotlight, Funkhouser ceded the attention to a stellar crop of Cardinals juniors. Outfielder Corey Ray, reliever Zack Burdi and catcher Will Smith all went in the first round, followed by infielder Nick Solak.

Funkhouser was more of a question mark. He had a 5.19 ERA in mid-April and a 4.54 ERA a month ago. He felt good, but the results didn't translate.

"Just kind of a hangover from last year," he said. "I threw pretty well, just the stuff was down. I think more than anything it was a mental reset."

His pitching came together with back-to-back strong seven-inning performances and 18 total strikeouts. Funkhouser pitched out of the bullpen in the ACC Tournament for the first time in three years with two perfect innings. Then he tossed eight innings of one-run ball against Western Michigan in the NCAA Regional. His fastball crept back up, and his command became sharper.

Funkhouser relaxed a bit, he admitted, once his coursework was over and his degree was complete. Now that his pro-ball direction is set, he said, it's a weight off his back.

"The waiting game's kind of over," he said. "It's good to know what's going to happen."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.