A summer of starring as a starting pitcher for both Australia and the Canberra Cavalry has Steven Kent "a step ahead" when he joins spring training with the Atlanta Braves, but he sees his future as a reliever coming out of the bullpen.
Kent played a key role in Australia's qualification for the World Baseball Classic, guiding Australia to victory in game one against the Philippines with the Southern Thunder going on to qualify when they beat South Africa on Sunday.
He gave up just one run in six innings, with seven strike-outs, four scattered hits and one walk.
The 26-year-old said having his family there to watch him made it "extra special", as he now looked to a couple of weeks off before he joined the Braves organisation in Orlando, Florida, on March 1.
Having bounced back from Tommy John surgery, Kent had a brilliant Australian Baseball League campaign for the Cavalry and carried that form into representing his country.
While Kent has signed a contract with the Braves, he still has to earn a spot on one of their minor league teams during spring training. But he felt his summer Down Under will help springboard him towards that goal.
"I feel really good. I've kind of had a few pretty good months of performances so I feel like I'm probably going into spring training a step ahead of a lot of the guys just because I have had that in-game competition," Kent said.
"So I'll be ready to go as soon as the bell rings when I get there.
"ABL's great preparation to go into the season and to have that World Baseball Classic qualifier tacked on at the end is that little extra bit to get me ready to go."
While Kent started all 14 ABL games he pitched this year, as well as starting for Australia, he has signed with the Braves as a relief pitcher and he thinks that's where his future lies both in the US and on the international stage.
"I don't know if I really want to be a starter. I think honestly I profile better as a relief pitcher, but it doesn't really worry me," he said.
"Any time I can help out, help the team win the game, that's what I want to do – to be able to go out there and perform well and get us that win was awesome."
The Australians have qualified for the final pool stages of the WBC and will find out in March which of the four groups of four they'll play in next year.
Kent said it was "awesome" for Australian baseball to qualify for a tournament where the players get treated like "major leaguers".
He said having the team come together for the qualifiers would benefit them when the tournament proper began next year.
"There's the potential to do a lot of travelling and see a lot of the world doing it," Kent said.
"In a World Baseball Classic they treat you like a major leaguer the whole time and really those guys get spoiled.
"They fly business class everywhere, give us our own suites, give us amazing food. It's really the premier baseball tournament in the world."