Lefty Stephen Tarpley, one of the prospects the Pirates acquired in the Travis Snider trade, is in the midst of a strong season with the West Virginia Power, culminating with a six-inning no-hitter last week. On Tuesday, I spoke to him about the no-hitter and about his approach to pitching. Here's the transcript, lightly edited for length.
What are the key differences between what you've been taught here with the Pirates and what you were taught with the Orioles?
Both focused on sequencing a whole bunch. I think the Pirates are more aggressive on the inner half, just kind of establishing that inside pitch. Letting guys know that you're not afraid to pitch inside, and so you can open up both sides of the plate a lot better. I think both are very good in the way they pitch, but definitely, the Pirates are a little bit different.
You've just thrown a no-hitter. What does that feel like at this level? Does it feel like an accomplishment, or does it just feel like, "These are the things I've got to do to make it on to the next level"?
Yeah, it's an accomplishment, and it's a self-realization type thing. I'm able to see what I can do if I hit my spots, or I sequence well. It shows me how effective pitching on the inner half can be, and how effective I can be when I hit my spots and execute my pitches.
Is it weird to do that against Delmarva [an Orioles farm team]? It's a lot of guys you've played with.
Yeah -- former teammates that I've played against in instructional league and a ton of intersquads and things like that. It was very cool. It was kind of exciting at the same time, just facing those guys -- it was kind of like a reunion, in a sense. I had a scouting report from what we've charted on them in past years we played them, and playing against them myself, I had my own kind of scouting report. So I just had to pitch to my plan, and obviously, it worked out in my favor.
They told me you were working on video stuff in there [before the interview]. What exactly are you working on when you watch video at this level?
Watching my sequences ...
You're watching yourself?
Yeah. I'm watching myself pitch. Mechanics-wise, I'm deciphering what I've got to do to make a better pitch if I missed a pitch. It's mental notes and things like that, so going into this next game, I can understand what I need to do going up to it to get better.
What are some examples of the kinds of mental notes you're taking, specifically?
If I'm missing off the plate to a right-handed batter, outside, it might be something mechanical that I'm doing timing-wise. So a mental note would be, in my next bullpen or my next flat-ground, get my timing together so when I get to my bullpen I can therefore work inside a lot better and make that pitch. So in my [next] outing, I can make less of those mistakes.
How happy are you right now with your delivery and your consistency with it?
I'm very happy. I've come a long way from where I was in high school and college, so I'm very excited. I've been getting worked with a lot. I just keep striving to get better every day, and it's been showing here and there.
What percent fastballs are you throwing right now?
It's probably somewhere around mid-60s [to] mid-70s. My last game was predominantly fastballs. Some games I switch it up due to the team's approach. This organization likes to attack with fastballs, and fastballs in and fastballs low.
So that's kind of your default plan, and then if the team shows you it might be vulnerable to other types of pitches ...
Right. I might set them up with another pitch. But I'm still keeping a steady dose of fastballs coming.
How precise are you right now with aiming to particular locations, as opposed to [just] trying to throw strikes?
I'm pretty confident that I'll hit the spot at least 80 percent of the time, the spot that I'm looking for in or out, especially when I'm all timed up and I'm feeling great. Everybody makes those mistakes now and then. It's just how I can minimize the amount of mistakes that I make.
How important is it to you, or to the Pirates, to keep the ball down?
Oh, it's very important. Depending on the hitter, if you keep that ball down, especially knee-high, on the black, you're going to get a lot of groundouts [and] keep your pitch count low. This organization is about keeping your pitch count low, throwing in, and getting early, weak contact.