In a Pirates minor-league clubhouse, you'll see a lot of tall, skinny guys walking around, and a lot of them are pitchers, as the team has stocked up on this type of player in recent drafts. While Mitch Keller has gotten the headlines on the West Virginia Power pitching staff, J.T. Brubaker and Logan Sendelbach are a couple more promising arms. Here's what we talked about last weekend:
How did your experience last year, struggling a little early but quickly bouncing back to have a great first season, help you?
The first couple starts were rough because I still had that college mentality of, I’m better than you. You still need to have that, but it’s not so much being able to get away with throwing the baseball. Here you need to be able to pitch. Last year I picked that up pretty quickly, learning how to pitch down at the knees and let the offspeed work off of it instead of, in college, just throwing the ball in there and letting the hitters get themselves out.
What's it like pitching in the Pirates organization?
They’re not trying to make us do anything special. They’re basically telling us to trust what we have, throw down in the zone and work in and out with the fastball, and let everything else play off of that when need be.
How has your pitching arsenal been working this year?
Right now everything seems to be working pretty well. The slider's pretty good. I just threw yesterday and my changeup was really good. I would say the pitch I most need to work on is probably my curveball, just being able to throw it for a strike and in an 0-2 situation, down in the dirt, when need be. Everything else seems to be playing off of everything. The slider is playing off the fastball. The changeup seems to be playing off the fastball very well.
Does pitching in college help deepen your arsenal for professional baseball?
I’m not too sure. If you’re able to execute your pitches, it does matter, but also at the same time it doesn’t. Because if you can execute your fastball down and away and, say, you have a changeup, and if you can throw it on the same plane, guys are going to swing and miss, roll it over and pop it up. You’re going to get outs. It helps to have more weapons in your back pocket to break out, something maybe in the fifth inning a hitter hasn’t seen yet. Yeah, that helps, but if you can execute the pitches you have, you’ll be perfectly fine.
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How have things been going so far this season?
I've just been trying to fill up the zone and a little below, get a lot of ground balls. That's what they preach to us in spring training -- own the inner half, keep hitters uncomfortable. Once they see me a couple times, maybe that's when I start mixing in pitches. Once they see the fastball, that's when I try to mix it up.
So, you have a fastball and a slider. What else are you working with?
Slider, changeup and a curveball. I don’t use my curveball as much, but they worked with me down in spring training on a new changeup grip and it’s been pretty good, really effective so far, just mixing up speeds, that’s been helping.
How have you adapted to a new level?
It’s been fun so far with good defense behind me and a good offense in the dugout. That’s been fun to play with. Most of these guys are new for me. I haven’t played with a bunch of them. I only played with two or three of them last season (in Bristol). … Playing with these new guys has been fun.
What are your goals for the season?
Obviously moving up would be awesome, but I’m just trying to be reliable. Quality starts out there every time, just to be able to be counted on.
What's it like pitching in the Pirates organization? You mentioned they preach certain things, and they bring in a lot of similar guys.
It’s nice having an overall standard for us to pitch in. We definitely pitch in with our fastballs. It’s nice to not differ from a lot of guys. If you’re in trouble, you can go to other guys and see what they’re doing, what they’re having success with.