A year after the Pirates selected him out of the University of Virginia in the fifth round of the draft, the 22-year-old Brandon Waddell was pitching, and starting, in Class AA Altoona. Last weekend, I spoke to Waddell about how he's gotten to this point; here's the transcript, lightly edited for length and clarity.
How have you been adjusting to AA and moving up quickly in a year?
I'm really trying to learn, obviously, this being my first full year in pro ball. It's been a good experience. At the beginning of the year I certainly didn't expect to be here, but having an opportunity like that is something you can't take for granted. It's just going out every time you start and throw, trying to learn something and take something from it. A lot of the guys we face here are big leaguers. You don't see that really at the lower levels. A lot of the guys you've played against have been in the big leagues or have been called up throughout the year. It's been a cool experience, a lot of fun, and I'm trying to learn from everything.
Does your experience in a larger college program and your particular profile, with a command-type profile and mature arsenal, lend you to being a guy that can succeed at a quick jump?
It definitely helps. It goes a long way. The guys you're going to face at a program like Virginia or anybody in the ACC, it's really high-caliber baseball. That helps, not only experience-wise. I was just talking about being here, but also, you know your stuff can play. You've played in big games. A lot of the guys that we go against here, I played against in school, so that's pretty cool. Having that experience and being able to learn from those experiences, and the quality of the coaching staff (at Virginia) is unbelievable. The stuff that they taught me and the stuff that I learned while I was there for three years, I wouldn't be where I am today without it. It's something I'm really thankful for.
How have your pitches been coming along up here? What's been working for you?
We haven't really touched much on this pitch or that pitch, trying to make one better. It's been about attacking guys, commanding the strike zone, working down, quality pitches, all that kind of stuff. Calling your own game and stuff like that. That's been the biggest development for me, being able to read swings, trusting your gut with what you've got and just going out there and attacking.
Which of your secondary pitches, if any, have you leaned on more?
To start the season, the slider was more of my out pitch. I felt comfortable with it, able to put it where I wanted to. Changeup usage has been huge as well, learning how to fully use that and command that, because it's a great pitch and it's a pitch you definitely need to continue on past AA. That's been my focus. Then I've got the curveball, which I don't use quite as much. I'd say the slider and changeup I use about evenly, but the curveball comes in behind that. I've been trying to focus on using that more and getting more consistent with that. I got away from that for a while there, so I'm trying to get back into it and use it, because before I got here I used them all about the same. That can help a lot if you've got four pitches you can command consistently. There's been a focus to try and get that one back up to where it was. Besides that, I'd say I use them all about evenly, but the slider's definitely more of a strikeout pitch.
How has that developed between you using what you like, coaches here seeing what they like and anyone else maybe organizationally? How has that worked together?
It's been good here, especially with the Pirates. Obviously, I don't know about other organizations besides small talk I have with guys I know, but they're really, really good about being on the same page. If a pitching coordinator comes around, he knows what you've been working on, and your pitching coach when you move up, they know what's going on. That's been huge, the communication aspect.