Since this is our first time talking to you, tell us a little about yourself.
I like to throw groundballs. That's kind of my game plan. I try to get some contact when I throw. If I get two strikes, I try to put guys away. The whole philosophy is you try to get an out with three pitches. If you do that, you're successful. That's always been my approach toward hitters. I don't think I have an overpowering fastball, but I think I have some pretty good secondary pitches like an above-average slider. As far as my fastball goes, I rely a lot on movement and sink.
Having talked to one of your coaches with the Orioles and with the Cubs' Scouting Director, Tim Wilken, we'd been told you're a sinkerball specialist. Is that a fair assessment and what can you tell us about your sinker?
The sinker is something I've been working on since I got to pro ball. Once you get to pro ball and you have a lot better infielders, you learn that some times it's a lot easier to have the hitter put the ball on the ground and have your defense take care of the rest. The pitch has definitely been a work-in-progress for me. I think last year was the first year I really embraced it and tried to work with it. The year before, I had a natural movement that just came with switching from college ball to pro ball.
When I got down in the count 2-0 last year, instead of throwing a fastball I'd throw a sinker – something the hitter would chase and maybe hit into the ground. It got me into trouble some times, and some times it worked. It was a situation where my pitching coach (Blaine Beatty) kept coming to me and telling me that that's why I was in the minors: to work on things like that.
Give us a rundown of your complete repertoire.
I throw a four- and two-seam fastball, a sinker and kind of a slurve. Some days it's more of a slider and some days it's more of a curveball. It just depends on the day I guess. I also throw a changeup and splitfinger.
That's interesting because we'd been told you had shelved a slider in favor of a curve.
To me, it's the same pitch and I keep the grip the same. There's just a difference in how I finish it with the release point. Some times I try to break it off and make it a curveball and other times I try to back-door it to a left-handed hitter. To me it's the same pitch, but some people call it a curve and others call it a slider, depending on the pitch. It's a "feel" pitch for me, so I try to do it differently depending on the situation.
How much of a difference is there between your sinker and two-seam fastball?
Actually, there's no difference at all in terms of grip. I've seen some guys hold their sinkers differently, but for me, I try to throw my two-seamer with the same velocity as my four-seamer. The sinker itself, I throw it with the same grip, but the ball has some natural sink to it so I throw it nice and easy and let the ball do the rest of the work. There's not a whole lot of difference.
Part two of our interview with Kevin Hart will appear later this week.