Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 8)

Hey! Hope everyone’s had a great week! There has been a lot of player movement in the minor leagues this week, as opening-day rosters are being finalized. We break camp on Sunday, and without taking anything for granted, it’s looking like I’m headed to AA Midland to start the season (Colorado Fan, that answers your question). I’m excited for the opportunity to take my new delivery into the season and try to help a team win some ballgames. I got to dress for a few more major league games this week, but no more game action.

To get to more of your questions, I’m going to keep the intro short and sweet and just start answering...

*Do you have any thoughts on or feelings that you would be willing to share about the PEDs issue? -- IM4Oakgal

I’m totally against them. To me, there’s more to life than making money, and I’m not someone who will do absolutely anything to make the major leagues. I try to work as hard as I can on a daily basis, but if I get to the majors, I want to know that my God-given ability and hard work are what got me there, not help from illegal drugs.

From a player’s standpoint, one minor thing I wish they would change about the plan is this: I wish they would notify a player when his sample was tested, and that he came back clean. In the minor leagues, when we’re tested, every non-40-man player in the locker room gives a sample, and then MLB randomly selects which samples are tested. However, no one ever knows if their sample was selected unless they have a positive test. Many players take dietary health supplements, protein shakes, etc., to try to benefit themselves as much as possible. However, we never really know if what we’re taking is 100% ok, or if we were simply not selected to have our sample tested. I just wish they would notify guys if their sample came up clean.



*Can you tell us who some of your favorite MLB players have been over the years? -- baseballgirl

Without going into a lot of detail (I’ll try to put them in chronological order)...
Bret Saberhagen, Mark McGwire, Kurt Stillwell, David Justice, John Smoltz, Billy Wagner, Tim Hudson, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Grady Sizemore, David Wright.

Justice was my favorite for a long time, and Hudson’s always been my favorite pitcher since he first broke into the majors with Oakland. There are a lot of other guys that I really admire and I think play the game passionately. Two that come to mind: Mike Piazza & Derek Jeter. I love watching those guys run to first on infield groundouts – it’s truly 100% hustle.



*Do any players follow any particular publications, websites, or blogs? Ever hear anybody mention, oh I dunno, AN for example? -- Sixto

Every time a new issue of Baseball America comes out, we get copies in the clubhouse. Also, I’ve had several players who have asked me about my blog, and I’m not sure how they originally found out that I was doing it. The reaction has seemed to be very positive, and a few players (no names) have been reading on a weekly basis.



*Why do pitchers have better stuff on some days and not on others? Along a similar vein how does the organization try and keep pitchers healthy and consistent? -- niallmack

To answer your first question: I have no idea...and if you get an answer, please let me know -- I'll split the profits with you. That was always one of the toughest things to figure out when I was starting. One philosophy I’ve always had, though: it’s easier to pitch when you feel great...it’s the days where you’re really having to battle that make the difference between a good season and a mediocre/bad season. Those are the days that can either kill an ERA or you survive, control the damage, and start getting ready for the next start.

I think the biggest thing a pitcher can do is find a routine that works for him and try to stick to it as much as possible. So much of baseball is muscle-memory, and getting your body into a habitual pattern often breeds success.



*I went to spring training last week, and got to see you throw a bullpen in Peoria against the Padres.  However, as you were in there, a lefty submariner was pitching in the game.  Does that make you regret your decision to change at all, or do you feel your chances to excell have not diminished? -- GOakland

Absolutely no regret. For one thing, Jay Marshall (the lefty) is a really nice guy. His motion is designed specifically for him to get left-handed hitters out, while hoping to be able to get righties out, as well. Mine is the opposite: designed to get righties out. If we’re ever on the same team together, I’d hope we’d be able to complement each other well to allow a manager to pick match-ups late in games.



*Who is the best hitter you've faced so far at all levels and why? What stadium has the most fun atmosphere and also which one is the hardest to pitch in so far? -- StrikeThree

In high school, Albert Pujols. In college, Ryan Howard (in intrasquads). I think those two need no explanation. In pro ball, the best hitter I’ve faced is Howie Kendrick. While I had some success against him (as did other guys on my teams), I’m not sure I ever got him to swing-and-miss at any pitch. And he’s a guy that many people have predicted to win a batting crown at some point in his career.

One of the best atmospheres for me to pitch in was in Springfield, MO, because of all the friends and family that came to watch me pitch in my hometown. But as far as going to watch a game as a fan (or charting pitches in the stands), Corpus Christi has a great stadium with a fabulous atmosphere – very knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going there the last two years.

The hardest stadium for me to pitch in, to this point, is Tulsa. The ball carries well there, and I had a horrible outing in my first start there last year (6 home runs allowed in 3 innings...including the first 3 batters of the game). I just seemed to have trouble keeping the ball out of the top of the strike zone, for some reason, and they weren’t missing my mistakes.



I hope everyone has a great week. Next Monday’s edition will be exciting, because it will be Opening Day of the Major League season! Also, rosters will be finalized, and I’ll have a better idea of what the early season schedule holds for my teammates and me. And to everyone on the west coast: enjoy the Battle Of The Bay!

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