Imagine my surprise when I heard from Staten Island Advance reporter Mike Lee over email and he volunteered to do an interview with A's prospect Andrew Bailey, who just so happened to have graduated from Staten Island's Wagner College. Bailey was a sixth round pick of the A's back in 2006 and has hit a few bumps in the road along the way including Tommy John surgery. But he appears to be rounding into form at just the right time in the A's organization. That is, there should be plenty of opportunity for guys in the system who perform well over the next few years.
Without further ado, here is the AN interview with Andrew Bailey.
Athletics Nation (Mike Lee): Good morning Andrew. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Before we begin, can you introduce yourself to readers who may not be familiar to you?
Andrew Bailey: You’re welcome, for those who may not be familiar with me. My name is Andrew Bailey and am currently a minor league pitcher in the Oakland A's organization.
AN: Before being drafted in the sixth round in 2006, you experienced Tommy John surgery in 2005. Your stock predictably dropped and you were taken in the 16th round by the Milwaukee Brewers that year, but you chose instead to stay at Wagner. You returned to pitch 10 months after the surgery. How were you able to recover not only so quickly but so effectively as well?
Bailey: After having Tommy John in 05’ I knew that I would most definitely be heading back to Wagner to finish my degree. I knew that with the help of the training staff and coaches at Wagner, they would get me to where I needed to be. It was a long a tough decision I had to make, but in the end I feel like it work out for the best.
Going into the draft in 2006 I knew I needed to get some innings in so some of the teams would be able to see me. It really just took a lot of hard work to get back after only 10 months. I really can’t say enough about Coach (Joe) Litterio and the Training staff at Wagner for the way they pushed me and helped me recover to where I am today
AN: Those who follow the A’s know the team takes risks in their evaluation of players. Were you surprised at all that it took a team like the A’s to draft you in the sixth round?
Bailey: Going into the 06 draft I really didn’t hear anything from the Oakland A’s, so I guess you could say yes, I was a little surprised that the A’s drafted me. Once I heard my name called I couldn’t have been happier though when I heard it was the Oakland A’s, because I knew that they were known for developing their young pitchers and they have a rich history of bringing up young players especially pitchers.
AN: Normally it takes two years for a pitcher to reclaim his command following Tommy John surgery. Now that you are nearly three years removed from the operation, do you feel, thinking back to last season, that your command was where it should have been?
Bailey: I was definitely concerned about my command going into last year, because like you said, all you hear is how it takes a full two years to come back from Tommy John. As the season went on last year, I felt as if I was gaining more and more of my command back. In college I was more of a thrower than a pitcher, so last year was a big year for me in that I really finally understood "pitching" rather than just throwing. Going into this year I am very confident in the command of all my pitches, and its something I will continue to work on throughout my career.
AN: Discuss your pitching style. What are your strengths and what might a batter have to think about when facing Andrew Bailey?
Bailey: Haha..that's a good question.
I think when hitters face me they know that they will probably see a lot of fastballs. I throw a 4 seam fastball that is actually more like a cutter at times which cuts away from a right handed batter. I also throw a 2 seam fastball that will move into the hands of a righty or away from a lefty. I also have a curveball which I can throw slower almost just like a "get me over pitch" or I can throw it a little harder and bounce in on the plate to use as a strikeout pitch. I also throw a changeup which for me is always a work in progress, I am feeling more comfortable with it heading into this season and will use it more and more, my changeup basically will just create deception off of my fastball.
AN: You mention your changeup as a work in progress. Your manager at Wagner, Joe Litterio, has said in an interview that your biggest challenge will be to improve your secondary pitches in order to reach the majors. Is your changeup the biggest change you have made since you have been drafted?
Bailey: The changeup for me was probably the hardest pitch for me to get down. I finally feel comfortable with it now. Since I’ve been with the A’s I have been to two Instructional leagues camps, which takes place in the fall. There we have worked very hard on getting the changeup down. Like I said I feel very comfortable with that pitch now. I would have to say that actually my mechanics have been the biggest change since becoming apart of the A’s organization. With the help of the pitching coaches in the A’s system, they have totally changed my mechanics for the good. I pitched all last season with my new mechanics. It is a slower and less violent delivery then what I had in college.
Coach Litterio is right; my secondary pitches are what I needed to work on the most to get to the major leagues. I will continue to work hard on those pitches, but with each and every outing I am feeling more comfortable with them.
AN: In your Minor League career, you have pitched a total of 125 innings, virtually all with Kane County and Stockton. In those innings you have allowed a total of 14 home runs and 54 walks. Although you have pitched in leagues that favor hitters greatly, these are extremely high numbers, especially the walks. Have the Oakland coaching staffs discussed these numbers with you and, if so, what has been established in trying to lower those totals?
Bailey: Those numbers are high and baseball is a game where you always need to work on parts of your own game. Going into this season I will be working on my command to lower the number of walks and also to get more innings in to help my team win. If you are able to lower the number of walks and make the difference of that number outs then you are in the end giving your team a better shot of winning. So my biggest goal this year is to lower the number of walks and to get deeper into the games.
The home runs are a bit high as well, but for those you just have to tip your cap to the hitter. I think that is a result of me pitching up in the zone. Like I said before I like to challenge hitters with my fastball and sometimes they get me. This season I will look to work down in the zone to hopefully lower the number of home runs I give up.
AN: Have you ever read Moneyball? Whether you have or not, how much weight do you place on statistical analysis?
Bailey: No, I have actually never read Moneyball. I do think that statistical analysis plays an important role in baseball because stats are used as a guideline for comparison. Everyone knows baseball is a game of stats, but sometimes I think baseball is decided by stats alone rather than the competitiveness of the players on the field.
AN: What if someone said you will not have lasting success in the majors because your fly ball to ground ball ratio is too disproportioned and your strikeouts per nine innings was, say, four? Is it uncomfortable for a pitcher to pitch for an organization that is numbers-driven, who may attribute any success you may have to luck?
Bailey: If someone said to me that I would not have lasting success in the majors because of those numbers. I would say to them that that is clearly their opinion, and no I don’t feel uncomfortable at all because I know that I will always try to put my team in the best position to win. I think that as I move up through the minor league ranks I will gain more and more skill and experience to maybe adjust those numbers if need be in the future. As for right now I feel totally comfortable with where I am at today and will continue to work hard and do what I do best.
AN: The A’s as you know have been active in the trade market this offseason. General Manager Billy Beane has traded quality major league talent in order to rebuild the organization’s farm system. In doing so Beane acquired four pitchers who project as starters. As a player trying to ascend the system, do you see the trajectory of your career perhaps pushed back because of these trades?
Bailey: As a pitcher trying to move up the system and seeing the A’s make so many moves in the off season I really do not see my trajectory pushed back at all. If anything at all these trades just make you work that much harder, whether its in the gym, running, throwing a bullpen or etc...
When I heard about the trades our GM Billy Beane made I was surprised at first, but then I thought maybe Billy Beane knows exactly what he has in the Farm system as far as pitching for the future and I am hoping that he continues to give those chances to the younger players in the organization. So I really don’t see my trajectory pushed back at all, it just ensured me to make that extra push forward.
AN: The A’s are an organization that takes advantage of a salary scale that enables them to draft players and control their rights for seven years before they reach free-agency. Does this relax you as a player, knowing the probability is high that you will be a member of one organization for several years?
Bailey: I think just being part of the Oakland organization is an honor in itself. I really don’t worry about how long I will be a member of the organization, rather worrying about how I perform on the field to solidify myself a part of an organization in general. Yes, I would like it to be the A’s, but the main goal is to get to the Big Leagues no matter what team it is. Just knowing that you can go out there and be apart of professional baseball especially with the A’s is something special in itself. You can never really be relaxed when you think about your probability of staying with an organization because in the end it really isn’t in your hands. You really just have to go out there compete to put your team in the best position to win every time.
AN: Blogs have become a major part in the coverage of both the minor and major leagues. USS Mariner, a blog devoted to the Seattle Mariners, wrote an open letter to the Mariner’s pitching coach, Rafael Chaves, last year suggesting pitcher Felix Hernandez be less predictable with his pitch pattern. Chaves passed this information along to his young pitcher, who then went out and dominated the A’s. Are you aware that bloggers have become, in a way, a new kind of scout for today’s game, and would you be receptive to this kind of advice were you to stumble upon it on Athletics Nation?
Bailey: When it comes to blogs and internet websites, I really think that they are a good tool for fans to talk about their favorite teams. Everybody loves to play GM and coach, even I do too. But when it comes down to it, you just have to listen to your coaches and trainers and do what is best for you. If you are that type of player who likes to look at the blogs and internet stories, then sure I feel you can listen to whomever you want.
During my stay in Kane County I was asked to write weekly on a blog for a local newspaper. I felt as if it were more for the fans to help them visualize the daily life of a minor leaguer rather then being used for advice for me or the team in general.
If I stumbled upon some kind of advice someone was trying to give me, sure I would give it consideration and if I felt it would be to my advantage I would first probably ask my coach or trainer if it’s the right thing for me.
AN: You were called up at the end of last year to make one start for Triple AAA Sacramento. Have you received word yet if you will be returning to Sacramento?
Bailey: My start in Sacramento is something I will never forget. Not too many players get to experience that level of baseball and to have success at that level is something I am truly thankful for. I knew going into that start I really needed to make the best of an opportunity. I looked at that start as an opportunity to show the organization what I can do at a high level of baseball.
As for where I will start this year, I have no idea. I’m going into spring training with an open mind and wherever the organization needs me to play I will play. All I know is that with each and every start I need to go out there and compete to put my team in the best position to win.
AN: I would like to thank you Andrew for taking the time to speak with Athletics Nation. Good luck on the upcoming season.
Bailey: You’re welcome and my pleasure.
I wanted to say thank you to Mike Lee for approaching me with this opportunity. This was an excellent interview that was very well done.