AN Exclusive: Nico Throws Curve Balls At Jesse Chavez

7th time's a charm, as Jesse Chavez is poised to thrive in Oakland's 2014 rotation. - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Only in the sense that I try to avoid asking players the same questions they always get asked. However, as hard as it is for opposing batters to handle Jesse Chavez curve balls, the A's right-hander who will start Wednesday against Cleveland handled every curve I thew at him with ease. I hope you get a sense of who Chavez is through this interview, as that is always among my goals.

Bay Bridge Series Update, 2:25pm: With the return of the rain, today's game has been canceled. The good news is that no one will be injured playing in a meaningless game. We now await the official announcement of the Opening Day 25-man roster. -Nico

Bay Bridge Series Update, 1:45pm: The game is still in a rain delay with the tarp on the field and no starting time yet announced. However, the rain has let up considerably and they are still hoping to play.

Bay Bridge Series Update, 12:40pm: The game will not start on time and it's dubious as to whether they will be able to play it at all.

This interview took place one week ago today, in the A's dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium one day prior to Chavez's final Cactus League start.

Nico: First of all, you've been with 7 organizations, been with a lot of different  ways can construct themselves, you've been in different stages of your career. How similar or different would you say that different organizations are that you've been a part of?

Jesse Chavez: Each one's different. Each one has their own personality. Each one has their own history. You can tell how they are by the way they're seen on the field, and how they're perceived by other teams - which determines their success. Obviously here it's a great atmosphere. The fans love us and that gives us the confidence to go out there and perform to satisfy them. Another one would be Atlanta....So there's teams out there that I've played on that have the history; it's just a matter of everyone coming together, as it is for any team in any sport, and that's what I think we do so well here. You just all mesh together, all of our personalities, which is a good thing.

Nico: When you first came up you were awfully young. You were thrown into the fire pretty quickly. As you see players -- you see Addison Russell, you see Sonny Gray, you see Daniel Robertson, Billy McKinney -- do you look back with advice about how they should handle it? You know, I wish I hadn't ____?

Chavez: They'll learn (what) I learned: every level I went up the game got faster.  If you can just slow it down. When you feel it getting fast, when you get to the point where you ask yourself, "How did this happen?" that's when you know it's going too fast, so that's when you have to take a step back and slow the game down yourself. That's the biggest advice you can give anybody in this game at any position, whether it be catcher, pitcher, 2B, SS, whatever it is: Just slow the game down and it's more of a relaxing mode and you can be more comfortable at it.

Nico: What was it like, if you go back to some of the times where you were talented but not successful -- and now you're talented and very successful -- besides not being able to slow the game down, what was it that was't working for you that's working now?

Chavez: I just missed middle of the plate. I threw hard at the time, I was young, I thought I could get guys out with my fastball and I lived by it. And I died by it. That's what got me hurt; I didn't go to my secondary pitches. I wanted to get beat with my best pitch, which is what any pitcher wants. And unfortunately enough it was down the middle, and you can't do that.

Nico: And then the development of the cutter seems like it's made a significant difference in just your ability to vary your repertoire. First of all, how did that come about? How did it come about that you would try to develop a cutter?

Chavez: I would always mess around with it just to get back on track with my slider, just so I could stay on top of it and get out front with it. And then I'd go back to my slider. The slider never really adapted to righties as much as I'd like it to. I was good against lefties with it, so went to Winter Ball in Mexico I fully committed myself to throwing a cutter. And it worked out; I liked it.

Nico: How do you see your pitches now in terms of your confidence, your success. What's your first best, second best, third best comfort level?

Chavez: Still gonna stay with my fastball, whether it be 4-seam or sinker, because I know I can put it where I want to. Then it's a tossup between my cutter and curve ball. I like both of them. They both have their own characteristic; one's slower, one's harder. And my changeup's there, and that's one thing I had early in my career. It got away (from) me a couple years ago when I had to change arm angles, but it's coming back now and it's one pitch I'm glad I got back.

Nico: Especially if you're in the rotation.

Chavez: Yeah.

Nico: I'd to also just learn a little bit about you, your history, how you got here. What was life for you like growing up? Your family, your situation: What should we know about you to understand where you've come from?

Chavez: I was an only child till I was 12. I grew up in Fontana, California, 45 minutes east of L.A. Played football and baseball growing up. My dad always had me in sports. He worked nights, so we one year (when) had school at a 9:00am start, he'd take me out every day before school, working on either football or baseball just to keep me busy. He didn't want me to fall into that trap of being in Fontana and being lazy and being out of sports and not (taking care of) myself. But...normal childhood.

Nico: If I were to watch you in middle school, high school, there's always different personalities: The classroom clown, the very serious one. What were you?

Chavez: I was the quiet, reserved one. At the same time I cracked jokes every now and then...Never got into any trouble that warranted any attention, but I guess just an average kid. I didn't want to be in the spotlight. I didn't want to be the popular one; I just wanted to go about my business.

Nico: Did you end up in the spotlight athletically? Were you noticed?

Chavez: Just on the field; in school, same person. I didn't use that at all. I didn't walk around with my head high. No need for that. Because I didn't want to be "that guy". You always heard about that guy, as a kid growing up going to high school. There's that egotistical...(pause)...I'm not gonna say it...guy on the football team or the baseball team that thinks he's the best and they only like him for that reason. I didn't want to be that guy.

Nico: You probably know this: Someday, you're going to reach an age where you're not able to pitch or be in baseball anymore. Do you have any idea what the next career, or phase of life, might be whenever you retire?

Chavez: Baseball players like to say, "I want to get away from the game for a little bit," but you're gonna stay in it one way or another. So it's probably going to be in baseball, whether it be coaching in organized sports, or whether it's back home at high school or traveling on a team with my kids, or grand-kids.

Nico: Ok last question, just if we're trying to get to know you: What should we know about you in order to understand who you are and what's important to you?

Chavez: I like to use the mound to express my personality. Whether it be the little fire I get after I get an out, or if I give up a hit at a crucial time you'll see what kind of personality I have. And that's what I tell my kids, and younger kids that I give lessons to, is that's the only place you can be yourself and that's where they have to accept you whether they like it or not. So if you can out there and be yourself and express your personality, it's a good place to show them who you are.

Nico: So whatever we see on the mound, that's Jesse.

Chavez: Yeah, you'll see me laughing, having fun too. But at the same time, you'll know the reason why I am.

It sounds like with Chavez "what you see is what you get". And at the moment, what the A's are getting from Chavez is just better and better. Today's final game of the Bay Bridge Series is currently in doubt thanks to steady rain. Look for updates at the top of this post.

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