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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 3)

Well, I'm down in Arizona now. I completed the 18 hours of travel on Friday night, and after a relaxing weekend, things start to heat up today. This afternoon will be my first workout at the complex, so I'm excited to get out there and get in the swing of things.

Since there has been very little baseball activity so far, I'll do another installment of answering more questions from the first journal entry...

* How does the philosophy in the Phillies organization differ from the A's organization? -- Hang Man

Right now, I can't speak much about the Phillies' pitching philosophies. I do know that the farm director at that time, Mike Arbuckle, is now the assistant GM. Their minor league pitching coordinator, Gorman Heimueller, however, was still in that role for them as recently as last year.

At the time I was with the Phillies, there were major differences in the philosophies. The Phillies seemed to draft more high-risk, high-reward guys...guys that threw hard but needed a lot of refinement to get to the upper levels. The A's tended to draft more polished pitchers who weren't necessarily projected to be future aces but were much closer to helping out a big league ballclub.

I, personally, think that translates into better minor league teams - and, thus, better player morale. The Phillies short-season team in Batavia, NY, hasn't had a winning record since 2000. In 2003, when I was there (I pitched 6 innings of relief that summer), we were 30-45. Conversely, every team I've been on with the A's has made the playoffs (excluding my one-month stint in Sacramento last year - and that team finished 12 games over .500).

While velocity is definitely important, the A's prefer that we focus a little more on some other various aspects of pitching and not primarily on velo. One of the biggest reasons teams use radar gun readings in pro ball is to make sure pitchers are healthy (consistent velocity every outing), aren't tiring in games (no velocity drop in the late innings), and making sure off-speed pitches are at effective velocities in relation to that of the fastball.

(The next three questions were all submitted by xbhaskarx.)

* Why did the Phillies farm director not consider you to be good enough to pitch in low-A? Did he give a specific reason? Because it was only 6 innings, but your numbers in Batavia look quite good.

He did not give me a specific reason, other than they didn't think I was good enough to pitch in low-A, and I was too old to return to short-season. It was very frustrating, because I really didn't know what my future was or if my baseball career was over...and I felt like I hadn't gotten a fair chance to pursue it. However, I'm glad I've gotten the chance with Oakland. It's been a great run, and I'm really excited about what my future could be as a submariner.

* If you had a few contract offers, why did you choose to sign with the A's? Did it have anything to do with the A's drafting you in your junior year? Or was their offer somehow better than the others?

A little of both...

When I was released, the first thing my agent (Rob Martin) did was contact A's assistant GM David Forst to see if the team was interested. We hoped that they would be, based on the previous interest they showed by drafting me in 2002. However, at the end of spring training, everyone's always cutting down rosters, so there wasn't much room. The A's wanted to ensure I was healthy from my tendonitis issue, so they suggested I go play in an independent league first and then see if a spot opened up at some point during the season.

After a month in Schaumburg, IL (Northern League), I received three or four offers from teams (including Oakland) presenting me with a opportunity to get back into affiliated ball, but Rob thought I could potentially hold out for a slightly better offer. Less than a week later, the A's offered me a chance to pitch in the starting rotation in high-A Modesto. I agreed to the deal before Rob finished his sentence.

* You mention your W-L record, is that primarily what you as a pitcher judge your own performance by? Do you pay attention to things like k/9 or bb/9?

I definitely pay attention to K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) and BB/9 (walks), as well as H/9 (hits). There are lots of peripheral stats that have a lot of value, and the A's are one of the best (if not THE best) as using those stats to find valuable players.

However, as a starting pitcher, for me it was always about the bottom line: Did we win the game? I cared more about our team's won-loss record in the games I pitched more than I did about my own personal record. I can't control how well the other team's pitcher is throwing or how our offense is producing. But if I pitch well, I can keep us in the game and give us a chance to win (even if we don't have the lead when I leave the game). And my teammates always seemed to be very productive in the games I well as being solid (and at times, spectacular) defensively.

As a reliever, I'm just going to try to continue to take things one day at a time, one batter at a time, one pitch at a time. Hopefully I can fulfill my role each and every time out, because my role's likely to change with every outing. Again, it's about giving our team a chance to win. If I come in the game with the lead, did I let the other team get closer or even catch us? If the game's tied or we're behind, did I let them put some distance between us or keep us right there?

Next week, I'll continue answering some questions, as well as hopefully be able to give some good reports about the early spring training workouts. Enjoy the week (I know you will, because teams are reporting to camp)!!