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Interview: Jerry Blevins

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On Thursday, I was able to interview A’s relief pitcher Jerry Blevins via phone. Thank you first and foremost to Jerry for taking the time before the game to speak with me and volunteer to do the interview. A very close second I would like to thank the Oakland A’s for helping to facilitate the interview, the organization has been more than helpful in giving me opportunities like this to bring these interviews to all the Athletics Nation readers and for that I am greatly appreciative. Without further adieu, here is the interview:

Me: Thank you again for doing this. How about we just jump straight in?

Blevins: Sounds good.

Me: My blog post about you and the optional waivers remains my blogs most popular post. This season you are out of options and for a lot of players being out of options might be a time for concern, but it almost seems like with you it means in contrast to last year you are certain to stay in Oakland instead of being shuttled to Sacramento, do you view it as almost a good thing this year or does it loom over your head a bit?

Blevins: For me personally it is a good thing. It is about "are you good enough to play in the big leagues?". If your numbers are good well you stay. It’s all on you. It is strictly about performance. If you not you hopefully get a shot with another club. But, it is a relief. It’s good that it is all on my shoulders, it is not dependent upon others or other roster decisions.

Me: You went back-and-forth between Sacramento I think six times last year.

Blevins : Yeah it was something like that.

Me: With that, you may feel the splits don’t even matter at that point, but last year at the MLB level you had a noticeable difference between the first and second half stats. Did you make any changes from the first half to the second half?

Blevins: I don’t look at splits or stats in general. I go off of how I feel; what my catchers are saying; and other people’s stats – the hitters and guys I am facing. I prefer to figure out the hitter as opposed to figuring out what I am doing myself. I don’t look at day/night, first or second half. I go by how I feel.

Me: Then given that you are looking at how hitters do against you, what are you looking at? Is it their past performance, do you look at how pitchers similar to you approach them and what’s worked?

Blevins: That’s a good question. I don’t look at their particular at bats against me numbers-wise. I look at how they do first pitch. How aggressive they are with the first pitch; how aggressive they are with runners in scoring position; what’s a good out pitch against them; what are their strengths and weaknesses – is it going inside or away; where to put a breaking ball. In the A’s scouting reports reports they give us hot and cold zones for players and show us where they are. First pitch swinging is one thing that is important.

Me: So first pitch swinging to you and the difference between down 1-0 or up 0-1 is a obviously pretty important to your game plan?

Blevins: Yeah it is. If a player is a first pitch fastball hitter and we need a double play. I put that pitch down low enough where he puts it on the ground, and hopefully he is aggressive and gets the double play. It is more situational.

Me: I know you said you don’t look at splits, but there is a home/road split for you that is noticeable. We all know the Coliseum is a great pitchers park, and a ball that might end up 10 rows deep and strike two in Detroit is a foul out in Oakland. Does that give you a lot of confidence and help push those home split numbers or is it a matter of being at home, having your locker, routines, etc?

Blevins: I don’t look at home/away stats but there is an advantage pitching at the Coliseum a lot or more often. If you fall behind there you are more inclined to be secure with putting a fastball in play. In Oakland even if they hit it well, chances are it is not a homer, knock on wood. Better chance it stays in the ballpark at the Coliseum. You definitely feel more confident here than at Yankee Stadium where half of the pop ups go out.

Me: Going back to 2007. Can you describe what that year was like? You start off in the Florida State League with Daytona, get traded, win the Pacific Coast League championship and then next day make your MLB debut. What was that year like for you?

Blevins: A whirlwind season. I started off going to Daytona and then making the move to Double-A there with Tennessee in Knoxville, getting traded at the deadline and going to Midland, getting brought up for playoffs in Sacramento, winning a championship thinking that was it, then getting the call up the next day. The tears, the realization of a dream it still gets me choked up today. Made my debut I think, it was the second day in the big leagues. Pretty crazy and then I also got to wear the team USA colors after that season.

Me: Speaking of Team USA, you won the gold medal at the Baseball World Cup in Taipei on a team with guys like Evan Longoria. It snapped a ten year reign for Cuba too right? What was the difference between playing in Taiwan for national pride compared to playing with the A’s as a Major League player in Tokyo this spring?

Blevins: Pitching with team USA and playing in Taiwan was firstly about national pride and also there is a difference in international baseball as opposed to how we played as two Major League teams in Japan. There is a lot more smallball, it really is just about getting any outs, and the pace of game is different. You are never going to see, and I haven’t had the opportunity yet to play in the playoffs in the big leagues, but I have never seen a team be more united than when you are representing your country. Everyone plays no matter what is asked of you, or what happens or what it means player-wise. It is really refreshing, and really opening eye opening. We had such guys with so much talent on that team, Evan Longoria, Jeff Karstens, Colby Rasmus, and everyone lays down their personal pride for a nation. It is really inspiring. And I think it was Cuba’s first loss in 27 years*. It’s good because it gives me some bragging rights over Cespedes.

Author’s Note*: We are both wrong. The Cubans had won nine straight Baseball World Cups having won in 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005. Depending on how you choose to count, the Cubans had never lost in either 23 years (starting with their 1984 win) or had failed to lose a tournament in 25 years (following the 1982 tournament won by South Korea in which Cuba did not participate). In another counting, if you only count tournaments that they had participated in it is even longer as this was the first time America ever won a Baseball World Cup that Cuba participated in. Furthermore, outside of the Baseball World Cup, Cuba at this point had a very long string of international competition victories in various tournaments.

Me: Is he (Cespedes) learning English?

Blevins: He is really trying, and putting forth a real effort. We have Ariel Prieto helping him out and he is learning. "Hello", "how are you?", "how’s everything going?", he’s got that down. His ears are open and his mind is open to learning the language.

Me: You walked onto the baseball team at the University of Dayton. When you were looking at colleges, did you choose UD because of the school and was baseball as an afterthought, or was it the team and you planned on playing your way on?

Blevins: Baseball was a total afterthought, it was academics. I chose Dayton purely academically and one day me and my roommate we were walking back from class and in the dorms we saw a poster for tryouts this Saturday a tone. We both tried out and I made it.

Me: So if there was somebody telling you on your first day of freshman orientation, hey you’re going to be a Major League pitcher today, you wouldn’t have believed them?

Blevins: No chance. I still don’t believe it. Half the time when I’m out there and I lookup, I don’t believe it now.

Me: Now one final silly question, you are listed at 6’6 and 175 lbs, so you are probably the skinniest guy on the team.

Blevins: Yeah hands down!

Me: Do you eat any junk food and if so what do you like, or do you just have the world’s greatest metabolism?

Blevins: I lose weight by chewing food. I eat when I feel like it. If that looks like it tastes delicious, then I’ll eat it. I’ve never watched calories. I once tried to put weight on, ate 7500 calories a day and my metabolism just picked up. I can’t put weight on, and I can’t lose it. I played winter ball in Colombia, and most people got sick at first adjusting to the food. I did too and then the metabolism slowed down. Once I felt better, it picked back up. Just can’t change my weight. I watch my cholesterol and stuff but calories no.

Me: Everyone in America is now going to hate you! Thank you for doing this!

Blevins: My pleasure. Thanks.