I had a great time chatting with Kyle. Before I get started I want to thank Kyle for granting us the opportunity to dive into the mind of what we hope is going to be the next Greg Maddux! (His words not mine.) With that said I also wish to thank all of the readers for the great questions. Without you I would have been talking about golf the entire time!
Please find the interview notes below. All mistakes are mine and I can only hope that we get to do many of these in the future. Go Cubbies!!!
Johnny: First of all congratulations on your “Pitcher of the Year Award”. How did you end up celebrating?
Kyle: I actually kind of laid low but the biggest celebration was when I actually got to go to Chicago to get it. My parents and I went and it was just a blast, the whole time we were there. It was the first time we were able to see a game, go around the town for a couple of days, had a lot of good dinners. It was really the first time that I had been to Chicago. It was a blast the whole time we were there.
J: What did you think of Chicago?
K: I loved it! Absolutely loved it! The people, the food was amazing and hopefully I get to experience it again soon.
J: Did you get a chance to try out any of the good pizza joints out there like Lou Malnatis or Giordano’s?
K: No. We didn’t go to any of those pizza places. We had some deep dish pizza at Unos. It was delicious! To die for.
J: So speaking of Chicago, what was your first call with Theo Epstein like?
K: It was interesting. Very interesting. I was a little nervous to be honest. I missed his call because I didn’t recognize the number so I had to call him back. He congratulated saying we had a great year and we are all so proud of you and we want you to come to Chicago and get your award. And then he just had a little advice for me. He said you know you had a great year and here are some of the things we thought you needed to work on. Not really degrading or anything like that just words of wisdom. I’m always looking to improve so we talked about some things that I’m sure I could do through the off-season to get ready for next season.
J: What’s the breakdown on some of that stuff? Can you get into it with me?
K: Yes the biggest thing is left handed hitters. I have a good changeup but I have a lot easier time getting righties out. I actually do throw my changeup to right handed hitters and for some reason I always had trouble getting lefties out. But I made a lot of progress in the one month I was in Triple A with Mike Mason, the pitching coach. He started making me use my curve ball early in the count to lefties, like back dooring it. Just flipping it up there and I noticed a lot of time that they would just take it, so I started implementing that into my routine. Basically just trying to go after good left handed hitters. I saw a lot more success.
J: Would you call that your Slurve?
K: Yes slurve, curveball.
J: Now I know Theo stresses a lot about left handed hitting. Because you are in the Cubs organization you’re probably going to see a lot of left handers, at least in practice.
K: Exactly. That’s what I mean. I love that. I want to face all left handed hitters. That’s how you’ve got to do it, just reps and I will figure it out if I see enough of them.
J: Renteria said we need a whole bunch more pitching. What would you say is your time frame on making it to the show?
K: I can’t put my thumb on it. If I was always thinking about when I was going to make it, my timetable, I would probably drive myself crazy. I’m hoping that whenever they give me the opportunity that I can just take advantage of it. In order to do that I just need to focus on what I can control. This off-season I’m just getting in shape and doing my arm work and going through my throwing program. Everything I need to do to get ready for spring training.
J: What are you weighing right now?
K: 195, right around there.
J: Do you plan on bulking up?
K: Yes I’m trying to put on weight. When you show up to spring training you’re running around a lot more. You’re outside and you lose some weight and throughout the year you lose a little weight. But weight isn’t a huge issue for me really. It’s just more about strength. I’m trying to really strengthen up my legs to make it through the whole season. That was the big reason I was able to stay strong through the entire season last year. I had some really good off-season workouts and my legs were really strong and they carried me through to the end.
J: You have been with the Cubs and the Rangers. Are there major differences with the workout? What is each club emphasizing?
K: Not exactly, maybe a few details here and there. But for the most part all of the workouts are similar. One of the biggest differences I saw was some of the long toss regimens with Nolan Ryan at the helm with the Rangers. They want you to throw a lot of innings, be a work horse. There is a lot of long toss that gets instilled in that. Over at the Cubs it wasn’t as highly emphasized, although we did a lot of long toss. Don’t get me wrong. I would say that was one of the differences that I saw.
J: Did you get some time to spend with Nolan at all?
K: No I didn’t. I met him one time that was all.
J: Did you get some time with Yu Darvish or anyone over there?
K: I got to toss with John Daniels. John is a great guy. Really down to earth. Very similar to Theo. Both are great guys and they obviously know what they are doing, very successful so far.
J: What’s your impression of the “Cubs Way”?
K: It’s definitely on the up. They definitely have some players in the minor leagues. Like you said you always need more pitching. That’s what’s going to win games when you get down to it. There are a lot of young arms in this system that are going to be coming up and they are going to be really good. You gotta wait and that kinda sucks for the Cubs fans that have been waiting this long. It’s definitely on the up and up I can tell you that. The mind set has changed. It’s all about winning. That’s all we really care about.
J: I was reading an article the other day where the gentleman was saying that the mind set of the players and the fans impressions needs to change. When people look at the Cubs right now they go “Oh boo hoo, 105 years, look how cute they are, this team is playing the Cubs, we feel for them”. The mind set for the players and the fans needs to change to “Hey we’ve got some pretty badass guys out here and they’re throwing hard and there’s big guys out here that are hitting power shots. Could you explain how the “Cubs Way” is helping the players to have the mind set that we are all monsters out here and it’s no different then the Yankees?
K: Absolutely. This is basically my first full year with them but all I can attest to that 100% of the mind set is that we are going to win. We can go up against anybody. All the minor league teams that we have we competed against. The Daytona club won the championship down there. Smokies made the playoffs. Iowa was in the hunt up to the end. So the teams are competing throughout the organization. So it’s just carrying that to the big league level. With all this talent coming up it’s definitely going to happen.
J: Who in Iowa would you rather have on your team then have to face them?
K: That’s a tough one. There are a couple guys that I wouldn’t want to face. Mike Olt, he struggled I know, He had a rough year numbers wise. He is a good player and he is a threat every time he’s up at the plate. Brad Nelson over at first, he is just a classic professional hitter. He just knows how to hit.
J: Who are your buddies over there?
K: I hung out with Brooks Raley a lot. When Zac Rosscup got called up I hung out with him. Barret Loux, we all kind of hang out. The whole team pretty much hangs out. Justin Grimm he was with the Rangers when I was there. He got traded over then I ended up getting to hang out with him again. That was kind of fun. I was able to make a lot of good friends at Iowa.
J: Julie Dicaro the founder of Aerys Sports wants to know, what’s wrong with Brett Jackson and can you fix him?
K: Haa haa. What’s wrong with Brett Jackson? I don’t know what’s wrong and if I could fix him I would, but he is a hell of a ball player to begin with. He’s got all the talent in the world. Sometimes you go through a rough patch. You go through a slump and sometimes it lasts longer then you would like. I know that he’s in there working out. He’s one of the first ones in and one of the last to leave. He’s always working hard. It’s going to turn around. All of the hard work is going to definitely pay off for him.
J: Do you see any major changes that he has to make? Or was he making changes that may have caused him to drop off a little bit?
K: He’s definitely making changes. He’s there for early innings all the time. He’s working on his swing. They’re making tweaks to his swing. They are always trying to find something to click. They will find it and once they do he is going to be real good.
J: I understand you are taking economics at Dartmouth. What are you strongest in? Microeconomics, Macroeconomics or Econometrics?
K: I’m strongest in Microeconomics as far as my class grades go. I understand all of them. I would say the Econometrics is the hardest by far. That was one of the hardest classes I ever had at Dartmouth.
J: Which part of your economics studies will best help you strike other players out?
K: I think my whole education is going to help me get players out. Just critical thinking. I love sitting and watching video of hitters, just breaking them down. Finding their holes and how I can exploit them to get them out basically. Just being critical. I’m a critical thinker over all and that helps.
J: Are you using your studies to help you understand advanced metrics at all?
K: No not really I haven’t. I don’t know if I will but haven’t yet.
J: Which pitcher do you feel that your game most resembles?
K: My idol is Greg Maddux. I grew with him and my game doesn’t nearly resemble his but that’s what I strive for. That’s who I’ve always tried to look up to and try to be. I’ve heard Jeremy Hellickson. His stuff really doesn’t sink as much as mine would. He throws more of a splicing fastball. But as far as mechanically and the pitches that he throws, I’m kind of similar to him I would say in a way.
J: Speaking of your fastball. What are you maxing out at right now and are you trying to get that up?
K: Well I throw mostly a two-seam fastball, so my two-seam sits at like 89-91. If I’m trying to blow one by a guy I can go upstairs near eye level and throw a four-seam and max out at a 93-94. Right now it would be nice to get that up obviously but it’s a lot harder then it sounds. Just getting stronger and being able to throw harder. I have been working out and working out hard all off-season. Sometimes I don’t need velocity-games. I need stamina-games where I’m stronger at the end of the game. I want to be able to throw a the same velocity in the 8th inning that I was in the 1st inning.
J: You were striking out close to 7 batters a game and that’s not shabby at all.
K: I’m not a strike out pitcher. That’s not really the type of pitcher I am. I’m trying to get ground balls and early outs so I can get deeper into games.
J: Do you think that with your workout and you putting on more weight that you will see that velocity go up?
K: Oh I’m sure it will. You know they say that your peak years for velocity are like 25-26, some where in there. That’s when you’re throwing your hardest. So I have a few years to get stronger and possibly throw harder. But I’m not putting huge emphasis on it. Like I said I’m going to stay true to myself and just be the pitcher that I’m supposed to be. Getting ground balls.
J: It’s worked for you so far my friend.
K: Exactly. Don’t mess with it while it’s still working.
J: What are your impressions of Wrigley?
K: Oh I loved it! It’s all baseball. It just smelled baseball. I don’t know what it is exactly it’s the fans there all so diehard. The confines it’s all closed in space. Something about it. It’s all baseball and that’s what it’s all about.
J: I met your Dad at the golf course. How’s your golf game right now?
K: Right now it’s OK. I haven’t been playing a lot to be honest. But when I get back down to California I’m sure I’ll get my dad out there and I’ll try to beat him like always. But somehow he’ll always snake it out. The old pro, he’s always got his ways you know. (Chuckles) We had some good golfers when I was in Tennessee though. Kevin Rhoderick especially. He loves to play. I could never beat him. He’s nasty. Unfortunately he got released towards the end of the year but he’s playing golf professionally I think he’s on the Pepsi Tour now.
J: We’re all very happy that you’re representing the Cubs. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on you. Let’s hit up the golf course when you get in town.
K: Definitely. We’ll get together when I get there.
J: Kyle, we wish you the very best this year. Best of luck to you. Enjoy the Cubs. And we will talk again real soon.
K: (Chuckles) Anytime. Happy Thanksgiving!