Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Q&A with Brad Tippett
Twins Minor League Pitching Prospect
Good morning, today I am thrilled to bring you another Question and Answer with a Minnesota Twins pitching prospect. Brad Tippett grew up in Australia. He signed with the Twins in January 2006 at the age of 17, and since then, he has put up great numbers in several roles. He has been a closer, a set up man, and now it appears that he will be a starter for the time being. He has put up some absolutely amazing strikeout and walk numbers. He doesnít throw terribly hard, but he is a very good pitcher. He has represented Australia in several international competitions, and it is likely that he will be a part of Team Australia in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Tippett is a guy that Twins fans should follow closely over the coming years. ††
Let the Questions Begin!
SethSpeaks: Growing up in Australia, were you able to follow Major League Baseball at all? Who were your favorite teams and some of your favorite players?
Brad Tippett: We donít get much coverage of MLB in Australia and when they do decide to play it, its at 2am. So I didnít really get to follow it that much.
SethSpeaks: Tell us a little bit about your youth playing career in Australia.
Brad Tippett: Well I started playing tee-ball at about 6 because my dad played in a local comp, and they wanted to get me in the sport and see if Iíd enjoy it. Then i started playing baseball at 12 and itís taken off since then.
SethSpeaks: Did you participate in any other events or activities growing up?
Brad Tippett: Before I played baseball I used to play soccer and a little bit of cricket on the weekends and for school, but after I started making rep teams i put all that aside and baseball took up the whole weekend
SethSpeaks: When did you start hearing from major league scouts, and what did they tell you?
Brad Tippett: At about 16 when I went to the Australian Academy is when I started understanding all about signing professional and playing in America. They didnít really speak to me, they were just watching at the time, but later I signed with an agent to help me out with negotiations.
SethSpeaks: Were there other teams talking to you, and what was it that made you decide to play with the Twins?
Brad Tippett: The twins had a lot of Australian guys in their system which is good because you travel together and have a good bond with them because you've been playing with them for years. I didnít really have a choice at the time. haha so I went with the Twins.
SethSpeaks: You signed in January of 2006... what are your memories of coming to the States, specifically Florida?
Brad Tippett: My first few weeks at spring training were scary, I was nervous. I saw all these older guys that were bigger than me and threw harder than me! Extended spring was slow and repetitive, and everyoneís battling through the heat. But it paid off. I learnt a lot down there.
SethSpeaks: What were your thoughts when you were attending your first Spring Training? Did you think you could fit in and succeed, or were you ever overwhelmed?
Brad Tippett: I was definitely overwhelmed. I was glad I had friends there that had been threw it before.
SethSpeaks: You went to Extended Spring Training and then to the GCL Twins. You were the closer at age 18 and recorded ten saves and went 3-5 with a solid 2.53 ERA in 19 games. Did you feel better about your chances of making it after experiencing success?
Brad Tippett: Iím not sure how I fell into that role, Iíd never been a closer, always a starter, and after a while I adapted to it. It helps, to have a good year puts you in the right frame of mind to perform well, and keep doing what's working. If your not performing well you have a lot of self doubt.
SethSpeaks: 2007 was another excellent season for you. You were again in the bullpen at Elizabethton and helped the team to another championship. 7-1 with a 0.93 ERA. Can you describe that season, that team, and your performance?
Brad Tippett: Nothing went wrong really. Iíd only pitch 2-3 innings at a time, and maybe only had one poor performance throughout the season. I was ready everyday, I really enjoyed it. Our team was great, we all had a close relationship on and off the field. And to win it topped it off.
SethSpeaks: You began the 2008 season in the Beloit bullpen and did well, but when the Elizabethton season started you went back down there and went 8-3 with a 2.55 ERA as a starter. Can you explain the decision to move you back to start? Was that your decision or the organization's decision?
Brad Tippett: That was the Organizationsí decision, it helped me though, I got a lot more innings than I wouldíve up in Beloit and more experience on how I can get guys out.
SethSpeaks: So, from your perspective, what are the differences between being a starter and being a reliever in terms of preparation, physical and mental? Do you have a preference?
Brad Tippett: There's differences, starting gives you plenty of time to mentally prepare yourself for a game, you know what time and what field your playing on. Out of the bullpen you donít know when its your time to pitch, so when you get the call you gotta get ready and prepare yourself, and the game is usually on the line.
SethSpeaks: In 2006, you walked 5 and struck out 18. In 2007, you walked just four and struck out 51 in 38 innings. Combined in '08, you walked 14 and struck out 78. Obviously you have tremendous control. Discuss your pitching philosophy, particularly speaking to your ability to throw strikes without being hit too hard.
Brad Tippett: I just try to keep it in the strike zone, but not down the middle, and if I can see where the umpires calling ill stay there and just mix up all my pitches to keep a batter of balance.
SethSpeaks: How would you describe yourself as a pitcher? What pitches do you throw? What would you say are your best pitches and what pitches are you still working on?
Brad Tippett: Iím not a power pitcher because I donít have a 95mph+ fastball. But i have control of 3 pitches I can throw anytime. My change up has gotten a lot better over the last 2years. Iím working on my curve ball, just to get better control of it, but its going well. So I guess a control guy.
SethSpeaks: When you leave the United States after the season and before the winter, you head back home to Australia's summer months and play ball. Can you describe the Australian baseball leagues and the caliber of competition there?
Brad Tippett: I play for my local club in Sydney on Wednesday and Sunday. The standard is ok, but itís mostly to get work in and practice facing hitters again
SethSpeaks: I know you're playing in a big Australian tournament now which will conclude just before the WBC. Do you just play baseball year 'round, or are you able to get away from it for a little while to rest?
Brad Tippett: We get a rest when we first come home and take some time off. But I donít like to stop completely. I need to pick up a ball and have a throw once a week, otherwise everything feels weird, mechanics and that.
SethSpeaks: Speaking of the WBC, you are on the Australian team's provisional list for participating in the tournament. You have played for Team Australia in several tournaments. What does it mean to you to play for your country, and secondly, what has your highlight of international competition been?
Brad Tippett: Its an awesome experience. And we have a good team and usually do well at the tournaments. The highlight would be starting the semi final game against Chinese Taipei in 2003. Although we lost it was a great experience.
SethSpeaks: What are your goals for the 2009 season? Where do you hope to play, and are there any of your numbers that you look at more than others?
Brad Tippett: Just to be prepared for a full season. I hope to play in Beloit and start, but that's their decision in the end. I like to get through a lot of innings, Iím not worried about strike outs, although they are good, and want to keep my walks low.
SethSpeaks: Who are some of the people who have helped you get to this point in your career?
Brad Tippett: Rob McLean was my first ever pitching coach and set my career in motion, with proper mechanics and how to throw a curveball. After that there was Barry Holland and Rick Knapp who've helped me the recent years. Mum and dads support has been priceless.
SethSpeaks: Favorite Baseball Book?
Brad Tippett: I donít really read books.
SethSpeaks: Favorite Baseball Movie?
Brad Tippett: Sandlot Kids.
SethSpeaks: What would it be like to put on a Minnesota Twins uniform for the first time in a regular season game, standing on the mound against a big league hitter?
Brad Tippett: Nerve racking and plenty of adrenaline!
A big thank you goes to Brad Tippett for taking the time to answer these questions. Obviously we wish him the best success in 2009! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to put them in the comments, or e-mail me and I will try to get a response.