Tuesday, October 18, 2005
NFL "EXPERT" Picks
Q&A with Kevin Slowey
Twins Pitching Prospect and 2005 2nd Round Draft Pick
Good Morning everyone! What an absolutely unbelievable game in Houston last night with an remarkable ending. For more of my thoughts on that game and that ending, be sure to check out the playoffs thoughts section.
It is Tuesday, so that means we've got another Question and Answer posting. Today, I am thrilled to bring an interview to you with Kevin Slowey. As you know, Kevin is one of the NFL "Expert" Pick panelists. But he is also quite a pitcher! The Twins drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2005 draft after a remarkable junior season at Winthrop University in which he was 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA. In 136 innings, he allowed just 91 hits and 13 walks while he struck out 134 hitters. After the draft, he signed quickly and reported to Elizabethton where he was dominant in four relief appearances. In eight innings, he allowed just two hits and one run. He walked none and struck out 15. He was promoted to Beloit where he made a couple more relief appearances before being put into the starting rotation. There he was 3-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 9 starts. In 64 innings, he gave up just 42 hits and eight walks, while he struck out 69. What a year it was for the righty! He is currently participating in the Twins Instructional League. We obviously wish him a relaxing offseason and wish him the best in 2006 and beyond. (By the way, you'll want to check back on Thursday to see where Slowey ranks among all Twins minor league pitchers according to Roger's rankings!)
I hope that you will enjoy this, and if you happen to have any questions for me, or for Kevin, please feel free to e-mail me and I will try to get your questions answered. Enjoy!
SethSpeaks: Growing up in Pittsburgh, you have seen the ups and downs of a major league team. The Pirates were mediocre in the mid-to-late '80s, won three straight titles from 1990-92, and have not had a winning season since then. Were you able to make it to a lot of games? Who were your favorite players growing up?
Slowey: Well, I was still a little dude during the early 1990's, but I do remember the playoff titles and a normal sized Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van Slyke leading the charge. I went to a handful of games each year with my dad and brothers, and the occasional birthday party. I really started going to games a lot during high school with buddies because we could hop on the T (public transit trolley) and be down by the ball park in an hour, no problem. My all time favorite player was, and still is, Andy Van Slyke. I think I still have a few hundred of his baseball cards actually. I was hoping to see him this year when we played his son in Johnson City, but no luck.
SethSpeaks: How awful was it when former Pirate Sid Bream scored ahead of Barry Bonds' throw to send the Braves to the World Series in 1992?
Slowey: Awful.. Just awful, and Sid Bream was running on artificial knees, hips and ankles, I think...
SethSpeaks: Were you drafted out of high school? What was the recruitment process for you?
Slowey: I wasn't drafted out of high school. I just didnít throw hard enough, maybe 83-85 tops. I actually wasn't recruited by that many schools either ( for the same reason). Even the local schools (Pitt, Duquesne, and Penn St.) weren't really that interested. One of the coaches from Winthrop saw me pitch in a tournament in Myrtle Beach my senior year and just kinda went from there.
SethSpeaks: What was it about Winthrop that made you decide to go there?
Slowey: The coaching staff was awesome.. Coach (Joe) Hudak really runs a great program and Scott Forbes (now at UNC chapel hill) knew more about baseball than anyone id ever met.
SethSpeaks: For us in the Midwest, tell us a little bit about Winthrop.
Slowey: Well, its a medium sized school located in Rock Hill, SC, about 30 minutes from Charlotte. Its partially state funded, so the student body (6500) is almost entirely local (NC and SC).
SethSpeaks: You received numerous Academic Awards in the last year. Where did the importance of education come from? I assume that was something that was ingrained in you early?
Slowey: Haha, I think I just got lucky. My parents have always stressed the importance of education, even when we were little. But more than that, they were always on us about "doing the best we could" in everything, so I guess that just stuck with me. Plus my Mom is really smart and my maternal Grandmother is borderline brilliant, so I was blessed with some smart genes.
SethSpeaks: You had a 4.0 GPA this last spring, a spring when you were also named as an All American pitcher. I just have to ask how you were able to prioritize with such a busy schedule.
Slowey: The teachers at Winthrop did a great job of helping the student athletes stay on track, with tutors and stuff if you need to. Also, I made sure to only take 12 hours in the spring, because that 5th class always seems to be the hardest, and cuts into the time you have for the other 4.
SethSpeaks: You had three incredible seasons at Winthrop. This spring, you were 14-2 with 2.18 ERA. What were your expectations going into the season? Had you set goals for yourself?
Slowey: I definitely set some goals for myself, to win 10+ games being the only tangible one I can remember. I just wanted to have a great year individually and as a team, because I knew that there was a chance it would be my last year. I think a lot of our success was just a result of the work we put in during our offseason... the whole team really stepped it up all year.
SethSpeaks: I kept reading that your draft status really rose when you threw a complete game, 2-1 win over Wichita State, and Mike Pelfrey, in the NCAA Regionals. What do you remember about that game?
Slowey: One of the coolest games I've ever thrown in. Pelfrey is gigantic and was throwing 92-97 all game, and there must have been 45 scouts there. It was neat because it gave me the opportunity to not worry about my outing, but to just go out and throw. I guess I just kinda snuck in the back door.
SethSpeaks: The Twins took you in the second round, 73rd overall, in the June draft this year. Heading into the draft, where did you think you should be drafted? Had you talked much with scouts from the Twins beforehand and did they show a lot of interest in you?
Slowey: Going into the draft, I was hoping to be drafted in the top 5 rounds, and thought that was about fair. I was thrilled to go in the 2nd round, especially to an organization like Minnesota, which is known for its ability to develop talent. I spoke with the scout who drafted me (Ricky Taylor) a couple of times in the fall, and once in the spring, no more or less than any other scout.
SethSpeaks: Based on how well you have performed at Elizabethton and now at Beloit, I have to ask how you fell out of the first round.
Slowey: Haha, I don't know. Maybe I should have held out for first round money....I don't think I was ever really considered for the first round just because Iím not exactly a power arm. High profile guys who throw 93-96 consistently littered the first round, and so I ended up in the 2nd.
SethSpeaks: Your Winthrop teammate, Daniel Carte, was also drafted in the 2nd round, a few picks ahead of you, by the Colorado Rockies. Can you tell us a little about him?
Slowey: Daniel is a great kid, and one of my best friends from school. We actually were roommates our freshman year in the Dorms and did some pretty stupid stuff together. His skills at the plate are pretty remarkable; he swings the bat like a toothpick, and runs a solid 6.7 or so. I saw him hit some home runs (especially the one off of Pelfrey) that were just ridiculous. Plus, he is one of the hardest working kids Iíve met. He would lift twice a day in the offseason, once in the morning, then again after dinner.
SethSpeaks: You signed pretty quickly. Was that your plan heading into the draft?
Slowey: Yea, I planned on signing and getting started as soon as possible, I was ready to get going.
SethSpeaks: I have to ask, what was the first thing you bought with your signing bonus?
Slowey: Would you believe I havenít made any great purchases... any ideas for me?
SethSpeaks: The Twins also will pay for four semesters more of college. What is your plan in terms of taking classes?
Slowey: Iíll be taking classes during the off season as soon as I can. With Instructs this year I wont be able to, but I think next year Iíll get started and finish up the following year.
SethSpeaks: So, tell us more about your pitching style. What pitches do you throw? What would you consider your out pitch?
Slowey: I guess for me its all about throwing strikes. Staying ahead of the batter and keeping them on the defensive makes pitchers look better than they are. A 2-0 fastball coming in at 95 looks slower than a 1-2 fastball at 88 on the hands. I really throw a lot of fastballs, almost 80% this year in the minors, batters tend to get themselves out a lot more than I do. I guess I just try to make a "good" pitch every pitch. And then I only try to make a perfect pitch when I really have to. It keeps the hitters from getting their pitch.
SethSpeaks: OK, once you signed, you went to Elizabethton and completely dominated coming out of the bullpen. That earned you the promotion to Beloit where you made four relief appearances before being inserted into the starting rotation. Was that an intentional plan by you and the Twins, to start you in the bullpen, maybe to keep your innings pitched this year down and give your arm some rest?
Slowey: Yea , they were really trying to give me a break.. but then I ended up throwing a lot of innings in Beloit as a starter... but the pitch counts were strict, the Twins really did their best to take care of the pitchers.
SethSpeaks: On August 6th, you threw a one-hitter against West Michigan. Dusty Ryan blooped a single with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning to end the perfect game. You came back to strikeout the final batter to complete the shutout. At what point in the game did you realize you were working on a perfect game? Walking to the mound in the ninth, what was running through your mind? And then, how did you feel after Ryan's single??
Slowey: I guess sometime around the 6th inning, right around the time the guys started avoiding me on the bench. As for the 9th, I donít know that I was thinking anything in particular, just keep throwing strikes and getting guys out, we had already made some incredible plays defensively, so I knew the guys behind me were ready. After Ryan's single, I was a little disappointed, but the crowd of 10,000 was on their feet cheering and yelling, which was way too cool to be disappointed about... but if I could go back, I might have thrown a slider instead of that stupid fastball.
SethSpeaks: What is the plan for after the Beloit season ends and your offseason? Will you take part in the instructional league or will you be able to rest your arm?
Slowey: Iíll be down at instructs for a month until October 21st, then some time off before getting back in the weight room. I probably wonít do much tossing for at least a month, just to give the arm a bit of a rest.
SethSpeaks: What are your goals for the 2006 season, or is it too early to start thinking about that?
Slowey: I really just want to keep getting better and progressing through the Twins system, but a lot of that depends on things I donít have much control over, so ill just get after it in the offseason and see how things go.
Thank you VERY much to Kevin for taking the time to answer so many questions for us. He is also on this site every week as one of the participants in our NFL "Expert" Picks. He is doing that while participating in the Twins Instructional League. So again, he certainly didn't have to be so gracious with his time, but he was. So thank you Kevin!
Do you have any thoughts or questions for Kevin or me? If so, please feel free to e-mail me.
Did you see that Paul Molitor informed the Twins that he did not want the hitting coach job? He understandably enjoys his current flexibility within the organization as it allows him time with his family, and I can respect that. Remember after Al Newman left and Molitor seemed to be the favorite, but I mentioned another name that I would like to see get a chance. This article claims that Don Baylor, my choice, is a possibility, as is former Twins minor league manager John Russell.
If you buy what you read in Sid Hartman's column all the time, I'm sorry. However, he quotes Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty as acknowledging that it is entirely possible that the Twins would leave the state if they don't get a new stadium. Pawlenty blames a couple of state senators, but he himself is just as guilty. He has the ability to affect some change on this topic. He could fight for it a little stronger. He could discuss the benefits of the different plans. Again, I could care less if the Vikings get a new stadium, but the Twins definitely need one. As Minnesota residents, we do have a say in all of this. If the new stadium for the Twins means anything to you, be sure to talk to or e-mail or call your representatives, and let them know what the new stadium means to me. Get their opinions on the subject, and don't be afraid to let them know that their vote on that very topic will affect your vote and maybe others. We do have a say. Hopefully something gets done before it is too late.
Also, last Friday I mentioned that the Twins had signed Jason Tyner to a minor league contract. Of perhaps equal importance, they also signed Kevin West and Luis Maza to minor league deals!
Any thoughts on either of these topics, e-mail me. Thanks!
Just a couple of thoughts on that incredible 5-4 Cardinals win last night:
I've been writing a lot about how many times in the playoffs, it isn't the best players that make the big plays. Many times, it is an unsung hero, either a rookie or a role player that most people outside of the team's state would even be aware of. But sometimes in the playoffs, there are epic matchups. Great pitcher versus great hitter, mano y mano. Many times, these at bats make a huge difference in the game. That was the case a couple of times last night!
In the 7th inning, Chris Carpenter, arguably the National League's best pitcher this season, was working on another gem. A couple of guys got on to bring up Lance Berkman, one of the better hitters in the league. In this case, the hitter won. Berkman hit a pitch down and away into the left field bleachers to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. I am a huge Lance Berkman fan. I think he is greatly underappreciated. Even in these playoffs, you can see that he is far from 100% with his knee. But he has come up with big hits, and big home runs throughout the playoffs. When he hits a homer, he flies around the bases which is good to see too.
And then, THE HIT in the 9th inning. To set it up, Brad Lidge was in the game. He is so good. Fastball at 97 with a sharp slider at around 90. He got the first two outs of the inning easily. Then with two outs, and a 1-2 count, David Eckstein knocked a little single past a diving Morgan Ensberg. Then Lidge inexplicably walked Jim Edmonds. That brought up the game's best hitter, Albert Pujols. Lidge started Pujols with a great slider that he swung and missed. The next pitch, he came back with another slider, but this one just spun, right about thigh high, and Pujols did not miss drilling a three run homer far over the left field wall. It gave the Cardinals a 5-4 lead that Jason Isringhausen held in the bottom of the ninth.
After the homer, the announcer commented that Pujols would be the guy that 95% of people would want to start their organization with. I thought about that for a few seconds. A couple of days ago, I may have made a small argument for Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins. A pitching wins guy could argue that you would take Johan Santana or Felix Hernandez. After this home run by Pujols, he is now my guy again. Let's not forget that although he has now played in five full major league seasons, he is still just 26 years old. He has not folded or struggled in the playoffs throughout his career, even coming up with big hits.
David Eckstein is not a SABRmetrically friendly player. He doesn't put up huge stats. He walks some, gets hit some, hustles, and does things that generally don't show up on a stat sheet. But his ninth inning at bat was so typical of an Eckstein at bat. He took three pitches to get down in the count 1-2. Then he went down and took a tough Lidge slider and just put it in play for a single. May seem like a small thing, but he got the big inning going. He is a guy where stats don't measure what he can mean to a team.
So now, the Cardinals have taken back home field advantage. They are going back to St. Louis needing to win both of their home games to advance to the World Series. I think it is fair to say that they have the momentum now. However, it is always important to remember that momentum is as good as the next day's starting pitcher. When the team's play on Wednesday night, it will be another excellent pitching matchup between Roy Oswalt and Mark Mulder. Gotta love October baseball!
I am really struggling with who I want to win this series. I like to say St. Louis, but that is mainly because before the season started, I predicted that they would get to the World Series against the Angels. Well, the Angels were just eliminated, but it would still be nice to be right about one of the teams. I really like the Cardinals' organization because I am intrigued by how they remain a small town yet have a decent budget but are able to do that because the stars that come in chose to stay there for less than they would get in the open market. But, I love Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman too. I have been fans of Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio since the outset of their careers. Biggio has just played in his 18th big league season, all with the Astros. Likewise, Bagwell won the rookie of the year award in the NL the same year that Chuck Knoblauch won it in the AL, 1991. He too has been with the 'stros the whole time. You just don't see that very much anymore, and for that, I would like to see them rewarded. So, I think what I'm really doing is hoping that whether there is one or two games left, they are just good baseball games. I hope that we see some good pitching, some good hitting, maybe some great defensive plays and some drama. That is all I can ask.
If you have any specific thoughts on any of the series that you'd like to share, please e-mail me.
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
Well, we all got the Colts win last night correct, so each of us picked up one more win. It was really a good week for our panelists, but again, Trevor and Cory are our weekly winners, each going 12-2. Seven went 11-3. Trevor remains two games ahead of Cory for the overall lead. For more on out panel or our picks, check out the NFL "Expert" Picks page here.
Final Standings Total Week 6 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Trevor Born Twins Junkie 12 2 85.7% 62 26 70.5% Cory Hepola KTVH-TV Sports 12 2 85.7% 60 28 68.2% SethSpeaks Panel 12 2 85.7% 57 29 66.3% Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 11 3 78.6% 58 30 65.9% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 11 3 78.6% 58 30 65.9% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 11 3 78.6% 57 31 64.8% Brent Hanson BrentNet 10 4 71.4% 54 34 61.4% Melissa Lien SethSpeaks.net 10 4 71.4% 53 35 60.2% Stick & Ball Guy Stick & Ball Guy 11 3 78.6% 52 36 59.1% Will Young Will's Twins Blog 11 3 78.6% 50 38 56.8% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 11 3 78.6% 48 40 54.5% Grant Balfour Twins Relief Pitcher 9 5 64.3% 47 41 53.4% Kevin Slowey Twins Pitching Prospect 11 3 78.6% 47 41 53.4%
And on that note, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found the Q&A with Kevin Slowey interesting and worth reading. Remember, I will be back tomorrow with a Guest writer answering the Why Baseball query. If you're interested in participating, please let me know. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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