Washington Nationals' right-hander Collin Balester was on Sirius/XM's MLB Home Plate last night for an interview with Former DC GM Jim Bowden and co-host Joe Castellano. The 23-year-old Montreal Expos' '04 4th Round pick is preparing to compete for a spot in either the starting rotation or the bullpen once Spring Training starts, and he talked about his preparation for this season, his delivery and his moustache...What follows are some of the more interesting quotes from the interview:
• Bowden: Moustache update?
Collin Balester: "It's doing pretty good. I'm trying to go for the Rollie Fingers, and the George Parros look of the Anaheim Ducks. You know it just gives myself a little bit of flavor, and Jim (Bowden) you know that the most, that I have a little bit of flavor and I have to show it a bit..."
• Castellano: What have you learned so far in your career?
Collin Balester: "The first year when I got called up in 2008 was a dream come true and it was all that I ever thought it was gonna be. I went up there and I showed that I was able to have some success up there, and that kind of thing, and I had some bumps and bruises along the way, but I learned a lot and then last year was a little tough for me, I had a rough year from the beginning and kind of just never rebounded from it, but I still learned some things, and I think both those years combined going into this next year is only going to make me stronger and I feel a hundred times different and my attitude going into Spring Training this year is better than it's ever been, so I'm excited to start up..."
Bowden: "Collin, behind the scenes, and you probably don't know this, but you were one of the more controversial baseball discussions that we had, behind the scenes, and a lot of the people, whether it be pitching coaches or front office executives were really in disagreement about the best approach for you. And I remember myself and Dana Brown, who was the scouting director at the time for Washington, both of us believed that you should never get rid of that four-seam fastball up in the zone, and that certainly with your breaking ball coming at the same angle, and the way it broke down, we both thought you should become a 12-game winner or more in the big leagues, a guy that could give you two innings with your size, but that it was important that you use that four-seamer up in the zone, both of us saw you dominate, and then there were times where you'd go down and throw that two-seamer down and guys were trying to just get you to throw down in the strike zone, where are you right now with your fastball, where do you like to locate it, give us your strategy of how you're going to approach hitters when you get to Spring Training?" (ed. note - "Yes, that is a minute-long question...")
Collin Balester: "Yeah, definitely, I mean, when I have that attitude of just, you know, the way I pitch is different than other people would pitch. I pitch with a lot of fierceness, kinda just go right after guys, I don't care what kind of strength they have or whatever...and that goes along with my four-seam, going a little bit up in the zone, which has that life on it, and it has that extra umph on it, and that's the type of thing that I love to do...and along the way, you have different pitching coaches and different kind of people, and you don't like to name names, but everyone thinks down in the zone is where you have to be all day long, and for me it was a transition where I was trying to please everyone and have success, you know, you listen to pitching coaches and that kind of thing because you feel like they have the best interest in you as well, but I feel right now, after a couple pens I've thrown, I think I'm back to where I need to be as far as just having that late life, and kinda just putting that two-seam on the backburner right now and just kinda going after guys like I have in the past and that's the attitude I'm going into Spring Training with, and I think it's going to relate to some extra success..."
Castellano: Are you recovered from your rib cage injury?
Collin Balester: "It was tough last year, it started in the back of my rib cage, and I think I tried to baby it, and I kinda switched my mechanics a little bit, so it kinda moved to the front and yeah, it's tough to get over the front side, and as a pitcher that's your most important thing, and you know I wasn't able to do that, and I kinda pitched a little bit too much with it, but you know I learned from that, and when I started working out and doing all that I felt no pain and I haven't felt pain since, I feel like I'm 100% going into Spring Training and ready to compete for a starting spot..."
Bowden: "Collin, you've been a starter your whole career, and certainly that's where I personally think you should continue to develop, you're only 23-years-old, there are some in the Nationals' organization though, that would like to put you in the bullpen right now, if you get to Spring Training and they come to you and they say they want you to pitch out of the bullpen, what's your reaction going to be?"
Collin Balester: "You know, I'm not going to say I'd be happy with that thing, because, you know me as well as I do, I feel like I'm a starter, and that kind of thing, but I figure at this point of my career, it's one of those things where, you want to help the team as much as possible and if they say you'll be a starter in Triple A or a bullpen guy in the big leagues, I think right now, just being in the big leagues period would help my success, so if they think that that's the best thing that I have right now, then I think I would have to try it out and see how it worked for me, cause I feel like I have the stuff to do either and I have the attitude to kind of do either, so I would definitely still want to be a starter, and I think in the future I think I will definitely be a starter, but if they think that that's best for me, I think that's the way I have to go..."
Castellano: "Would it be tough because you haven't done that before?"
Collin Balester: "A lot of guys say it's tough and this and that, but I've been talking to Tyler Clippard and that kind of thing and just kind of seeing his attitude when that happened to him, cause obviously he was with the Yankees and he was starting...basically he came over to the Nationals and he got pulled over to the bullpen, and kinda just asking him what his reaction was to it and he had the same kind of reaction I did, you know, he wasn't happy, but if it wasn't for the bullpen he doesn't think he would be in the big leagues, so, it's one of those things where since I haven't had all the success that people have been looking for, it's one of those things where it could blossom into a blessing for me, being able to show them that I'm versatile, I can go from the bullpen to the starting rotation and kinda give a feel to say that I could do both things, so I think it might be good for my resume down the line..."
Bowden: "The Nationals have been very aggressive this offseason and really improved their club, especially with some other pitchers, Jason Marquis, (proven 200 innings, wins 11 games every year, has for 6 years), Matt Capps, who I thought was a tremendous sign, he was a non-tender by Pittsburgh...obviously you've got a veteran catcher coming in there in Pudge Rodriguez, tell me your thoughts about those three acquisitions by the Nationals?"
Collin Balester: "Yeah, and then you've got to throw in Bruney too, I mean those are good pickups, you know, you can't help but adding pitching and that's the type of thing that we need right now, and I think we're pretty close to turning the corner, we got a lot of guys, you know Marquis going to help out all the starters, all of us, even all the pitchers, you know, and then you got two veteran guys in the bullpen that add it up, to go along with a Hall-of-Fame catcher, you know, all of that, that's going to help the pitching staff and the catchers tremendously, and uh, I think it's just going to be fun to learn from some new guys this year, and some of the guys in the past I've been able to take a few things here and there from, and it's going to be fun to just learn from these guys this spring..."
Castellano: What can you tell us about Ian Desmond?
Collin Balester: "He's a great player, I got drafted with him in 2004, and I've been close with him pretty much ever since, and he's a great player, he's the type of guy that a lot of people nitpick cause he makes some errors here and there, but that's the kind of guy I want behind me when I'm pitching. He's a guy that makes the flashy plays and a couple times he's going to make errors...and then at the plate, he's a great hitter, he really turned it up last year, and I think he's going to have a real bright future, and it's going to be fun for him to play behind me for the next couple, you know, ten years hopefully..."
(ed. note - "The conversation then turns to Facebook and Twitter, Collin's family in California, how he thinks surfing, and the paddling out in particular, builds shoulder strength, and finally the differences between Acta and Riggleman..."):
Collin Balester: "My first manager in the big leagues was Manny Acta, and I thought he did a great job, he interacted with the players real good, and I don't have any bad words to say about him...Jim Riggleman is the type of guy that you kind of have a different kind of respect for him, he's a kind of an old school type manager, which I think this organization needs right about now, he's someone that you play behind and you want to do good because both those guys have so many positive things to say about everyone, but (Riggleman) will talk to everyone every single day, he'll sit there, and he'll tell you exactly what's going on, so it's the type of thing that you know, when he tells you something's going wrong you kinda listen to him and you kind of want to change it right away...and Manny, he was in a tough situation where uh, he wasn't as vocal as I thought he should, and in Cleveland I think he'll be a lot better but I think those guys are good managers, and I'm excited to get to know Riggleman and be with him hopefully the whole year this year..."
(ed. note - "Check out CollinBalester.com")
(ed. note - Check out my own two-part email interview with Balester):