In advance of his first start with Trenton in a few hours, Mike Ashmore and I talked at length with Brett Marshall about a variety of topics, including his rough April last year, the allure of 100, and his flair for groundskeeping. Take a read, won't you?
Q: First Double-A start coming up, how are you feeling?
A: "I'm excited. I've been looking forward to this since the last game last year, so I'm just ready to get back on the mound and get the season started and go from there. Hopefully, this will be a good year."
Q: Were you surprised you weren't up last year?
A: "I was, but I understand why they kept me down. We had a lot of transactions and people getting hurt down there. Last year, all I wanted to do is stay healthy. It didn't matter to me, I just wanted to have a healthy season. I put up pretty good numbers, I was pleased with last year, especially the end of it."
Q: Last April wasn't the best for you. What happened?
A: "The month of April, I was struggling mechanics-wise. The big thing was my arm slot. My arm slot was here (over the top), I raised it, but my natural is three-quarters. For some reason, I was throwing here (over the top). I knew what I was doing, I just couldn't fix it. Finally, one day I was like, 'I'll throw sidearm,' and it felt like I was (down low) but I was actually back to the normal. I got all that back, and the strikeouts went up and the walks went down. The numbers
were a lot better."
Q: How long did it take to get it back to where it needed to be?
A: "It was probably a couple starts (to transition back to normal). I just fixed it in-between starts, and it got back and I was kind of back and forth in the game. After a couple games, it was back to
normal. It felt better. The velo went back up, and I threw a lot more strikes."
Q: I've heard stories about you telling the Yankees you were going to throw 100 miles per hour one day. Is that true?
A: "(100 MPH story) I'd have to say that was when I was young, I was young and dumb. I guess those are good words for it. You want to throw hard. I got up to 98 one game, and I was like, 'That's pretty cool.' I'd never thrown hard, and I was like, 'You know what, maybe I could throw 100 one day.' But then I was like let me just focus on throwing strikes and getting the ball down, and that was the biggest thing I learned. After coming off Tommy John (surgery), that's one thing we worked on, just throwing strikes. Don't worry about how hard you're throwing, just get out there and hit the catcher's mitt and you'll be fine. That was the biggest thing I learned, that it doesn't matter how fast you throw."
Q: When did you have the surgery?
A: "(Had TJ) July 31, 2009. I got drafted in '08. I got hurt right after the All-Star break in '09, and I came back a week after the All-Star break in 2010. I was back on the mound in ten months."
Q: How much did that arm-slot problem affect you?
A: "(Arm slot change) It makes a huge difference. First of all, my velo went down. It's like learning how to throw again. When you change something, it's totally different. You've got to learn how to throw strikes, you've got to learn how to throw all your offspeed pitches, and it's definitely hard. It hurts your arm, too. You've been throwing one way your whole life, and to come in and change it, it's tough. It's a big-time mental game when you change your arm slot, it's tough."
Q: Did you change anything after the surgery?
A: "After TJ, one thing we worked on was to keep the same arm slot. I did a real good job after TJ. I think taking off those about four or five months from throwing in the offseason, I think that's what kind of hurt. I was like, 'I've got to start picking up the ball,' but I was scared to throw again. I was trying to over exaggerate getting over the top and it wasn't the same. I was lucky to fix it."
Q: What do you throw and what's your mentality out there?
A: "I'm a big sinker guy. I throw a lot of sinkers. I love my changeup. I love keeping hitters off-balance. My main thing is, I feel like a bulldog out there. I try to go right after a hitter, I'm not scared of anybody. Just keep the ball down and throw strikes, that's my main thing."
Q: Can you gain an advantage from having watched the first two games of this series?
A: "(Watching games here) I think it's great. I'll be in the stands with the chart, and I get to see all the hitters. Most of the guys, I'd faced coming up. I faced them all last year when we played Dunedin, and the year before. You kind of learn what the hitters like and what they don't like, and I think it's a big plus I got to see them for two games before I get out there."
Q: Do you pay attention to where you're ranked on prospect lists?
A: "I don't like to look at that. I just go out there and play my game. That's all I can do."
Q: You're adding a curveball, yes?
A: "I'm hopefully going to be adding a curveball in June or July. I've been throwing it on flat ground during warmup and stuff, but hopefully I think I'm going to try to throw it in a game during the middle of a season. It's more like an 11-5, probably. It's a new pitch, so we're working on it. It's looking good on flat sides right now, but it's different when you get on the mound and you have to throw it from that angle."
Q: How do you go about adding a new pitch?
A: "It's all mental and repetition. If you want to do something, you've just got to tell yourself, 'Hey, I've got to learn this pitch.' You just practice it, it's just repetition, that's all it is. I'll sit there and throw 40 curveballs until I throw a good one. I think that's the key to it."
Q: Do you feel you need a curve to be successful in the future?
A: "Right now, I feel like I'm doing fine without it. But as a starter, hopefully I can get to the big league level, I feel like I'm going to need that pitch. I would like to have it, just to have a fourth pitch that I can hopefully get guys out with. Who knows, it could become my best offspeed pitch. You never know."
Q: What's the benefit to adding a curve?
A: "A curveball, you get more downward drop on it. A slider is more tilted Right now, on my slider, I'm trying to throw it harder and tighter so it's almost like a bigger cutter. Then, when I get that curveball -- my curveball is more of a slurve -- so I think that'll be a big difference. Someone will think a slider is coming, and then all of a sudden it's a curveball. I'm trying to make them look just
Q: Two spring trainings ago, I heard you bragging to the grounds crew about good you are at maintaining a ballfield. What's the story there?
A: "In high school, we have to do all the stuff, and I was in charge of our mound and raking, and I had to do all the infield dirt. I'm a big perfectionist, always a neat guy. I always have to have everything done a certain way. I liked having the mound done the way I liked it. I like being on a good playing surface, that was the main thing. So, if we had to take care of it, I wanted it to look nice."
Q: When you look at the names in front of you, is it hard knowing your shot might be a ways off?
A: "Yes and no, it's tough. It's tough knowing you have ten guys up in front of you waiting, that you have to complete against. But all you can do, is you go out there and pitch your game and take one game at a time. You can't really look toward who's ahead of you, it doesn't matter. If you're putting up good numbers and you're doing well, they'll notice that and they'll eventually give you a chance. Patience is a big key."
Q: What do you think is an ideal fastball velocity for an MLB starter?
A: "A lot of times when I'm watching games, I'll see guys average 90-91-92 for starters. You put good movement on the ball, and it's going to be tough to hit. Greg Maddux threw the ball 85 and look at him. You've got guys who throw 99 who can do the same thing. So it doesn't matter. It's all about hitting your spots, throwing strikes, keeping the ball down, all the good stuff."
Q: So, the guy who wanted to hit 100 would be OK with, say, 92-93?
A: "If I'm averaging 92-93, that would probably be great, yeah. Especially with a sinker. If I'm throwing my sinker 92-93, if I keep it down, I know it can be a tough pitch to hit."
Q: How was life with the big boys this spring?
A: "It was amazing. I had a lot of fun. I got to watch those guys up there and learn from them, and ask a lot of questions. It makes you not want to leave. It makes you want to work harder to get back there."
Q: Whose brains did you try to pick while you were there?
A: "Pitchers-wise, I tried to look at the starters, like CC and Phil Hughes and those guys. That's hopefully what I will be one day, a Yankees starter. Just kind of see what they do and see how they go about things, and just talk to them a lot."
Q: What would be your ultimate goal when you get there?
A: "I know I'm not left-handed, but I watched CC a lot because I want to eventually be an Opening Day starter. You've got to go big. I want to be in the big leagues, but hey, eventually you get to that role and you want to be an Opening Day starter."