Friday, January 18, 2008

Q&A with Kevin Slowey

Twins Starting Pitcher

Good morning everybody, and welcome to Friday, the final day of the work week!! I thought that it would be great to end the week in style. Today, we have another Q&A with Kevin Slowey, starting pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. Those of you who have been here awhile know that Kevin has had several Q&As here as well as been very active in things like the SethSpeaks NFL "Expert" Pick panel and more. This is the first Q&A that he has done since making his big league debut on June 1st in Oakland. There was a lot to catch up on and Kevin did a great job in his response. Over the weekend, Slowey will be traveling to Minnesota and on Monday morning, he will hit the road with Scott Baker, Bert Blyleven and John Gordon on the Southeast Tour of the Twins Winter Caravan. He will then stick around for the weekend to participate in Twins Fest. If you have the opportunity to attend any of those things and meet Kevin Slowey, I would encourage you to. But anyway, you don't want to read anything more written by me except questions, so let's get to it.


If you would like to check out all the other Q&As with Twins players, click here. If you are interested in viewing his career stats, click here.


Let the Questions Begin!

SethSpeaks: You did an interactive Q&A for this site less than two weeks before you were called up by the Twins. Tell us a little bit about finding out you were being called up (who told you, how did he tell you?).


Kevin Slowey: Finding out that I was going to pitch in Oakland was one of the greatest moments of my baseball career. After a game in Rochester, our Manager Stan Cliburn called me into his office and sat me down. He said, "Congratulations Slow, you are going to Minnesota", shook my hand, and handed me my flight itinerary.   


SethSpeaks: Whenever I do a first Q&A with a Twins minor leaguer, I ask "What would it be like to put on a Twins uniform in a regular season game for the first time?" So, let me ask you, What was it like to put on a Twins uniform in a regular season game for the first time?


Kevin Slowey: It was amazing. Sitting in the clubhouse in Oakland before the game and putting on that jersey was something I'll never forget.

SethSpeaks: How did your Rochester teammates respond to the news?


Kevin Slowey: Most of my teammates in Rochester were guys that I has played with in previous seasons and they were all very congratulatory (handshakes, hugs and the like)


SethSpeaks: Who was the first person you called?


Kevin Slowey: The first person I called was my Dad.


SethSpeaks:  When you got to the Twins clubhouse the first time, how was your welcome?


Kevin Slowey: I actually was never welcomed into the Twins clubhouse. I flew to Minnesota on an off day, and met all of the players and staff on the airplane the next morning en route to Oakland.


SethSpeaks: Your big league debut came on June 1 in Oakland against the A's. One run in six innings. Five hits, two walks. I know you worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning. I know you had an epic at bat against Eric Chavez and he homered. What are you memories or your debut?


Kevin Slowey: The game itself really seemed to fly by (I'm sure the nerves had plenty to do with that). The one play that really sticks out in my mind in that game was a line drive up the middle (courtesy of Travis Buck) that Bartlett snared with an amazing full out dive.


SethSpeaks: Your dad got quite a bit of air time during that game. Talk just a little bit about how what your parents and siblings have meant to you in your career.


Kevin Slowey: My Dad did get plenty of airtime during the game, I think he was even dubbed 'Fan of the Game' by the Fox Sports channel out west. My whole family was at the game , and looking into the stands and seeing them in jerseys and holding signs was one of the coolest things I've ever seen.


SethSpeaks: Last year, we discussed the differences between the Florida State League and the Eastern League (Hi A to AA). This year we have to ask, what are the big differences between the International League (AAA) and the Big Leagues?


Kevin Slowey: The biggest difference that I noticed in Minnesota was the margin for error, or lack of margin, or something like that. At every level in the minor leagues the margin for error seems to be pared down, which leaves it pretty slim by the time you get to the Major League level. Even a slight error there was more difficult to get away with than a more grievous one anywhere else.


SethSpeaks: Going back to your season with Rochester, you put up near-historic numbers. You were 10-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 20 starts. To what do you attribute that kind of success?


Kevin Slowey: I think a lot of that success can be attributed to the kind of team we had in Rochester. From the front office all the way down, it was a great place to play, and I think that really showed on the field. We had great catchers in Morales, Heintz, and Lecroy and a great defense behind us. If you look at that pitching staff, we had a lot of guys there that had great years (Baker, Blackburn, Duensing, DePaula, Garza, Korecky). The catchers there (just like they do in Minnesota) deserve a lot of credit.


SethSpeaksDespite going 3-0 before the All-Star break, you had an ERA of 5.84. In 37 innings, you walked nine and struck out 19. You also gave up 13 homers. The walks and home run rates were very uncharacteristic for you. Both numbers speak to control, not only outside the strike zone, but also in the strike zone. Would that be a fair statement?


Kevin Slowey: I think that I was really trying to do too much in those first 6-7 starts in Minnesota. Instead of just focusing on one pitch, one batter at a time... I was trying to pitch perfect games from the start. For me, that led to a lot of balls up in the zone and over the heart of the plate. Just slowing the game down, and being a little less fine were some of the things that Gardy and Andy really wanted me to work on in my return to Rochester, and are some of the adjustments that I will continue to make this year.


SethSpeaks: I think it is fair to say that that four week period was probably the first time you've ever struggled. Was the physical or mental challenge more difficult to work through?


Kevin Slowey: I don't know that either aspect of the challenge was any more difficult than the other really. No one likes to struggle, lose, or feel like you let your teammates down. The Twins did a great job of sending me down with a plan, and the encouragement that they expected me to be back soon. Overall it was tough, but I absolutely feel like it was the right decision, and I've become a better pitcher because of it.


SethSpeaks: You came back up to the Twins for September and it was like you were a completely different pitcher. You were 1-1 with a 3.34 ERA. In 29.2 inning, he walked just two, struck out 28 and allowed just three more homers. Is it as simple as saying better control or was there something more?


Kevin Slowey: I'm not sure if the September stats can really be attributed to any one thing in particular. I think it was a combination of adjustments in Rochester, work in the bullpen with Andy and Chris Heintz, and listening to and learning from guys like Mike Redmond and Matt Guerrier who have been in my situation before and know what it is like.


SethSpeaks: Pitching that well for the last month has to be motivating going into the offseason. Did you spend any time with Gardy or Rick Anderson following the season to discuss what they wanted you to work on before spring training?


Kevin Slowey: Nobody really gives you any specific instructions on things to work on during the offseason, but everybody knows what they need to do to be ready for Spring Training. Everyone follows a different plan, and for some guys it is more weight training, others more running.. but everyone seems to be ready to go when February rolls around.


SethSpeaks: So, how has your offseason been? Did you get away from baseball for a little while, or when do you start getting ready for the 2008 season?


Kevin Slowey: My offseason has been great. I'm living down here in Atlanta with my older brother Dan and working out at a facility in Woodstock, Ga, with a handful of Atlanta Braves players. I don't think baseball players ever really "get away" from baseball, but I did take a couple weeks off from conditioning and just spent time at home sleeping in and taking naps.


SethSpeaks: You got to pitch against the Red Sox in your final start. What was pitching in Fenway Park like?


Kevin Slowey: It was pretty neat. Even though the game didn't go exactly as planned, just getting a chance to pitch in a stadium with such awesome baseball history was amazing.

SethSpeaks: Did you watch the postseason a little differently this year knowing that you had now faced some of those players?


Kevin Slowey: I did. This was the first season where I watched the playoffs knowing that the team I was just playing for had a chance to be on the field instead of the couch. It made it a little tougher to watch, but it was neat seeing players that I had pitched against and just being a fan for a change. 


SethSpeaks: Have you been following the Twins sites and blogs throughout the offseason? Does the team (maybe Bill Smith) keep in occasional contact with you to let you know what's going on?


Kevin Slowey: Only as much as the next baseball fan really. I'll read and for the most pertinent information, and otherwise just focus on getting ready for next year.


SethSpeaks: Is it weird to hear or read your name mentioned in trade rumors?


Kevin Slowey: It is a little bit odd hearing your name in trade rumors, but just like a lot of other things in baseball, those kind of decisions are out of my hands.


SethSpeaks: Speaking of blogs, tell us a little bit about Blogonoscopy.


Kevin Slowey: Haha, now we are getting to the important information. Blogonoscopy is a blog started by my older brother Dan. Im not sure how/why he came up with the idea, but it is pretty ridiculous. Blogonoscopy is best described as a commentary on everything... from product reviews, to Christmas card photo-ops, to exploits in and around Atlanta. Occasionally I will make an appearance as a guest blogger, but Dan is really the main author/editor/resident nutcase.

SethSpeaks: You were on an episode of Fox Sport North's Str8Up. What was that day like?


Kevin Slowey: It was a cool experience and it gave the fans a chance to see what my normal day is like during the season (general consensus: normal) Other than some weird looks from other drivers on the highway, with the cameraman riding shotgun... it was pretty great all around.

SethSpeaks: In the episode, they showed you getting your bullpen in between starts. It also showed a conversation with you, Johan Santana and Carlos Silva speaking in tongues. First, how many languages do you know, and how many would you say you are fluent in?


Kevin Slowey: Haha, I only know two languages... English and Spanish (in that order). The other clips were either completely made up, or just common phrases intended to convince others that we had more than a cursory knowledge of another language.


SethSpeaks: Secondly, can you discuss Santana and Silva? They seemed to be great leaders as well as good pitchers and teammates. Speak to the value of those two specifically and other veterans on the team and what they can do for a young player like yourself and others on this year's team.


Kevin Slowey: Santana and Silva were, and are much more than just outstanding starting pitchers. Whether they were showing younger guys the ropes, or just leading by example (Santana is always the first guy to the field, bullpen, gym, etc.) they made a great impact in the clubhouse.

SethSpeaks: What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of baseball?


Kevin Slowey: Nothing too interesting I'm afraid. Other than pheasant hunting (which was introduced to me by Glen Perkins and subsequently added to the top of my 'hobby list') I really just read a lot, with the occasional Steeler game or movie mixed in.

SethSpeaks: Are you looking forward to traveling with Scott Baker and Bert Blyleven next week on the Winter Caravan?


Kevin Slowey: I am, It should be a good time and it will give me a chance to see what Caravan is all about. Bake and I got to be good friends last year and it will be fun catching up with him and Bert always has story upon story to entertain with.


SethSpeaks: Last year was your first Twins Fest experience. Are you looking forward to seeing the guys and being back there again?


Kevin Slowey: Yea, I had a great time there last January and look forward to another frozen Twins Fest this year.


SethSpeaks: I'll leave an open question. Is there anything you would like to say to Twins fans?


Kevin Slowey: I'd just like to say thanks to all the Twins fans that I ran into last season. You guys (and girls) were great fans, and it wouldn't be any fun without you guys. Thanks again!

A huge thank you to Kevin Slowey for taking the time to answer all of these questions. Let me know what you think.  Send me an e-mail, or put something in the Comments here. You never know, maybe Kevin will stop by to answer some questions.




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