Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Q&A with Anthony Slama
Twins Relief Pitching Prospect
Since Pat Neshek was injured in May of 2008, there have been question marks in the Twins bullpen. Plenty of pitchers have been given an opportunity in that role. Some of them have been alright, some have been pretty brutal. All the while, the Twins have had two relief pitching prospects dominating the minor leagues.
Rob Delaney was a non-drafted free agent that the Twins signed in 2006 out of St. Johnís University (in NY). He has flown through the system with great strikeout numbers and very low walk rates. In 2008, MILB.com named him the Relief Pitcher of the Year. After 26 games in New Britain this year, he was promoted to AAA Rochester where he has pitched in 26 more games. In Rochester since the beginning of July, he has pitched in 12 games. In 13.2 innings, he has given up ten hit, two walks and struck out 13. The 24 year old appears to be very close.
Anthony Slama was the Twins 39th round draft choice in 2006 out of the University of San Diego. Last year, he was incredible and no one really understands why he stayed in Ft. Myers all season. He had a 1.01 ERA. In 71 innings, he gave up 43 hits, walked 24 and struck out 110! He was named the Twins minor league pitcher of the year for 2008. He moved up to AA New Britain this year and has continued to pitch very well and rack up strikeouts. He is 4-2 with a 2.48 ERA. In 65.1 innings, he has allowed 46 hits, walked 32 and struck out 93. Again, we are asking what he has to do to get promoted.
If you dig deep, you can find a couple of things. First, the walk rate is a little bit high. Second, like Pat Neshek a few years ago, you could look at what left-handed hitters have done against him. This year, right-handed batters are hitting just .129 against him. Left-handed batters are hitting .286, and he has walked a higher percentage. So, there is something, if you really want to nit-pick.
(by the way, I did ask Pat Neshek about Slama in the interview with him last night on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. Listen to the whole show, but for the Slama discussion, go to the 20:00 minute mark. I asked Neshek, in part, because he was 25 years old in AA as well, putting up very similar numbers.) †
This morning, I am thrilled to bring another Q&A with a member of the Twins organization. Today, I want to thank Anthony Slama for spending some time answering questions. As you will see, he clearly put some time into his responses! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them here. †
ÖLet the Questions Begin!
SethSpeaks: Here we are in the dog days of August. You've been throwing every couple of days since March. How is the arm feeling at this point in the season?
Anthony Slama: Thanks Seth for asking, my arm is feeling as strong as ever. I have already tied all of the appearances that I had last year and my arm and body feel like they should at this point in the season.
SethSpeaks: Is there a pitcher that you would compare yourself to, or that you've heard others compare yourself to?
Anthony Slama: When I was in college, I had a pitching coach who compared me to Mark Prior, and tried to parallel my mechanics to his. I read all of the Tom House perfect pitching mechanics books and completed the drills to try and use my legs more to push off and keep my shoulders on the same line to the plate, like Mark. Since then, my arm slot dropped naturally to a low three quarters slot but I kept the high leg kick and strong push from the rubber.
†I have other pitchers that I like to watch now, but I would say Prior's dominance during that period was a huge influence on my pitching style as I was developing into a serious pitcher. My mechanics have definitely changed since then though; I am not nearly the same pitcher I was in college.
SethSpeaks: What pitches do you throw, and what would you consider your strikeout pitch?
Anthony Slama: I throw a four-seam fastball, slider, and a circle change. My slider is a strikeout pitch but I have also gotten quite a few swing and miss strikeouts with my fastball on the outer half.
SethSpeaks: Alright, the one tough question that has to be asked... do you feel like you've been held back (from earlier promotions) this year or last year?
Anthony Slama: I do not feel I have been held back, I think that the Twins are giving me every chance to develop in the minor leagues. I understand that getting to the major leagues is a process and every day spent in the minor leagues is a learning experience and grinding it out here makes you better. The Twins will promote me when they feel I am ready.
SethSpeaks: Has anyone with the organization talked to you at all about a plan or why you've been kept back?
Anthony Slama: I know that the plan is to develop into a quality major league arm. That is the plan for all minor league pitchers. To be able to get outs at the major league level, When the Twins feel that I am ready to be moved up the organization they will let me know. I have confidence that they know the best route to get to the big leagues and be successful.
SethSpeaks: On my site, I've said that I think you're the next guy to be called up, straight from AA, and that it will happen before September 1st. What would that mean for you, to get to the big leagues?
Anthony Slama: It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid to pitch in the major leagues. It would mean everything to me and my family to get to the big leagues at any time. Thanks for pulling for me! I hope to be there as soon as possible.
SethSpeaks: What are the differences between the Florida State League and the Eastern League (for you as a pitcher)?
Anthony Slama: I have thought about this question a lot. The hitters are smarter, stronger and much more patient in this league. if you make a mistake to these hitters they will not miss it most times. They put a good swing on balls left over the plate and jump on pitches that hang in the strike zone. Lefties especially have been patient with me taking their strikes until they can put the bat on the ball and flip a fastball to the opposite field. This forces you to keep the ball down and attack the strike zone early, not fall behind in counts
SethSpeaks: Do you look at your numbers, or are there any specific statistics that you look at to gauge how you're doing?
Anthony Slama: I guess I look at my walks and WHIP the most, since keeping them off of the bases is crucial for a reliever. Keep those categories down and itís a good bet you are going to be successful.
SethSpeaks: Seeing how well you've done since being drafted in 2006, is there any explanation for why you lasted until the 39th round, or simply a lot of teams missed? (or same with how Delaney went undrafted that same year?)
Anthony Slama: I donít know why I went where I did in the draft or how teams passed on Rob. I can't explain the draft or why some players are drafted higher than others. All I can say is that I am happy to be drafted at all; I still feel itís an honor.
SethSpeaks: Who are some of the people that you would credit most for getting you to this point in your career?
Anthony Slama: My parents have been supportive since day one. I credit them the most for getting me to this point in my life and my career. I would not be here without my coaches who always did the most to advance my career.
SethSpeaks: You were the Twins minor league pitcher of the year last year and would certainly be in the top 2 or 3 choices again this year. How much did you enjoy your trip to the Twin Cities for Twins Fest, the Diamond Awards and the cold?
Anthony Slama: Thanks Seth, and the trip to Minnesota for the Awards dinner and weekend was one of the highlights of my career so far. I had a blast. It was cool rubbing shoulders with Morneau and Mauer, theyíre both great guys and everyone was very nice. The cold was a shock for me. Iím from California and Iíve never been in anything like that. It was something like 10 below when I was there, too cold to do much sightseeing outside. I hope to see more of Minnesota in the summer heat!
A huge thank you to Anthony Slama for taking the time to answer all of these questions. We certainly wish him the best of luck the rest of the 2009 season with the Rockcats and hopefully the Twins! Let me know what you think. Send me an e-mail, or leave your questions or comments for me or Anthony here. Who knows? Maybe Anthony will even read them and reply??? Have a great day!