Posted at 6:06 AM on June 6, 2008
by David Zingler
When the Twins claimed left-handed reliever Craig Breslow off waivers on May 29, it drew little notice. While Breslow may be the most anonymous member of the home team, the Yale graduate likely has the most interesting background. Curious to find out more, I had a quick chat with the 27-year-old before Wednesday's game:
DZ: Could you describe the circumstances that got you here to the Twins?
BRESLOW: Coming into this season, I was out of options so I couldn't be sent to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers. I came to spring training with Boston, was put on waivers at the end of spring training and claimed by Cleveland. I spent the first two months (of the season) there before being designated for assignment in which case they had 10 days to trade or release me. They put me on waivers and I was claimed over here.
DZ: I noticed that you have a pretty good track record - a 2.70 ERA in 40 innings in the big leagues - has it just been a numbers game (that has prevented you from sticking)?
BRESLOW: I think so. I think I've been a victim of always having options, always being the guy who would come up to fill in for weekend because the bullpen was tired or somebody was hurt and as soon as someone was ready to reclaim their position, I was always the guy who was sent down. Even this year in Cleveland, I never really got a true opportunity; I made the team out of spring training, but I was used very sporadically. A couple of times, I would go two weeks without throwing regardless of my performance.
DZ: The Twins have a history of picking up guys who are unknown, but make a name for themselves here. Were you encouraged to be picked up by them?
BRESLOW: Absolutely. A place like Boston where I started the season is a difficult place to establish a career. Obviously there are some big names and some money there to kind of throw around - bring in some high priced free agents, relievers, whatever the case may be. A place like Minnesota, or even a place like Cleveland, I think it's a good opportunity for a guy like me because there is obviously a tremendous advantage to pulling a guy out of scrap heap and give him the league minimum instead of paying a guy $3 to $4 million.
DZ: I was reading about your background and you went to Yale - which is rare in the big leagues - and majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Have you ever found teammates to discuss that with - at any level?
BRESLOW: (laughs) You know what - at any level - I actually played with a teammate from Yale - I was drafted by the Brewers - in 2003 in Beloit in the Midwest League, a guy named John Steitz - who was drafted the previous year - his parents are professors at Yale in that field so we actually had a number of things in common.
DZ: I noticed you are involved in childhood cancer research (he's opened a non-profit foundation), what is the story behind that?
BRESLOW: My sister had cancer when she was 14 - she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I was 12 years old and taken back. The impact that something like that has on your life is pretty great. I've always wanted to somehow give back or get involved in the community and this - I felt - was the way to do so.
Note: Breslow's sister, Lesley, is doing well, 15 years after her diagnosis.
DZ: Did that play into your major at all?
BRESLOW: A little bit I guess. Medical research is done a molecular level and biochemistry plays a pretty significant role in that. Biophysics deals with structural biology and proteins and viruses and things like that. There is definitely some correlation and I think that getting involved in a charity especially one that is in medicine lets me maintain connectivity to the medical field.
DZ: A guy with your background has opportunities outside of baseball; did anything ever come up while you were in the minor leagues that made you think twice about coming back and playing?
BRESLOW: I always wanted to go to med school and it's still something I feel strongly about and obviously when you are toiling in the minor leagues - especially after being released out of A Ball - that weighs on you. You maybe take a realistic look at something you may be more productive doing, but to date I've never found something I want to do more than play baseball. So, as long as that rings true, that is what I am going to keep doing.
DZ: Do you plan on going to med school when you are done (playing)?
BRESLOW: I guess it kind of depends on what my future holds. If it's 15 years from now and I am winding down a pretty successful big league career and financially I am stable with a family, then perhaps not. But if I still have that urge to get back into a classroom, that's something I will think about doing.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Great interview...very interesting! You really did a great job researching Craig's background.
Good stuff David. And I was really impressed by Breslow when I saw him pitch against the Yankees last weekend.
Having had the opportunity to get to know Craig, he really defies any of the perceived notions that MLB players have.