Posted at 3:30 PM on September 25, 2008
by David Zingler
In just over three years, Kevin Slowey has risen from obscurity at Winthrop University in South Carolina to one of the rising stars in the Twins young rotation. Today, he will have the weight of the state on his shoulders as he attempts to pitch the Twins into first place.
I caught up with the laid back, yet chatty 24-year-old hurler prior to last night's game:
DZ: This year you kind of got off to a slow start - had the injury - and then got it going, what clicked for you?
SLOWEY: Getting ready was tough and then coming back, it was the beginning of the season for me and most of the guys on most of the teams had been playing for about a month. I finally got up to speed. I feel like for me it was just getting comfortable. I feel like I am still young and I am still learning stuff everyday. Every outing out there I feel like I have kind of gotten better.
DZ: Some of your other teammates - I don't want to say "hit the wall"- but have kind of struggled late in the season. Did being out earlier help your stamina this late in the year?
SLOWEY: I don't think anyone has really "hit the wall". Pitching is cyclical, you have two or three really good weeks where you feel good and you might have a week where you really don't feel so good and it just happens that you have a couple of guys who didn't feel so good at the same time. That's just kind of how it went. I don't feel like any of us "hit the wall" - Baker threw great seven innings last night. I think we are ready to go.
DZ: How much did being up last year and getting a taste of things help you this year?
SLOWEY: I think it helped me a lot - like I said - in the case of learning. I was able to get my feet wet and see what it is all about - what a good pitch is here and what a bad pitch is here. Just start to get some of the nerves out of the way - they're still there - everyday that I get to come to the park and play with these guys and face guys that I've seen on baseball cards and collected baseball cards of. It gets easier - not physically, but mentally - to come in here and know that you are supposed to be here.
DZ: Having all the guys (in the rotation) that you came up in the minor leagues with - obviously that makes you more comfortable - does that create a friendly competition where you feed off of each other?
SLOWEY: Yeah, I think most important, it keeps us comfortable. We are not competing against each other; we are all a team here. As good as Scott throws one night or Glen throws another, for me - I am not going to try to compete against them; I am just trying to compete against myself every time I am out. I want to make better pitches than I did the time before. Having guys my age...we empathize with each other. There are days where you feel good or you don't feel good - you say "what happened there" and you have guys that say "the same thing happened to me two weeks ago."
DZ: Could you just talk about Rick Anderson and how he's helped you out?
SLOWEY: Sure. Andy's - in my opinion - is the best pitching coach in the major leagues. With what he's done with young guys, Cy Young winners - he has the ability to treat us all as individuals and also keep us together as a team. I think that goes a long way.
DZ: You went to Winthrop University, which really isn't known as a sports school - how did that come about?
SLOWEY: I ended up there just because out of high school I wasn't the biggest guy, I didn't really throw that hard and they were one of the teams that expressed interest. The places I wanted to go - Pitt, Penn State - weren't interested. They said, "we don't think you'll play here", so Winthrop gave me the opportunity and I think it worked out pretty well.
(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
See more of David Zingler's interviews with Twins players:
September 24: Jason Kubel
September 11: Denard Span
September 10: Mike Redmond
August 21: Randy Ruiz
August 20: Glen Perkins
August 12: Matt Guerrier
August 1: Nick Punto
July 31: Justin Morneau
July 30: Scott Baker
June 30: Brian Bass
June 27: Brian Buscher
June 18: Matt Macri
June 6: Craig Breslow
June 4: Michael Cuddyer
May 25: Nick Punto & Mike Redmond
May 20: Justin Morneau
May 1: Nick Blackburn
April 29: Brendan Harris
April 20: Jason Kubel
April 17: Denard Span
April 2: Matt Tolbert
Posted at 1:23 PM on September 25, 2008
by Chris Dall
A lot of people have been down on Carlos Gomez this season, including me, even though I heartily endorsed his selection as the everyday centerfielder back in April. Go-Go gave us lots of reasons to doubt him.
I'll admit there were moments when I wavered, especially as his average plummeted, his strikeout totals rose, and Denard Span made everyone wonder what the Twins had been thinking back in spring training. As I watched him get into more 0-2 counts than any other player in baseball history, I wondered if Gomez would turn out to be one of those "all sizzle and no steak" prospects that drive you crazy, and get GM's fired. Today, I'm feeling a lot better about Go-Go.
I'm not going to suggest Gomez has made some huge breakthrough, because he still has a long way to go offensively. But his September numbers (.292 BA, .342 OBP), while not overwhelming, could be an indication that he's starting to figure things out at the plate. One key moment was in Tuesday's game, when he drove in Nick Punto on a 4th inning single. Down 0-2 in the count, Gomez actually laid off a few pitches, fouled off a few others, and worked the count to 3-2 before dropping a soft single into left field. I couldn't believe my eyes. It might have been his best at-bat of the year.
Then, of course, there was the catch he made last night in the 9th, on a ball most other outfielders wouldn't have caught up with. He misses that ball and the 9th inning could have been very different.
So, yes, I'm sticking to my guns on Gomez. He may never be a leadoff hitter, but if he continues to improve, he could be huge boost for a bottom of the order that has been black hole for years.