[editor's note, by battlekow] I conducted this interview in Spring Training, but it reads funny without the introductory questions, so just pretend it's March.
So far this year, Will Inman has handled his promotion to High-A ball with aplomb. His line so far features a 1.51 ERA in 35.7 innings, with a league-leading 43 strikeouts, six walks, 30 hits, and two home runs; basically, he's duplicating his ridiculous numbers from last year. In between duplications, he was nice enough to answer a few of my questions:
How are you feeling so far this spring?
Everything's going pretty well. I'm just trying to get some innings in, make sure I get on the mound, get some experience. It's the beginning of the year, so I'm just trying to get everything back in shape, game intensity-type stuff, face some hitters, get in some situations, just get ready for the season.
Do you think you're headed to Brevard to start the season?
They don't really tell us anything, but I'm going to go ahead and guess that, but at the same time, I don't really know.
How would you feel about being a manatee?
A manatee, boy, I guess that would be great. I mean, I don't know what else to say about that. I've never been to Florida really in my life, so probably play there and enjoy the good weather, and just try to have a good season
Have you seen hornymanatee.com?
[alarmed pause] No, I haven't.
It's from Conan O'Brien. You'll have to check it out.
I'll do that.
There were a lot of promising young hitters on your West Virginia team last year. Who impressed you the most?
As far as being impressed with hitting, you obviously have to be impressed with [Lorenzo] Cain, just the way he's really consistent, kind of like the way I try to be on the mound, be as consistent as possible. I mean, if he's 0-4 one day, he's picking it up, 2-4 the next, 1-3, he rarely goes a day where he gets shut out without a hit, he rarely goes oh-for on a day. He's going to bunt if he has to to get that one hit of the day. He's just pretty solid and pretty consistent. H put up just ridiculous numbers, but at the same time, just day in and day out, he got his work in and he worked hard.
Excepting yourself, who was the best pitcher?
I've got a good friend, Patrick Ryan. At the beginning of the spring, they were debating whether to send him back to Helena or to West Virginia. He ended up going to West Virginia and just absolutely dominated. He had one of the best years I've ever seen from a player. It was absolutely ridiculous. He got in there as a reliever and just ate up innings. If somebody had a rough start, he'd come in, he was good for four or five innings, and three days later, he was ready to go again. He just had an amazing year.
Is he your best friend in the organization?
He's a really good friend. I lived with him in West Virginia, and I'm going to live with him again in Brevard this year, if I end up going there.
You had a bout of shoulder soreness last year that got you shut down for a bit. Has it given you any trouble since then?
No, not at all. I did the whole winter program with the Brewers out here in Arizona, and I made sure that everything was nice and strong in that shoulder, and it's been feeling great.
Your performance has been outstanding thus far in the minors, but scouts say you don't have the stuff to fool hitters at higher levels. I found an article about you from when you were in high school describing how it really gets you fired up when batters would tell their teammates that you weren't throwing that hard, so apparently this is something you've been dealing with for awhile. What are your thoughts?
I'm not a stuff guy. I'm not a mid-90s fastball guy, I'm not a 12-to-6, off-the-table breaking ball guy, I don't have the devastating changeup. Most of my games, it's basically just being consistent with throwing strikes and giving the hitter a chance to get himself out, not really walking anybody, just going after guys. Of course, you can be overaggressive when you don't have the best stuff, and that's where the changeup I learned last year really came in to help get people off my fastball. I don't have the best of stuff, but at the same time, I don't like hearing people say I can't get hitters out at upper levels, but, you know, we'll see when I get there, and hopefully I can prove 'em wrong.
From what I've read, it seems like you're a pretty fierce competitor, so I'm sure that just motivates you more.
It's a motivating factor I guess, but at the same time, people are going to write what they want--they have their opinions, and there's nothing wrong with their opinions at all. But at least give me a chance to prove myself.
It kind of reminds me of Carlos Villanueva. He's had pretty outstanding numbers in the minors, pretty high K-rates, and it was the same story with him: everyone said he didn't have the stuff, but he got his chance, and he made the most of it.
Exactly. He's one of the best competitors I've ever seen. We're very similar in a way: he goes right after guys. He gets it up there at times 90 or 91, 92 if he wants, but he throws four quality pitches for strikes. He keeps things simple. That's the way to pitch: keep things simple, throw strikes, and give the hitter a chance to get himself out.
Are you as demonstrative now as you were back in high school?
I guess I am, but in high school, it was a little different. I'm still young now, but I've matured so much. I'm not going to lie to you, I can get into a game, I'm not afraid to throw out a fist pump or whatever in the middle of an inning after a big strikeout or a big double play, but I don't feel like it's really throwing it anybody's face. I'm really doing that to get myself going. I'm not afraid to let a few yells out in the middle of the field.
It's interesting how that works. I don't know if you read the prospect books or websites, but sometimes it seems that if they like a guy, they'll say he uses his emotions to elevate his stuff, but if they don't like him, they'll say he's too emotional and out of control. Or, like with Yovani Gallardo for awhile, they'll knock you for being too calm out on the mound, and now that he's had his big year, they're saying he's "poised."
Exactly, exactly. It's kind of the type of person you are. You don't have to let out yells and screams like Randy Johnson to be a good pitcher or a fierce competitor, because Yovani competes at the highest level. That guy, he absolutely just goes after guys. Whether he shows it on the field or not, that means nothing.
So do you pay attention to prospect rankings or any other press you get?
In the winter I had a lot of time on my hands, so I'm not going to lie, I googled it a bit. But I'm not really worried about it; I try to stay more focused on myself.
But it must be nice to be recognized for how well you do.
Well yeah, it helps out a little bit, I guess.
You hit a three-run homer in the state championship game your junior year. Fluke, or were you a good hitter? Do you miss hitting at all?
I had aluminum bats, but yeah, I swung it a little bit in high school. I ended up with 32 or 33 bombs in my high school career.
Do you miss hitting at all?
[laughs] You know, it's funny. I miss hitting, but I swung today in the cage with wooden bats, and I didn't really miss it that much anymore.
What convinced you to eschew your commitment to Auburn and sign with the Brewers?
It's one of the toughest decisions for people to understand. A lot of people say, "Yeah, just take the money," but at the same time, college guarantees a solid life, a career.
And a lot of people are interested in having the "college experience."
I'm not big into wanting to go out and party and drink or whatever. I don't know what happened to me, but I think I just kind of skipped that phase in life, I didn't really wander off into that too much, so that kind of made it an easier decision. Then with the money, I have it in my contract where I can go back, and I have a certain amount of money set aside to go back to college, and I just thought I made the right decision. I thought it was pretty much a no-brainer.
So what does an 18 year old do with $500K?
People ask me that all the time. I went to the bank, got that all locked up, and started looking towards the future. All the money I spent is, I got a car, and in a few days, I'm about to get my dad a car for his birthday. I didn't go outrageous, I'm pretty much just saving it up, taking into account the "what if" factor.
I hear you're trying to quit chewing tobacco. How's that going?
[laughs] You know, if I could go back to high school and not do something, that would be what it was. I went about three weeks without it, and then Spring Training started up, and I just gave in, kind of lost my willpower.
I'd imagine it's pretty difficult when everyone around you is doing it.
Yeah, it's just the everyday grind. As a pitcher, when we get our work done, we pretty much hang out, we get our running in, our throwing in, stuff like that, and after that we're pretty much shagging BP or taking PFP. But I'm doing my best.
Did you know that willinman.com is already registered, to some guy in California?
I'm really not understanding that at all, what all that is. I'm not a big computer guy.
The weirdest part is that his name isn't even Will Inman. I think you should make him an offer he can't refuse.
[laughs] That sounds good.