John Curtis was a major league pitcher for 15 seasons and has been in the Brewers organization for six years now. He is currently the pitching coach for the Single-A West Virginia Power. Some general information can be found at my THT article here. When he describes a pitcher's stuff as "average" don't think that is a knock on the guy. A league average fastball is a pretty darn good pitch. I only had a few moments with Curtis before the game started so I got right down to business.
BCB: I want to ask you your thought on some pitchers on this years team starting with Evan Frederickson.
John Curtis: Well Evan is new to us so I haven't seen a lot of him. Big arm. We see this kid will either be a starter or a lights out closer. He has a good slider and is working on his change-up. He has had trouble controlling it right now and overall command is something we are working on right now. We have him in the bullpen right now and he has shown good composure in some difficult circumstances. We are happy to have him you don't see a lot of left handers who throw as hard as he does.
BCB: What about today's starter R. J. Seidel?
JC: R.J. is one of the top prospects on the team. He is a kid that believe it or not is actually still growing into his body. He has shown he can pitch in this league. Our only concern with him now is strength. Can he get stronger and carry a hundred pitch games back to back? His fastball has been close to average maybe half the time he has been out there but we expect that it could become above average.
BCB: I've read that his change-up is his best pitch. Is that the case?
JC: Well he has struggled with it this year, believe it or not. I believe he was rated as one of the top change-ups in the organization last year but I don't think that is true. At one time it may have been good and was ranked high but he has struggled with it this year. He jumps a little off the rubber but all the equipment is there.
BCB: Is that a control issue or is he not hiding the pitch well?
JC: It is a control issue--the speed, velocity difference is there.
BCB: What about Roque Mercedes, who pitched yesterday?
JC: Mercedes has made tremendous progress this year. He is a guy who has to use a good mix of his pitches. His fastball has been close to average. Good slider, good curve ball, and good change-up. He has done a heck of a job for us. He struggled early in the year and that is why the numbers aren't there but the biggest thing for me is he has made a seamless transition to the bullpen.
BCB: Is that where you project him staying moving forward?
JC: I think that is where the future is for him. He has done both for us and has given us some quality spot starts recently as well.
BCB: I saw Jeremy Jeffress pitch here last year and when I saw him pitch he was lights out and then he got suspended.
JC: He is a major leaguer waiting to happen. Not unlike Gallardo.
BCB: Would you put him in that category?
JC: Sure, this kid is going to be a major league pitcher. He is smoothing the hard edges there still working on commanding his secondary pitches but the fastball is there he is a tremendous athlete and a good attitude.
BCB: Do you think he has the off-speed stuff to stay in the rotation?
JC: Absolutely. Good curve ball. His change-up is excellent and he is only going to get better.
BCB: Speaking of change-ups I heard that the Brewers require a minimum number of pitches to be change-ups. Is that the case.
JC: Yes, ten percent. Ten percent of your pitches every night should be change-ups.
BCB: Do you worry about throwing a change up to a similarly handed batter? Some teams seem to shy away from that.
JC: Not necessarily. You often hear that it is bad for a lefty to throw a change up to left handed batters but with righties I don't have a problem with that. The two things they have to learn is command of the pitch and when to use it. They have to understand that the effectiveness of that pitch works off the fastball and they have to establish the fastball first.
BCB: Do you prefer the circle change or the straight change when you are teaching it to a pitcher?
JC: I prefer whatever works. Some kids have trouble with the circle change and maybe a box change is a little more comfortable pushing the ball back in their hand. When Will Inman was here he wasn't comfortable with the circle change so we went with a box change with him. It is whatever works.
BCB: The Padres have him down around three quarters now...
JC: He looked almost side armed when I saw him in the futures game.
BCB: That was a bit of a surprise to me considering the success he had had over the top. Were you surprised by that?
JC: If it works for him, great. I know that deception is a big part of his game and now down there he is going to have a lot of deception. I don't know if you saw that Weaver kid [Jared Weaver] in college but he was way down here and now the Angels have him up here. To me that is where Inman has to go but his doing good work there and he is a great kid.
BCB: Thank you very much!