One minute you were pitching for the Iron Pigs, the next you were warming up at Citizens Bank Park—what was it like to find out so suddenly that you’d be making your debut in the majors?
It was crazy, really. It was supposed to be an off day for me, so I was sitting on the Chesapeake Bay with my wife and some friends when I got that call that Cole [Hamels] was sick and that I had to drive into Philly that night. I didn’t have my car with me, so there was a lot of stress over how I was going to actually get to the ballpark, how I was I going to move around the city and where my wife was going to go. But, I made it, thankfully.
After five starts, what can you say is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make in coming up to the majors?
Definitely getting used to the ball. The balls used in the majors are a little harder to grip, so I’ve had to work on being more consistent with my pitches, curve-wise. Other than that, it’s been a great experience; everyone on the team has been great in helping me get settled in.
Some critics are giving you flak because your pitches rarely top 90 mph. What’s your philosophy on speed?
For me, it’s all about location and movement on my pitches. In all my years of playing, I’ve never been a big velocity guy. Throughout my whole career, I’ve focused more on location and movement and mixing up the pitches I throw. That’s the way I’m going to throw, because those are my strengths and, so far, they’ve been giving me results.
Clearly, the Lehigh Valley is a little more rustic than Philadelphia. Was it easy to adjust to living there, after coming from Nebraska?
(Laughs) It was fun. I mean, I obviously spent most of my time at the ballpark every day, but I did get out to visit some of the nearby towns. Truth be told, I did see some parts of them that reminded me of home. It was relaxing.
Now that [Darin] Ruf is here, I have another Nebraska guy to hang out with, which is great when the offseason comes and I’m looking for someone to talk to.
You were at University of Nebraska at Omaha when the Mavericks were in the NCAA hockey tournament. Since Philly’s a big hockey town, are you picking up more interest in the sport?
When I was at Omaha, it was really more about the excitement of the team doing well, not really hockey itself. I mean, I went to a few games while they were playing during the season, but it was just another chance to hang out with friends and support the school.
I’m not a huge hockey fan, but I did try to get out to some Tampa Bay Lightning games during spring training. Since I’ve moved east, it’s really interested me. I’m trying to make an effort to learn more about this sport, especially here, where everybody’s crazy about it.
Contact Vinny Vella at 215-854-2225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.