Poor Adrian Houser. First, I'm pretty sure I embarrassed the heck out of him when I met him last weekend. Then I quizzed him within an inch of his life about his pitch repertoire, mechanics, movement, command, development, etc. Unfortunately, that's what he gets for agreeing to a second interview with me. I had done this email interview with him during the off-season so I wanted to cover some new ground.
I was fortunate enough to catch Houser's last start - five innings, five hits, no runs, no walks and three strikeouts. He was aggressive and relied on his defense behind him to get quick outs. The game lasted one hour and 53 minutes. As he told me the next day, "I like to attack the hitters. People have got to prove to me that they can hit me."
On to the interview (edited for brevity and clarity) ~
What has he been working on?: "I guess coming out of Spring Training into extended, we were working more on repeating my motion. Through extended, I did a lot better. Then when we got here, the first couple games were a little shaky. Then Hector Mercado [worked with me on some things] and the next two games after that went real well. I've just been doing the same thing ever since, just trying to do the same thing they keep telling me. I talked to our pitching coordinator and he said I've come a long way since Spring Training [on repeating mechanics] so I'm happy with that, but I've just got to keep working, get it better every day."
What was his first Spring Training and Extended experience like?: "Spring Training was different. I really liked it. It was a lot of fun. Just working every day, making sure we're ready to go for the season. Extended? Extended was long. It was definitely a grind. It was starting to get hot there towards the end so I was really happy to leave, but I think going to extended will hopefully work out for the best. Got to get a lot more practice in, got to do more stuff with the coaches instead of just jumping into the season and trying to fix [things] during the season."
On his pitch selection: "I've got a fastball, sinker, curveball and changeup. I used to have a slider but when we went to working on motion, they just wanted me to have [either] a slider or a curve [not both] so I could work on using less pitches [and] repeat my motion. My curve and changeup have come a long way since high school, especially my changeup. They're both pretty good and they've both [come] a long way. Hopefully [I can] get the mechanics thing down and bring back the slider in Spring Training next year."
On his velocity: "I know in Spring Training I hit 95. Usually I'm sitting 90-92 and hitting 94 maybe. In high school I hit 97. I was sitting 91-94 and hitting 95, 96 [pretty regularly]. Hopefully it will come back to me when I get used to pro throwing, throwing every day. Like in high school, [I] didn't throw a bullpen, just threw games and played a position. Here it's throwing every day and a bullpen between each start. Just get my body used to it a little better and hopefully it will come back."
What kind of movement does he have on his pitches?: "My fastball's got pretty good movement. It's got a little bit of run on it. I worked [on my sinker] with George Frazier in the off-season. He showed me a little bit different spot to put it in to get a little more sink on it, so it's got some nice sink on it now. My changeup's got some pretty good sink on it too. It's got late action on it. My curveball's 12-6. It's pretty good when I'm on."
On his command: "I'm doing a lot better in the last year. Comparing last year to this year, I'd definitely say this year I'm doing a whole lot better staying around the zone. Every now and then, you're going to miss a spot, but I think this year after the first few games, I've really got it down. I'm hitting my spots pretty well, doing a pretty good job of that."
Which Astros pitcher has a pitch he'd like to steal?: "Tropeano's got a nasty change up. That'd be something good to have."
Which Astros hitter would he least like to face in the batter's box?: "Here, I'd probably have to say Brian Blasik. He's a freak. He's just so good. You hardly ever see him go a game without getting a hit."
On the Greeneville team: "There's quite a bit of talent here, especially with the trades and the new draft guys this year. They're really good and I like it a lot. They help me out in the field and put up some runs so it's great to have them on the team, as a pitcher."
What is the key to getting to the next level of his development? : "Just keep doing what I'm doing and get better every day. Just listen to my coaches. They're helping me, trying to get me to the big leagues. Just got to keep listening to them. Work hard every day just to be better than the day before. That's all you can do."
I'm going to try not to embarrass Adrian any more than I did the other day, but if he's not one of the nicest young men that I've met throughout my minor league journeys, he has me completely snowed. But make no mistake, he may be a nice guy but he is also a competitor. He just saves his fire for the mound.