Getting in touch with Astros lefty Brian Holmes for an interview wasn’t exactly an easy proposition, but that is understandable as he has been extremely busy in the off-season. Naturally, he’s working out and getting ready for the season, but he’s also been getting one step closer to his degree in Communications at Wake Forest. I finally caught up with him over the holidays.
Holmes made quite an impression in his first season with the Astros organization after being drafted in the 13th round. On July 16th, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a 7-inning game for Tri-City, finally allowing a single with one out in the sixth. On July 27th, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning of a 7-inning game, ultimately allowing one single and no walks. And on September 3rd, he provided seven innings of hitless relief, walking only one while striking out seven. Flirting with no-hitters is nothing new for Holmes. It turns out that he tossed a no-hitter for Wake Forest in March of last year.
On a Tri-City team that was stocked with pitching talent, Holmes was one of the best. He ended the short season with a 7-2 record in 13 games (12 starts), an ERA of 2.57 (11th in the league), and a WHIP of 0.960 (tied for sixth in the league). He was also tied for sixth in the league in strikeouts, having fanned 65 batters in 66 and two-thirds innings and was tied for third in wins.
On to the interview (edited for brevity and clarity) ~
On his pitching repertoire: “I throw fastball, curveball, slider, changeup. I like to pitch with my fastball. I don’t have a lot of velocity, but I like to think I can command it well. I’ll usually throw anywhere 87, 88 ... 90 on a good day. I really like my changeup. I throw off my fast ball. With that I can set them up pretty well with the changeup. And then my curveball is more of a kind of a show-me pitch. And then I can use the slider as a swing-and-miss pitch time to time, but mostly fastball, changeup.”
On the type of pitcher he is: “I wouldn’t call myself a strictly command guy. I don’t throw very hard but I like to attack hitters, get ahead in counts and let them put the ball in play, especially now that I’m in pro ball. I know that the defense is going to make plays so [I like to] get them to put the ball in play and use [my pitches].”
Who did he like to have playing defense behind him?: “He got called up about halfway through our summer but Andrew Aplin who ended up finishing up in Lancaster was incredible. Not the fastest centerfielder I’ve ever pitched with, but his jumps and his reads were just incredible. He’s definitely a great centerfielder.”
On his no-hitter and near no-hitters: “Yeah, I threw one in the spring. That was the first one I’ve ever thrown and that was a great accomplishment that I’m really proud of. And then it just so happened in the summer I think I had… I had like a six inning one. The one that was real close, I had the perfect game going into the seventh inning and I gave up the single to start the seventh. It’s just fun. I think any pitcher that goes out and doesn’t try to throw a no-hitter every day is not approaching the game right. I don’t want to let up for any hitter in the box so I’m trying to throw a no-hitter from the first batter of the game every time I go out there. There’s been a couple times in college and then this past summer, it got a little further than usual and that’s always a fun day.”
What has he accomplished and what is he working on? : “I feel like this summer and the short season was a great opportunity to obviously break the ice and know that you can succeed at a professional level. It’s kind of a nervous type thing when you go into it because you don’t know what to expect, but now that I have a season under my belt, you have a little bit more confidence. Obviously, pitching every five or six days is a new thing. In college, you only throw once a week so getting used to bouncing back quick and what you need to do preparation-wise is really important, and I got a good feel for that. This off-season I’ve been trying to work hard in the weight room, get some flexibility, get some strength because as a left-hander, you’re not expected [to have] as much velocity, but it’s still important. If I could gain a couple miles an hour on my fastball, I think that would help me improve a lot.”
On the draft experience: “Other than an e-mail and filling out a questionnaire, I had not talked to the Astros at all. I never got a call from a scout or anything … pretty unexpected. I never talked to any of them in person or even on the phone. The Astros were definitely not one of the [teams] that I thought was going to pick me. And then the draft was … crazy with the new rules. [No one really had an] idea what to expect so it was really going in blind, but it ended up working out great and I’m happy with how it went. I feel like the draft that we had last year has been really successful so far. We’ve had a lot of good players come in so hopefully we can start working our way up. I’m just going to keep pitching and hopefully that will lead to results and move-ups in the future. That’s all I can hope for.”
On the pitching heavy Tri-City staff: “I really enjoyed it. I think that there [was] a lot of competition within [the] staff because we’d have [Aaron] West go out and throw a shutout start and Brady [Rodgers] would do the same and you’d feel compelled to keep that going. When everyone’s pitching well, there’s a lot of eagerness to keep that trend going so it was a really fun pitching staff to pitch on.”
What was the biggest surprise of his first professional season? : “Probably the success that I had. I wanted to succeed and I expected to succeed, but to have that good of a summer … it was really, really fun and I had a great time.”
Whose pitch would you like to steal?: “I don’t know how many Tri-City guys you’ve talked to but if you talked to a few you probably heard this one. Travis Ballew had one of the best sliders I’ve ever seen. It was a pitch that he could throw almost every pitch in any count and it would just make professional hitters look foolish. Travis Ballew’s slider would definitely be the one.”
What hitter would he least like to face? : “I’d have to say again, Aplin, even though [he’s] a left-handed hitter. I can probably count on one hand the amount of at-bats he had that he was really beaten. Even when he got out, he would take good swings and put the ball in play real hard. He was just a tough out and not a guy you’d really want to face.”
Who on the team made him laugh? : “The whole pitching staff. All of us really had a good time from [Joe] Bircher and Brady and West, and [Jeremiah] Meiners and [John] Neely in the bullpen. We just all had a really good time. The whole pitching staff really jelled on that team and I think that’s why we had so much success. [I asked him about something Brady Rodgers had mentioned involving Creed.] Me and Brady and a few of the other pitchers would imitate the lead singer’s voice. It was kind a running joke that we had … the Creed voice.”
Who on the team filled a leadership role? : “He won the player of the year I think for the ValleyCats, Jesse Wierzbicki. He wasn’t really a rah-rah guy that would be yelling around in the dugout and in the locker room. But I think what he did that really helped the team was that he never took a day off. He always went out and played as hard as he possibly could, and you could tell that he really loved playing and he loved the game, and I think when you have that kind of guy in the dugout, it really helps other people keep their energy level up over the course of a long season.”
Who did he like to sit back and watch play? : “I personally really liked watching Brady pitch. He is really methodical and precise in his pitching. He very rarely misses a spot and he doesn’t walk anybody. And how he mixes his four pitches is really fun to watch. Every game that he pitched I was in the stands so I really got to just sit back and watch him work and it was a joy.”
On something most people may not know about him: “I’m a big gamer. I play a lot of video games, probably more than the average college student. I play a lot of Halo on the Xbox, and I play a computer game called League of Legends. I play a good bit of video games.”
On the Astros future: “I think we’re great. We went out and we traded for a bunch of really promising prospects and then if you take a look at Tri-City, obviously the 2012 class is off to a rolling start, and I think we’re just going to continue with that pace. We’re struggling up top but we’ve got some players coming in who can help in the future.”
Brian recently broke down and joined the world of twitter. You can follow him at @BHolmes130. Ironically, his mom (and biggest fan) has been on twitter for a while and it was she who helped me get in touch with Brian.
Thank you for your time, Brian. I hope to see you pitch in person very soon. By the way, I’ve never actually seen a no-hitter in person, but no pressure ...