Monday, December 12, 2011

An Interview with Ryan Cole

Let me preface these questions by saying that I think that bullpen guys get short shrift when it comes to looking at the prospects in the system.  To me, a good pitcher is a good pitcher and I like to recognize that.

Some key stats -
2010 - 2.83 ERA 1.085 WHIP 3.50 SO/BB ratio 7.2 SO/9  BAA .222  2HR
2011 - 2.33 ERA 1.333 WHIP 4.167 SO/BB ratio 8.3 SO/9  BAA .280  0HR

In 2011, Ryan converted 10 of 12 save opportunities.  In one of his blown saves, he gave up one run and ended up getting the win (thanks to a Chris Epps HR).  In the other blown save, he gave up two runs (neither earned).  He didn’t give up a walk until his 9th appearance.  His strikeout to walk ratio in 2011 was in the top ten of all Astros minor league pitchers.

So on to the questions. [Note: I adjusted some punctuation for readability, but the words are all Ryan’s.]

WTH:  You were drafted in the 34th round in 2010 out of St. John's University and spent your first season in Greeneville and the 2011 season in Tri-City.  What did you learn in your first season that has helped you at Tri-City?  How do the first and second season experiences compare (high points, low points, etc.)?

RC:  When I was first drafted it truly was a dream come true! All the hard work that I have put in over the years had finally paid off. However, once I got to Greeneville it was time to lace up the spikes and continue to do what I have done to make me successful. First year of pro ball is a huge learning curve. Playing great competition every night, long bus rides, hot humid summer nights – it truly is grind, but every baseball player’s dream. My first year couldn’t have gone better. I had a good season in the Appy League with Greeneville and was fortunate enough to be called up for the NY PENN league (Tri-City Valleycats) playoffs, which we proceeded on winning in Brooklyn. That will always be a high point of my career. Baseball is a game of failure, and I can say I have failed numerous times, but try and learn from those mistakes. I was told never get too high and never get too low, be humble and good things will happen.
WTH:   Did you start out to be the closer at Tri-City or did the opportunity just arise at some point during the season?  How does closing a game compare to middle or late relief outings?

RC:  I was closing during extended spring training, and did well. Once we broke for Albany I was never told I was the closer; roles were established during the season, and I fell into that role. I personally want to be in that spot (closing). It’s not for everyone. I like having the ball in my hand with the game on the line and knowing that just one bad pitch can change the outcome of the game. I can’t really answer those questions about middle relief.  What I do know is you’re trying to keep the lead and give the ball up in the 9th.

WTH:  What are your best pitches?  What kind of velocity?  Are you working on any new pitches?

RC:  My best pitch is a two-seamer inside to right handers, I am right around 90-93, and I am not working on any new pitches just trying to make the pitches I have now better.  [Note from WTH: Ryan’s best pitch may be against right handers, but he was even better against lefties in 2011 with a 2.13 ERA vs. lefties and a 2.51 ERA vs. righties.]

WTH:  What is your basic philosophy as a pitcher?  How you approach the hitters, make adjustments, etc.?  As a mostly groundball pitcher, is it difficult to trust in the players behind you?

RC:  The philosophy I have is to throw strikes, and knowing I am better than you. I am going to attack you and go right after them. I will pitch to my strength and not give in. I trust all my teammates.  Everyone makes mistakes but no one is tanking plays on purpose.  This is their job and if they make an error I will pick them up, just like they would pick me up if I made a mistake.

WTH:  You worked with some other promising pitchers this season - Kyle Hallock, Nick Tropeano and Dayan Diaz among others.  What was the relationship?  Feeding off each other?  Healthy competition?

RC:  The staff was tight.  We hung out quite a bit on and off the field. We spent a lot of time together and it builds great relationships. It’s easy to feed off of great pitching like our staff had.  We all just went out and did our jobs and got the ball to the next guy to do the same thing. We all wanted to win!

WTH:  What MLB pitcher would you compare yourself to?  Any role models growing up?

RC:  I am an intense relentless individual who loves to have a good time, laugh and joke around, but once I am on the bump it’s go time. So I would compare myself to Jonathan Papelbon.  I would have to say my role models would have been my father just because he was always pushing and telling me to work hard and good things will happen, and Roger Clemens, once again his work ethic and his dominance on the mound. [Ryan added that he learned how to pitch and throw with conviction from his college pitching coach Scott Brown.]

WTH:  What are you doing in the off-season to prepare?

RC:  I started cross fit training this off-season. It is intense, and I love it. It works on everything I need to be successful this upcoming spring training, and hopefully it transfers right into the season.

WTH:  Tell me something about yourself (doesn't have to be baseball-related) that most people don't know.

RC:  I have a giant tiger tattoo on my back that I got throughout my senior year of college.

As a final thought, Ryan wanted me to make sure that I told everyone how much fun he has (I think in case the interview made him sound too serious).

Ryan wasn’t particularly comfortable talking about himself which is something I like about him.  In following him on twitter, I got the sense that if he hadn’t gotten into baseball, he would have made a good marine – no apologies, no excuses, just get the job done. 

L to R: Adam Champion, Garrett Bullock, Travis Smink, Ryan Cole (Tri-City 2011)

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