Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An Interview with Astros/Hooks RHP Kyle Westwood

Corpus Christi Hooks RHP Kyle Westwood is a man of few words so I first spoke to Hooks Manager Rodney Linares about the 13th round 2013 draft pick. According to Linares, "Westwood is solid. He's a professional. What's not to like about Westwood? He's a groundball pitcher. He's got really, really good stuff. He's got a really, really good cutter. His curveball shows flashes of being a really good one. He battles. He's mature. He's one of the most mature pitchers I have, not because of his age, but the way he goes about his business. He's a professional, which you can't say about every pitcher that you have. I believe that he's going to surprise some people, especially this year, the way he's throwing up here. He's fun to watch. He's fun to be around."

Linares went on to explain that Westwood's stats can be a bit deceiving. As a groundball pitcher, he sometimes ends up being penalized by the organization's focus on the use of shifts. Linares said, "(Westwood) understands that it's part of the process. (When) a groundball that should have been a double play was a base hit and the run scores, he understands that it goes on the report and the people notice what he's doing."


Kyle Westwood - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

When I spoke with Westwood earlier this month, the first question I asked him was about his pitch repertoire. Westwood told me, "I throw a 2-seam sinker with a cutter, changeup and curveball. Fastball is usually around 88 to 92, somewhere around there."

For those who have never seen Westwood pitch before, what can they expect to see? "As a pitcher, I'm going to throw a lot of strikes. I'm going to try to get ahead. I'm a groundball pitcher so I try to either get ahead early or just let them hit it on the ground. With the defense we have behind us, it works to my strengths. If I get ahead, I can put hem away also, but that's not what I'm trying to do. As a pitcher, I like to get ahead and get ground balls," said Westwood.

I asked for Westwood to critique a portion of what I wrote about him in the Astros Farm System Handbook I wrote over the offseason:
When I was jotting down my notes on Westwood, I wrote the phrase "working man's pitcher." He just sees what needs to be done, does it and goes on his way. Westwood has been described as quiet with off-the-charts competitiveness. He works quickly and efficiently using a 2-seam fastball/changeup combo to keep hitters off balance and to generate a lot of groundball outs. In addition to his 2-seamer, Westwood was working on an elevated 4-seam fastball/curveball combo during the 2014 season to add more swing-and-miss potential to his repertoire. According to Lancaster Pitching Coach Don Alexander, Westwood made good progress with all of his pitches and his 2-seamer should develop into a solid average to above average pitch with major league sinking action.
His response? "I would say that is spot on, just with the addition of the cutter that was added this year."

Although Westwood prefers Corpus Christi over playing in Lancaster, he noted, "It's not as different as you might think. (In) Lancaster, obviously the wind blows 30 mph out to the right. But here the wind, it's not 30, but we get a pretty constant wind 10 to 15 out to left. You trade wind to right for wind to left."

As to what he's accomplished so far in the season, Westwood said, "Personally, it's early. I don't have a lot of innings yet, but I feel good. Stuff's there ... just got to locate better, make some better pitches throughout the game."

When asked who on that Hooks team had a pitch he would like to steal, he said, "Devenski, his changeup. I would love to have his changeup. That's probably the best one I've seen in a long time." As to what Hooks hitter he'd least like to face? "There are probably two, either Carlos [Correa] or [Tony] Kemp. Kemp's scrappy. He's hard to get out. And then Carlos, he can beat you many ways... long ball, singles, doubles, just everything. So either of those two, I would rather not face."

Of having the recently promoted Correa playing behind him in the field, Westwood said, "It's nice to know that if there's a ball hit on the infield, there's a good chance it's an out. He has great range, strong arm. With Kemp at second base, just those two up the middle, it's almost like a big league infield, and it's great to have them behind you."

I tried to dig deeper with Westwood, but failed abjectly in getting much more out of him on a personal level, other than he has no problem admitting to enjoying an occasional chick flick. So I asked him about an animated conversation I overheard last season amongst the Lancaster pitching staff. The subject was the possible existence of mermaids, Sasquatch and aliens. Westwood's straight-faced response was, "You can't rule out aliens. I mean you just don't know. The universe is a large place. I would say there's a good chance mermaids are real. And I would say Sasquatch is the least likely. [Mermaids?] Earth's covered in what, 70% water? There's a better chance that mermaids are real than Sasquatch."

And on that note, I will leave the reader to ponder the wonders of the universe.

Thank you for your time, Kyle. Best of luck as the 2015 season continues to unfold!

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