Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Catching Up with Astros/Hooks RHP Aaron West

It's hard to get much attention when you're on a roster that features the likes of Lance McCullers, Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel and others so Aaron West's good season in 2015 has largely gone unnoticed by most of the Astros fans outside of Corpus Christi. Thus far this season, West has a 2.54 ERA and a 1.027 WHIP in 49.2 innings of work. He has walked six batters while striking out 38. In seven appearances in June, he has a 1.29 ERA and a 0.969 WHIP.

I spoke with West recently by phone. I hadn't "formally" heard from him since this September 2012 interview so it was good to catch up with him and hear more about his season.

Aaron West - May 2015
Photo by Jayne Hansen

West's career trajectory took a detour last season when he went on the DL in late April and missed around two and a half months in the middle of the season. Of the injury, West explained, "I just had a strain in my elbow. It wasn't anything serious. I had been working on my mechanics a little bit and my arm ended up getting hurt so they shut me down to get some rest and (to) basically just remember how I used to throw and to get back to that. But it was nothing serious."

Coming in to the 2015 season, West was initially used as a starter, but he hasn't started a game since late May, and his last eight appearances have been out of the bullpen. Of the move, West said, "As of right now, I've been moved to the bullpen. We had a bunch of starters come up and I think they were just looking for someone who could go to the 'pen and be OK with it. And I told them in the beginning of the year that I'd do whatever I can do to get to the big leagues. That's my goal so if that means going to the 'pen, I'm fine with it. I'm happy right now. As long as I get to pitch and still have a jersey to put on, I'm fine."

And it looks as though the Astros are keeping their options open since West has been used in longer relief stints, keeping him stretched out in case he is needed again for the rotation. "My arm's been feeling good. I've thrown four innings once and three innings a couple of times. My arm's still in good shape. It really hasn't lost anything from just throwing less," said West.

What has been working well for him this season? According to West, "I think just having my arm feeling good and healthy. And I've been working really hard on my offspeed, on my changeup and my slider. I think (they're) a lot better as compared to last year and it just helps me keep the hitters off balance a little bit more and then I can run a fastball in there. I have a good feel with all my pitches right now so I can go out and throw strikes and it gives me confidence to throw any pitch in any count which helps."

As to what West feels he needs to work on, he said, "Maybe just a little more depth in my changeup and slider, but other than that, just staying healthy and just having a good year. That's my goal for this year."

West spoke about what it's been like to play on the very successful (and very talented) Corpus Christi team, "(There are) just a bunch of great guys on this team and it makes playing the game so much better. Doing well is great, but I think having fun makes it so much easier. That's basically what (we've been) doing all year. We're not really trying to focus on the game. We're just taking it pitch by pitch and enjoying ourselves while we do it."

How much fun is it playing for Corpus Christi Manager Rodney Linares and Pitching Coach Doug Brocail? "Those guys are great. And Rodney got selected to the Futures Game for a reason. He's a great coach. He knows how to handle a team and knows when guys need off days and when we need to have fun and when we need to work and that's what's making us really good this year. It helps too having guys like Lance McCullers and (Vince) Velasquez ... and all those guys who can go up and immediately have an impact on the big leagues. It shows that what they're doing down here is working."

West also appreciates the talent he sees in the field behind him when he pitches, "Teoscar (Hernandez) in centerfield ... he's playing right (field) now that (Brett) Phillips is up, but's he's great. He can run down any ball. And Phillips ... making great plays for me. And Leo Heras, in left or right or wherever they want to put him, he can catch anything. It's amazing watching him out there. And Jio Mier, and Tyler White at third base ... it just makes pitching so much easier when you can throw the ball over the plate and you know that they're going to make a play for you. It makes pitching just easy."

Before I got off the phone with West, I asked him what else was going on. His fianc√© Breonna was in Corpus Christi visiting him, but other than that, what he said pretty much sums up the life of a minor leaguer. "Just long bus trips and lots of baseball," said West.

Thank you for your time, Aaron, and best of luck as the season continues.


You can find more on virtually every player in the Astros minor league system in the UPDATED 2015 Houston Farm System Handbook (now at a new low price!) available on Amazon for download to your kindle, iPad, laptop, desktop or smart phone.

No comments:

Post a Comment