Q&A WIth Right-Hander Chris Stratton
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Describe your first major-league camp experience thus far.
"Unreal, to be honest with you. It's been a long journey trying to get here. Just being around these guys, they've been more than welcoming. I know I'm not up here yet but they've made me feel like I'm part of the team."
What has been the most rewarding part for you?
"Getting to pick people's brains. I think [Jake] Peavy is the guy I talk to most. Cy Young winner, 13 years, he's had a lot of experience. To see what he did and why he's successful."
What specifically about Peavy draws you back to him?
"Little things. We're in a group doing some kind of fundamental and he speaks out and says, 'Guys make sure you do this.' He's been through the fire and the flames and understands how it works and how little things really matter."
Out of your three minor league seasons since being drafted in 2012, which year has been the most challenging?
"I think I learned the most once I got to Double-A. You have to learn real quick, like where you're locating your pitches. The hitters will let you know what you're doing. The zone got a little smaller, and it wasn't significantly smaller but just enough that you don't get that little bit off the plate that you usually do. You have to go after hitters and force contact instead of trying to strike people out."
That jump from San Jose to Richmond was as tough as most players say it is?
"I've talked to other people and they say that's the biggest jump they've had to make. You've got veteran guys who have been in Double-A for a while. You face 30-year-olds. It's different because they've been around the block and they know what you're trying to do to them. Execution is everything."
Anything specific you're focusing on right now?
"Attacking the zone and not really worrying about what my pitches are doing. Not trying to manipulate anything just going after people because that's something that Peavy was talking about. If you get behind on people they'll kill you so you got to get ahead and with the zone potentially getting even smaller next year, it's even more key to get strike one and attack from the beginning."
What have you and other pitchers discussed in regards to the potentially shrinking zone about how it might affect the way you pitch?
"For the past four years, I've been focusing on getting the ball down. I used to just have the 4-seam and now I have the 2-seam and so most of my stuff was elevated and that's not a bad thing because you can throw in the top of the zone and get away with it. I've just been focusing on getting it down so much and then I get here and I'm talking to Peavy and Posey and they tell me 'don't forget about up in the zone' because some guys can hit that low-and-in fastball but if you get it up by the hands it's tough to catch up to and it looks real fat but it's not. So I guess it's that. We can't forget about all the quadrants and all the different pitches that you can throw. Being able to elevate is real big, too."
Statistically speaking, 2014 wasn't exactly the prettiest year for you. What positives did you take away from the year?
"Everybody gets caught up in stats. Fans and all that. They see that and that's how they base how your year went. For me, I was just trying to get deep into ballgames and attack hitters. That's what I've been trying to do. I don't think I threw over 95 pitches in any game. They had me where I couldn't go as deep as I wanted to. I personally didn't think I had that great of a year, but then talking with some of the front office guys, they said, 'we're happy with what you're doing there.' I had no idea I was going to get moved up to Double-A so that was kind of a surprise to me. Just them kind of having some faith in me, it always feels good."
What do you do during the offseason?
"We travel during baseball so I like to try to get away from baseball. I'm pretty much a home body. Just relaxing. Me and my wife usually go to the beach during the offseason and get some seafood. Pretty much just enjoying time with family and friends. Not much else I like to do. We go to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores in Alabama. We know all the good eatin' spots there."