San Francisco Giants first-round pick Tyler Beede pitched in six games for his new major-league franchise in 2014, including two in the Pacific Northwest after a promotion to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He kept a 2.93 ERA in 15-plus innings and collected 18 strikeouts to seven walks. The day he made his professional debut in the Arizona League, I sat down with him for a bit to discuss his new surroundings, his hometown, and baseball, of course.
You got a chance to head out to AT&T Park and be part of a cool thing the Giants do with their first-round picks. I'm sure you were there with your family, what was that like?
"Yeah it was awesome. It was a great experience because that was my first time ever being at AT&T Park and going to a Giants game so to go out there and see the city and see the atmosphere of the game and meet some of the front office guys, it was cool. I wanted to stay in the background and soak it in and be able to talk to guys like Will Clark and meet [Bruce] Bochy and take in a few games there with my parents. It was a special experience. But at the same time, I was ready to get to Arizona to work and obviously that's something that happens annually with the draft guys, but it was a cool experience to be able to see what the games were like and watch [Tim] Linceucm throw and gem and watch [Ryan] Vogelsong pitch the next day. I kind of picked their minds a little bit, but I was ready to get here and work."
What were some things you asked Lincecum and Vogelsong? What was the most curious thing on your mind?
"I just wanted to know what their routines were like. For the most part, I'm a guy who is really big into the preparation of the game so what their routines were in terms of the five-day because college is a seven-day thing. So just seeing what they were doing. All those guys have the same routine in terms of when they throw and get off the mound and throw their side. What their running program is like. You know, all of them said the same thing; just to enjoy it and have fun with the game and work hard and make sure you're getting better every day. They all had great things to say and were nice guys."
Let's go back a few years You were picked in the first round (21st overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 out of high school. What went into your decision to sign with Vanderbilt and play three years there?
"It was sort of the same thing that went into my decision this year: if it was the right opportunity and the right fit for me. I think Vanderbilt was the right fit the whole way just in terms of the opportunity that was presented. The development of guys that have gone through Vanderbilt and have had success going out their junior years — David Price, Sonny Gray, Mike Minor — they've had a ton of great pitching development and obviously Coach Corbin has done a great job in terms of being consistent with the success of the program.
"Winning a national championship was actually my main priority and they hadn't done that at that time yet so it was appealing to be the first national championship winner and be a part of that team and obviously looking back on it now it's pretty cool to say we were the first. At the time it was just about what was the most comfortable fit for me and my family. It was a great three years and it couldn't have worked out better."
Tell me about your pitch repertoire. I've heard about the mid-90s fastball. Do you vary speeds or type?
"I prodomiantly stick with the four-seam fastball. Since I've been here, the low-seam balls move a little more so I've been mixing in a two-seam and a cutter but those are just things I'll work on in bullpens. The four-seam has a little bit of movement to it down and in, a little bit of sink and run. So I'll just rely on that to do its movement similar to a two-seam. Then my changeup is a two-seam grip, kind of like a botch changeup and my curveball sort of looks like a slider, its more of a power curve at 80 to 85.
What sorts of things have you learned from pitching coaches early on?
"I've been around a ton of knowledge so far. Lee Smith was [in Arizona] for a couple weeks and he watched a couple of my bullpens. Larry McCall is the pitching guy here and he pitched in the big leagues before and he has a ton of stuff to say and is giving me great advice. He tells me to think location over velocity and make sure I'm locating my pitches. Being around Mitchell Boggs, he was here for a few days. He doesn't take for granted this experience. He said "' could be kicking back at the lake right now but this is what I love.' I'm just trying to listen as much as anything. Not trying to talk to much and just soak it in but at the same time get after it and remain the same pitcher I was for the last few years and stick to my routines try to get better every day.
You mentioned you're going to work on a cutter. What is it like to learn a new pitch?
"Everything is based on feel so every day you just want to make sure you're feeling the ball come off your fingertips. Whenever you manipulate a ball differently, you just want to make sure you're feeling it. First off flat ground and then when you feel comfortable you can take it to the mound. and into your bullpens and side-sessions. You just want to make sure you're going into games with confidence and conviction with what you're throwing. When you don't feel like you can locate a pitch you just put it in your pocket. That's what developing a pitch is like, just going through those trials and errors."
Does each pitch have a distinctive "feel" coming out of your hand? Do pitching coaches tell you how each pitch is supposed to feel?
"I think for every pitcher the feel of the ball is different in terms of what pitch you are throwing. I think some guys feel a seam, feeling the pressure of you finger. For me with my changeup, I don't want to feel any seams. I just want to feel it in the tips of my fingers and then I just want to throw it as hard as I throw my fastball. With my fastball, I want to feel the seams. With the curveball I want to feel the pressure on my middle finger so I can feel that finger get out in front of the ball. When you can master a pitch, you can always feel that consistency.
Tell me what it's like bonding with your new teammates? Guys are from all over the place but you share that same common bond of now being part of the same organization. Do you enjoy that?
"I think it's the coolest part about baseball. It's the ability to meet people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and all different parts of the country and come together to be on the same team. The things I've always remembered in my baseball experience are the people you play with, your teammates, and the things you share together. To be able to go through this experience with these guys is something I'll never forget. You'll probably meet some of your best friends going through this. Hopefully I can go up through the minors with a bunch of these guys. I've already met some great people. I've met some guys from Cuba. We don't share the same language but we share the same experiences. It's a pretty cool dynamic.