added 9/11/2005 by Scott Barzilla
As many of you know, my second cousin is a pitcher with the Corpus Christi Hooks. This has been a source of pride in our family in large part because baseball has been the lifeblood of the family for some time. My father, uncles, and second cousins all played high school baseball. My uncle was the pride of our family in baseball terms when he became a high school all-American in the 1970s at Westbury High School in Houston. Obviously Philip has surpassed that.
Philip transferred from junior college to Rice University where he immediately became their closer. The Astros drafted him in the fourth round and he immediately became one of the better left-handed relievers in the system and appears to be on his way to the majors since his solid 2004 season. He split that season with Round Rock (AA) and New Orleans (AAA). He combined to have a 4-2 record with a combined 3.34 ERA. Because of the logjam on the left side (Phil Norton and Mike Gallo got sent down in the Spring), Philip was demoted to Corpus Christi.
His career seemed at a standstill until circumstances forced him into the rotation mid-season. Philip finished the season with a 7-7 record and a 3.04 ERA. More importantly, he showed he could remain durable and log innings as a starter. Now, he is a lot more versatile and appears ready for an invite to Spring Training. I emailed Philip and asked him if he would be willing to field your questions. Following are his responses to your questions.
Question One: Do you think starting improves your opportunities to get to the major leagues?
Absolutely. Often times a major league reliever was a starting pitcher in the minors and only made a reliever once in the major leagues. Therefore, as a starter I will have better opportunities to be scouted and have a chance to work and refine more pitches, given that I'll throw more innings.
Question Two: What is the biggest difference between starting and relieving in how you approach your pitching?
As a starter you have time to set up hitters and throw a variety of pitches. As a reliever often times you come in with men on base and can't afford to "set things up". You must be ready with two pitches and throwing strikes...whereas a starter has time to throw three or four pitches and can afford to walk someone if need be.
Question Three: Do you believe in the lefty vs. lefty thing? Or do you believe a good pitcher should be able to get both right-handers and left-handers out?
I believe a well located pitch and changing speeds on pitches will get a hitter out, no matter if its a lefty or righty. Unless it's a side arm "illusionist," it’s all about command and location.
Question Four: Are you going to play Winter Ball this year or in the Arizona Fall League? If so, where?
Yes, the Astros are sending me back to the Arizona Fall League with Taylor Bucholz, Charleton Jimerson, Josh Anderson, Wade Robinson, and Aaron Williams.
Question Five: What pitches do you throw?
I throw two types of fastballs, a two-seam fastball and a cut fastball, a curveball, and a changeup.
Question Six: What pitch do you consider to be your out pitch? If you had to pick an additional pitch to learn or develop which one would it be?
It depends on the situation. I’ve used all four pitches to get certain hitters out. As for the additional pitch, I’d rather master what I’m throwing right now rather than learn a new one.
Question Seven: What guidance if any is given to brushing guys off the plate?
If the situation dictates, then it needs to be done. As for how to do it, the intention is not to hit the batter nor do you ever want to throw at his head. You simply throw inside around his hip or up under his hands in order to make him shuffle his feet a little bit. The idea is to not make him feel comfortable in the box so you can open up the zone and make him chase a pitch.
Question Eight: What is the main difference you’ve seen between AA and AAA hitters?
Discipline in the box and an idea of what they want to do at the plate.
Question Nine: Bull Durham or Field of Dreams?
Question Ten: Overall, how would you rate the Astros farm system?
Strong to quite strong, they’ve given me an opportunity to play with and against a high quality of ballplayer from all over the world.
Question Eleven: With the new club in Corpus Christi, how do you like the ballpark and facilities? Has the community embraced the team?
The community loves them down there, and the fans are outstanding. If you can play and survive the heat you can play anywhere.