After a year to forget in 2014, Dustin Driver is back to pitching without restriction. Lately, he has looked every bit the part of one of the Oakland A's top starting pitching prospects. The 20-year-old right-hander has allowed one earned run over his last 19 innings for the Vermont Lake Monsters. During that stretch, he has allowed just nine hits. Over his last two outings, Driver has allowed only one hit and he has struck-out 10 in nine innings pitched.
Driver is still working on his command, as evidenced by his 19 walks in 40 innings with the Lake Monsters, but the Washington state native has made several improvements this season. Donald Moore spoke with Driver about the lessons he has learned this year and more during a Lake Monsters' roadtrip to upstate New York in July.
Donald Moore: How is everything going for you so far this season?
Dustin Driver: It's good and I'm happy to be healthy for once and get my innings in. Just glad to be out of Arizona.
DM: What are your goals for this year?
DD: Stay healthy, do the best that I can and learn from each outing, get my innings and that is pretty much it.
DM: What would you'd like to improve on?
DD: My command. Being more consistence with my slider, just throwing it, not babying it, or thinking about it too much. Just throw it and see what it does.
DM: What do you feel is your biggest strength as a ball player?
DD: Probably my fastball.
DM: How are you acclimating to professional baseball?
DD: It is way different than high school. No one can hit your stuff in high school. You just throw your fastball and they just can't hit it, but here, they can hit whatever you throw, if it's 100 MPH or 95 MPH or whatever, and they will still hit it, so it's definitely a big difference. Living on my own and everything and getting used to all that, and traveling, too, has been an adjustment.
DM: What is the best thing about being a professional athlete?
DD: Just being able to play the game for a living, I think.
DM: You were injured last year, how are you feeling?
DD: Everything is good. My back hasn't had any issues, my arm is good, everything is just fine. I have been maintaining my strength and working on my core to prevent my back from flaring up again, but it has been good so far.
DM: Any hobbies?
DD: I have been fishing a little bit in Vermont with my friend and teammate Cody Kurz, but besides that, we don't have that much time to do much, so it is pretty much just baseball and sleep.
DM: Any pregame routines?
DD: I always have to have a Red Bull right before the game and then just thumb rolling, stretching out my lower body and arm, get heat on my arm, just do all that and listen to music.
DM: Favorite baseball team growing up?
DD: Seattle Mariners, because I am from Washington. I love Felix Hernandez. He is my favorite pitcher. They haven't been too good in the past.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
DD: Probably my pitching coach back home, and he is my girlfriend's dad as well: Bud Adams.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball diamond?
DD: Probably a triple play because you don't see that too often and it's so rare.
DM: Where do you see yourself regarding your baseball career in the future?
DD: Obviously the Major Leagues like everybody else. That is probably a ways away from now. I just need to get my innings in and stay patient in the process and stay healthy. I think I will be fine.
DM: Dustin, thank you so much for your time and the best of luck to you and your career.
DD: Thank you and nice to meet you, too.