Prospect Q&A: Scot Drucker, P

Scot Drucker was a jack-of-all-trades for the Stockton Ports this season. He began the year as a starting pitcher and he finished the season as a reliever, pitching both in short and long relief. Drucker was second on the team in games pitched and fifth in innings pitched. We caught up with the durable right-hander for an off-season interview.

Scot Drucker was selected in the 13th round of the 2004 draft by the Oakland A's after a successful senior season at Tennessee. The right-hander went 8-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 32 games for the Vols in 2004. It was his first season at Tennessee after two years at Florida.

Drucker began his professional career at short-season Vancouver, where he served as the team's closer. He saved six games for the Canadians and posted a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings. Drucker began the 2005 campaign in low-A Kane County, where he continued in the closer role. He was a stand-out for the Cougars, saving 11 games and striking out 24 batters in 22 innings.

That performance earned Drucker a promotion to High-A Stockton, where he spent the last two-thirds of the season. He was one of the first members of the Cougars to be promoted to Stockton in 2005. Drucker went 7-1 with the Ports, although his ERA jumped to 5.51. He was converted to the starting rotation towards the end of that season, making nine starts. All told, Drucker threw 83.1 innings for the Ports in 2005.

He returned to Stockton in 2006 and began the year back in the starting rotation. He got off to a good start, going 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in four starts. However, he struggled in May and early June and was converted back to the bullpen in mid-June. Once back in the bullpen, Drucker shined. He went 5-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 48 relief innings, posting a 35:9 K:BB ratio and allowing only three homers. He was particularly strong after the All-Star break, posting a 2.48 ERA in 40 innings, all in relief. He finished the year at 9-6 with a 4.78 ERA in 37 games (11 starts). He threw 113 innings and he allowed only 10 homeruns.

We caught up with Drucker to find out his feelings on starting and relieving, his plans for the off-season, what pitches he has been throwing, and more…

OaklandClubhouse: You've made the playoffs in each of the three seasons you've played in the minors. What is it like to pitch in the playoffs?

Scot Drucker: Unfortunately, we've lost all three times. I actually never got a chance to pitch in the playoffs for Vancouver. I was a closer on that team and we were never close enough in any of the games for them to need me. Last year, I was scheduled to be the Game 3 starter for Stockton, but we went two and out, so I didn't get to pitch. This year, I got into the last game and recorded an out, but that was it. I was joking with the coaching staff that I still haven't pitched in the playoffs in three years, but at least this year I got my one out. [laughing]

OC: You were a reliever in college and for the first year and a half of your professional career. Then you were switched to starter and split your time between both roles this season. Which role do you prefer?

SD: I've actually had the best of both worlds. I get to show my versatility to Oakland by pitching in both roles. [As a starter] you get to see the game from a different perspective because you get to watch the game from behind home plate [in between starts]. I learned a lot watching the game from behind home plate. With relieving, it's a lot of fun because you get to go out there and pitch under pressure and you get to play every day. I definitely like both roles.

OC: Was it hard on your arm to go back and forth between relief and starting?

SD: Luckily, I haven't had any arm problems thus far in my career. I've had a rubber arm and hopefully that's something that will continue throughout my career.

OC: Have you had to learn to keep the ball down pitching in all of those small ballparks in the California League?

SD: Definitely. It was an honor to be called up to High-A early in my first pro season, and I feel like I kind of got a head start on the California League by getting called up so soon. Even though I repeated the level, it was definitely a growing experience this year. I learned really quickly my first year [in Stockton] that you have to keep the ball down and locate well in this league.

Before, I was kind of getting by just on talent, but here you really have to learn to pitch. This season I started keeping my own book on hitters for the first time. They say it's a hitters league, but you can manage if you make your pitches and keep the ball down.

OC: Do you scout opposing hitters?

SD: Our pitching coach, Scott Emerson, has been with the California League for a few years now. He was with Modesto when they won it all. He keeps great scouting reports on all of the hitters that he has seen in the California League. With High-A, you see a lot of guys repeat the level – either with the same organization or if they come back with a different team – so he is really familiar with a number of the hitters. Every day he puts something up about the opposing team for us to take a look at.

Down in the bullpen, we keep our own charts since all of the bullpens in the California League are out in the outfield and you can't just run down to the dugout to get them. Emerson takes his job really seriously and he keeps great charts for us.

OC: The Ports had a rough season in terms of injuries this year. How hard was it to deal with all of the roster changes due to injuries?

SD: It was a little different. Going into the season, we thought we would have a starting outfield of Javier Herrera, Richie Robnett and Travis Buck, plus [Cliff] Pennington. We thought we'd be unbeatable, then Herrera got hurt. We got off to a slow start at the plate, which isn't unusual coming out of spring training since the pitchers are usually ahead of the hitters, but then the injuries started and it was a little tough.

Pennington got hurt, Buck was promoted and later got hurt, Robnett was promoted and then he broke his hamate bone, Luke Appert stepped in and he was doing great and then just as he got really hot, he broke his leg. Injuries are a part of the game, though, and adversity is something that as a team you have to overcome and I think we did a good job with that. Hopefully, the guys who got hurt will recover fully.

OC: What do you do to condition in the off-season?

SD: I usually take a month or two off after the season to let any nagging things heal and to rest all of my muscles. This year, I am continuing a weight training program that I started during the season. I've signed up with a place called Perfect Competition, which is a place a lot of athletes go to train. A lot of the football players who are about to enter the draft in April come here and that sort of thing.

Pitching starts for me in January. Luckily, being in Florida, I don't have to worry about the weather when it comes to my throwing program. I talk to a lot of guys who live in the Midwest or the Northeast and it's hard for them to get their off-season throwing in because of the weather, so I'm lucky.

OC: You split your college career between Florida and Tennessee. Do you still follow both teams?

SD: I've had such a great career and I have nothing against Florida, but because I was at Tennessee last, I still follow them more. The situation in Florida was just that there wasn't enough playing time and I had to make the switch, but I still keep in touch with a lot of the guys there. I have an Alumni game coming up for Tennessee that I am going to.

OC: Do you keep in touch with guys you played with in college?

SD: I keep in touch with a lot of guys from Florida and Tennessee. I'm really good friends with Luke Hochevar, who was the number one pick this year. Everyone knows his situation [with the draft, Hochevar was selected in 2005 in the first round but held out all year and re-entered the draft in 2006], but he is a really great guy, very humble. He's down in Arizona now in the fall leagues and I know he's just really happy to be out there and playing again. I keep in touch with Ryan Shealy who is with the Kansas City Royals and I played against Joe Blanton in college. It's getting to the point now where more and more guys that I played with or against in high school and college are making the majors and that is really amazing. It gives you a sense that the dream can really happen for you, too, that it is something real.

OC: Do you guys follow the A's during the season or are you just focused on what is going on with your own team?

SD: It depends. When I was with Kane County, we were in the Midwest League, so it was hard to follow the A's because of the time-change and because the station we got was WGN which showed Cubs and White Sox games. In Stockton, we are only 45 minutes away and we get a lot of A's coverage there so we can follow the team more closely. Brad Sullivan is good friends with Huston Street, so we'd sometimes get tickets and go to see the games. Brad Knox was college roommates with Rich Harden, so there's that connection, too. We are definitely pulling for them and tonight we'll be watching [the first game of the ALCS]. Some guys don't really like watching the extra baseball because they get enough of it every day and some guys watch a lot of other games.

OC: What else do you guys do to stay loose during the season?

SD: I used to joke that our locker room looked like a library this season. We had a lot of older guys and someone brought in a wireless router, so we had about 12 computers going at any one time. There was always someone on a computer. Guys would be playing on-line poker or watching movies or reading. I've noticed that as you get older, you tend to do a lot more reading. Everything is shut off about 30-45 minutes before the game, and we get really focused on playing that day.

OC: What is your goal for next season?

SD: I'd love a promotion to AA, obviously, but I know that a lot of that depends on player movement with other guys getting moved up or traded. I finished the year strong in relief and I added a fourth pitch this season – a slider. As long as I am continuing to progress as a player each year, I'll be satisfied. I've noticed a progression in my play every season, whether it be that I'm losing weight, getting stronger, learning to pitch better or whatever. I really enjoy being part of the organization. As long as I am still with the organization and progressing, wherever they send me is fine.

OC: What pitches are you throwing now? What is your out-pitch?

SD: I am throwing a fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. As a starter, I fell in love with my change-up as an out-pitch. It took me 23 years to learn it, and it's such a fun pitch because I love watching it make hitters get so out in front. I like to tell kids at baseball camps how important a change-up is. I wish that I had learned it earlier in my career. As a reliever, you rely a lot on off-speed pitches to get hitters out.

OC: Do you work at a lot of baseball camps?

SD: Not really. The baseball leagues are so well organized down here that it is hard to break into [coaching at them]. I actually have a couple of interviews next week with sports marketing/sports agencies. God forbid my career comes to an end, but if and when it does, I want to be able to stay in the sports world somehow, so I'm hoping to get a foot in the door that way. It's hard because they are always asking about your degree and I haven't finished school yet. I have only 12 credits remaining at Tennessee, but it's tough because they are all core classes and I need to take them at Tennessee. All of the East Coast schools start in mid-August, so it makes it hard to get the scheduling right.

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