Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Andrew Bailey, SP

Oakland A's sixth round pick Andrew Bailey made a strong first impression in his rookie season as a professional pitcher. The Wagner University alum was the ace of the Vancouver staff, posting a 2.02 ERA in 58 innings. We spoke with Bailey about his first season as a pro, his new mechanics and his thoughts about the upcoming season...

Andrew Bailey's debut as a professional couldn't have gone better. He displayed the lively fastball that made him the highest ever draft pick out the Northeast Conference. He also dominanted the Northwest League, posting a 2.02 ERA and allowing only 39 hits in 58 innings. Bailey's July was even more impressive, as he struck out 23 and walked only two during the month.

However, the best news for Bailey during his freshman professional season was that he finished the season completely healthy. Only 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery, Bailey answered a lot of questions about his durability with a strong short-season performance in Vancouver after a solid collegiate season.

We recently caught-up with Bailey to discuss his first season with the A's organization, his off-season workouts and how his surgically-repaired elbow is feeling.

OaklandClubhouse: Obviously the results were fantastic, but how do you feel the transition from college to professional ball went for you? What was the biggest adjustment?

Andrew Bailey: I thought it was a smooth transition. I knew that it would be a big step coming from college to the pros. The hitters are a lot more disciplined at the plate and also in college, the one through five hitters were good or great, but in the pros, the one through nine hitters you really have to study. You can't just look past any of those guys. I thought that was the biggest thing, that the hitters were a lot more disciplined and that every hitter in the line-up was a threat, not just the top four or five.

OC: You had a stretch of starts in the middle of your short-season where you were really in a groove and were throwing shut-outs or near shut-outs every start. What did that groove feel like once you were in it? Did you make any adjustments before that stretch that got you throwing so well?

AB: No, I don't think that was the case. I was coming off of Tommy John surgery and I hit a point where I really felt my strongest. During the college season, I was really just recovering from the surgery and was getting used to being back on the mound and getting innings under my belt.

Once I got to Vancouver, I started out in relief and threw a couple of innings in relief. My first couple of starts were decent, and then, like you said, I started a stretch where I was kind of throwing shut-outs and I really felt like my arm and my body was finally back to 100 percent and back to where I used to be before the surgery.

OC: What kind of recovery did you have this year with the elbow? Did you have to take any time-off to recover?

AB: After my college season, I had a week or two before the draft through the 20th or so of June off. When I got to Vancouver, they really wanted to ease me into the program. I actually spent, I believe, two weeks in Vancouver without actually throwing an inning just so I could get used to the program and get my arm used to throwing again. I really felt like at the mid-point of the season is when I felt my strongest and that is what I am expecting this year, to be like that every time out.

This off-season, my arm is getting more time to rest and I actually have had a chance to workout to get stronger. For about 12 months there, I couldn't even lift a weight with my upper body until I was fully cleared.

OC: What has your off-season routine been like to prep for the season?

AB: When I first got back from Instructional Leagues, I took a good two or three weeks off. After that, I started working out at my local gym, just lifting with my legs and upper body and doing some arm exercises to get my arm ready. Then after the New Year, I started to work out at this place called Velocity, which is a sports-performance place that I have been going to for a couple of years now when I was home for college during winter break. I started three weeks ago at Velocity and I plan to go three or four times a week until I leave for spring training. It is more of an agility program mixed with some strength and some conditioning, so it kind of covers it all.

OC: Are you throwing at this point?

AB: Yeah, I started throwing a few weeks ago, just lightly tossing, getting my arm back and ready for spring training. In about a week or two, I'll start throwing every day again. I have a program that the A's sent, so I am just following the program that my coaches sent to me and it keeps you on pace for about 50 pitches when spring training comes at 100 percent.

I started about a week or two earlier then the program said. I wanted to give my arm a few more weeks to get going with the surgery and all that. I didn't really know what it would feel like or how I would recover in my first full season with having had elbow surgery.

OC: Have you been having any elbow pain?

AB: I haven't had any problems with my arm whatsoever and I am really looking forward to the new season.

OC: Did you work on any new pitches this season or was the coaching staff concentrated more on the pitches you came to the organization with?

AB: They were concentrating on the pitches I came to the organization with, however, they did change my mechanics, in a complete makeover. I love it, actually. While I was in Instructs, we really started working on my mechanics.

The whole time I was in Vancouver, they were trying to give me a little pointers and point out a few things I was doing wrong and they said that they would help me out more when I got to the Instructional Leagues. When I got to the Instructional League, [Oakland A's Pitching Coordinator] Ron Romanick got me to go over the head with an almost Barry Zito-look alike motion, you can say. I love it. It keeps me balanced. Before in my delivery, I had this jump and I have eliminated the jump and my body is at the same point every time I throw now. I have been working on that and they gave me a few drills to work on when I throw.

OC: When we spoke right after the draft, you indicated that your off-speed pitches were the last ones to really come around after the surgery. Do you feel like you have command of all of your pitches at this point?

AB: I think that all comes into play into why I was feeling dominant towards the middle of the season. I finally felt comfortable with my curveball. In addition, they were working with my change-up, and they gave me different pointers with my change-up and I feel like that was a big improvement. My change-up has improved so much over the past couple of months just with my time in Vancouver and the coaches pointing things out to me and then my time in the Instructional Leagues. I really felt that the middle of the season was when everything kind of came together.

OC: Is there anything that you are looking forward to with your first spring training?

AB: I talked to a couple of my teammates who have been there before and they said that it is kind of like you pitch here, you pitch there. Nothing is really set. I'm just going there with no expectations of anything. Wherever the A's need me is where I'll play and that is fine with me.

I think it will be pretty neat to see what I think they call it the "Green Wave" or the "Green Sea" where there is just a sea of players running around with green jerseys. I'm just like every first year player, just anxious to see what everything look like and to experience what a spring training is all about.

OC: How was your Vancouver season? I know that you guys didn't have the record that you wanted, but did you enjoy your first experience with a professional team?

AB: Definitely. All of my teammates were great. I still talk to at least a dozen of them. We all got along really well. It was a nice combination. Many of us came from college and most of us were first year players, so we were all really in the same boat and none of us knew what to expect. Obviously, there was a lot more traveling then there was in college, but personally I enjoy the traveling from hotel to hotel and the time on the bus.

The camaraderie with the guys was really outstanding with the Vancouver team. It was hard at first because no one really knew each other, but after awhile we got to know each other really well and I think that played out a lot on the field in that you felt more comfortable around the guys and you were able to play better. I know that the record wasn't what everyone would have liked, but as with any team, we had different moves throughout the organization that you kind of have to play through. Overall, the camaraderie of the Vancouver team was great.

OC: Your record was a lot lower then what your ERA would have indicated. Is that something that you worry about or do you base your performance more on what you did on the mound and not worry about the wins and losses?

AB: You really can't worry about the wins and losses. I worry about putting my team in the best position to win. It goes hand-in-hand. You can give up one run and we score zero or you can give up five runs and we score six and you get the win. Baseball is a funny game like that. You never really know what the determination of the game is going to be. All in all, you can't worry about the wins and losses.

I'm not really much of a stats guy anyway, so I just go out there and perform. I live for the moment, I guess you could say, for playing the game and not the total outcome of my stats or my wins or losses.

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