A 13th round draft pick out of Oklahoma State, Justin Friend's professional career got off to a poor start when he surrendered four earned runs in two innings to the Northwest League's Spokane Indians. But since that aberration, Friend has been in fine form, striking out nine in his last 5.1 innings of work.
Jeremy Knight cornered Friend in the Vancouver Canadians locker room and put him in a headlock until the 6'1" right-hander agreed to talk.
Jeremy Knight: What's your thinking when you're pitching on the road, as opposed to the pitcher's nirvana that is Nat Bailey Stadium? Is there a difference in which pitches you're looking to throw when you're in the smaller parks?
Justin Friend: I guess I go with the flow. The Nat is a bigger park, and the ball does fly in the smaller ballparks, so you can't pick spots really, you just have to throw it.
JK: Have there been any hitters so far in your baseball career that have given you The Fear? Has the thought of intentionally walking someone ever crossed your mind without being instructed to do so?
JF: I haven't faced anybody yet that's scared me. I've gone after everybody.
JK: You're in a tough NWL West division, but the Vancouver starters have managed to go long in a lot of games. Do you give much thought to the when's and where's of getting into a game when sitting you're in the bullpen?
JF: No, it's actually nice to see them go an extra inning or two. Being a reliever, you only have to be at your best for one inning a night, and that's nicer than having to pitch three, four innings a game.
JK: Shane Presutti just came down from the KC Cougars; do you find yourself drawing on that extra experience that he has from playing at the higher level? Does it help with the confidence level?
JF: Yeah, it's nice to know guys like him are there to talk to - how it is up in Kane County - it's nice to hear stuff like that.
JK: Visiting players always make mention of how enjoyable it is to play in Vancouver, but be honest – is there anywhere you'd rather be?
JF: Vancouver's nice, but this is a job, so you want to move up. And the sooner you get out the better. But, hey, I don't have any complaints right now.
Jeremy Knight is known as Canada's wonderkid of sports reporting. He covers CFL football, college baseball and minor league hockey for The Roadkill Sports Blog, and pro baseball for Notes From The Nat and Scout.com ... when he's not in detention.
A Friendly Chat with Justin Friend
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