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

After an outstanding debut season with Vancouver in 2006, Andrew Bailey continued his climb through the minor leagues with a solid 2007 campaign that saw him compete for three Oakland A's affiliates. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out an organization-high 150 batters and landed on a number of top prospect lists. We caught-up with the New Jersey native as he prepared for the upcoming season.

After being selected out of Wagner College in 2006, Andrew Bailey opened a lot of eyes in his professional debut season with short-season Vancouver. The right-hander posted a 2.02 ERA and held opposing batters to a .187 BA.

Bailey was expected to start the 2007 season with High-A Stockton, but a rib cage injury during spring training set him back a few weeks at the start of the season. When he was healthy, Bailey was sent to Low-A Kane County. He was one of the Midwest League's best right-handed starters during his time with the Cougars, posting a 3.35 ERA and striking out 74 in 51 innings.

Bailey was promoted to High-A Stockton mid-season and he made 11 starts in the pitcher-friendly California League. Despite the difficult pitching conditions, Bailey continued to shine. In 66 innings for the Ports, Bailey had a 3.82 ERA and struck out 72 batters. At the end of the season, he was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento to make one start for the River Cats, who had clinched a post-season spot earlier that week. Bailey made headlines when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning of that start, allowing his first hit with two-outs in the inning. He finished his Triple-A debut by allowing one run in eight innings.

All told, Bailey had a 3.46 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 125 innings split between three levels. We caught-up to the New Jersey native while he was in Los Angeles, preparing for spring training.

OaklandClubhouse: What are you up to in LA?

Andrew Bailey: I am actually at a training company run by Jaeger Sports. They have a yoga program, a weight-training program and a throwing program. Stuff like that.

OC: Is that going to lead you up to spring training?

AB: It will lead me up to about the 22nd of February and then from here I'll just drive down to spring training a week early and continue to work out before we get going.

OC: After your first full season, was it a tough recovery in the off-season? Or did it come back pretty quickly?

AB: It came back pretty quickly. I didn't really know how my arm and my body was going to cope with the long season, but everything went fine. I went to Instructs and I felt great and then I took about two weeks off at home after I got back. Then I started getting after it again in the gym.

OC: How was the Instructional League season for you this year? I know last season you tweaked your mechanics while you were there? Did you do any more tweaking or were you just working on things that carried over from the season?

AB: I was actually working on things that I was working on during the season. I actually felt really comfortable with my new mechanics. I pitched all season with them and they started to become muscle memory. I was really just working on the change-up, what counts to throw it in and trying to feel more comfortable throwing it in any situation.

OC: How was it going back to the Instructional Leagues for a second time? Do you feel like you got a lot more out of it?

AB: Definitely. Going into it [a second time], you know what to expect. You know how the days are going to run and you get a lot out of it from a learning perspective because there isn't a lot of pressure during the games. They mean something because you are playing a game, but there aren't really any scores and no standings at the end of the season. You are there to work on some things and it's nice to be able to go out there in a non-pressure situation and work on the things that need to get done.

OC: You had a chance to make a start up at Triple-A at the end of the season? What was that experience like for you?

AB: It was a great experience. I'll really never forget that. It's really an honor to be at that level of baseball. Not many players get to that level. I knew going into it that it was an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of and it worked out well for me. I was so excited that I had that kind of success at that level. I hope to get back there soon.

It was great. I kind of woke up in the fourth or fifth inning and realized what was going on and what I was doing. Up until the fourth or fifth inning, I was really in a zone and it was funny because no one was talking to me and they were letting me do my own thing.

OC: Have you ever gotten that close to a full nine-inning no-hitter before?

AB: No. In college, we have double-headers and they are seven-inning games and I usually threw a complete game seven [innings], but I've never gotten that close to a nine-inning no-hitter. I was pretty excited about that and after the game, I had about a thousand phone calls [laughs]. It was great because everyone back home in New Jersey and my friends had gotten the news that I had moved up and they were all listening to the game [on-line], so the next day when I was waiting at the airport, I was on the phone the entire time.

OC: Did it give you a sense of what it is like to prepare to play at that level to watch the other River Cats prepare for the games?

AB: Yeah, definitely. It was nice to be a part of the team. They obviously are a lot more experienced than I am. They had already clinched [the division title] and they were really loose, so it was a lot of fun playing for them. The guys joke around and they just go out there and play the game and it seems like they have no pressure even though there is pressure. They just go out there and play the game just like they were little, free and easy. It's nice. They let everyone do their own thing to get ready for the game and it was pretty neat to see that.

OC: What did you take from last season, starting in Kane County and then spending half a season in the California League? Did you learn anything that you didn't know going into the year?

AB: In Kane County, the competition obviously is a younger group of guys. The first thing I noticed when I got to Stockton was the experience level of the guys and the ages of the players, they were definitely older and more experienced. Going into Stockton, you needed to make adjustments before the hitters made adjustments to you. You see a lot of these guys over and over and by the second or third time, they know what you are going to come with, so you really have to make adjustments before they do.

That was the biggest thing, just trying to make adjustments before the hitters do and learning how to pitch rather than just throwing. Trying to get deeper into games at a higher level of baseball was something that I was really working on. I just wanted to put my team in the best position to win by staying in the game longer.

OC: Did you have a particular pitch that was an out-pitch for you this season?

AB: I tend to throw a lot of fastballs. That's why sometimes the hitters get me for a big homerun, but it seemed like my fastball was really working for me all year. It was a real go-to pitch. I could rely on it at any time. It was kind of like just going out there and getting after it and saying ‘here it is, go ahead and hit it.' So definitely the fastball was working. Also, the curveball was a great out-pitch for me. I also used it as a ‘get-me-over' pitch to show the hitters that I have it and then come back with the fastball. Definitely both the fastball and the curveball were working for me last year.

OC: How do you feel your change-up is coming along? Do you feel that it is a pitch you will be able to throw more frequently next season?

AB: Definitely. I am working on it now. Like I said, last Instructs I was really hammering it and getting after it. I am really starting to feel comfortable with it. I just want to get to the point where I can throw it in any situation, like bases loaded, three-two count. That's where I want to get to, to be able to throw the change-up in that situation.

It's really tough to just work on it in the bullpen [during the season]. It's really easy to throw it in the bullpen, there is no pressure. But when you get into the game situation, it is pretty hard to do that. You just have to be confident and just trust it and trust your work. That is what I have been trying to do. I'll definitely be using it a lot more this year.

OC: This off-season, you have gotten some ink as one of the A's top pitching prospects. Is that something you pay attention to or is it really ‘in one ear and out the other'?

AB: You look at it, but it is obviously just someone's opinion. I hope that the A's look highly on me, but it is only writing. What really counts is what happens on the field. It doesn't mean anything unless you go out there and prove yourself. I'm just really spending this off-season working really hard and getting after it and I am hoping to be in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Hopefully, I can go out there and perform each time really well.

OC: Are the trades that the major league team is making when they are adding so many prospects at the minor league level something that you pay attention to or do you really have to block that out and focus on your own development?

AB: You always have to focus on your own development, but you definitely pay attention to the big trades just to see where you may fall. What I kind of take from the trades is that our GM is making these trades because he knows what he has in the farm system. The guys that he got in the trades are big prospects and that just sort of makes you work even harder to stay where you are in their eyes. Like I said, you still have to go out there and produce on the field. That is what it really comes down to. But I think if you take anything from the trades, it is that you just have to work that much harder to get to where you want to be. It's definitely given me a push in the right direction.

OC: Are you expecting to be at Double-A this season? Have they talked to you about that or is it something that will be determined at spring training?

AB: You just have to go into spring training and see where you land. Where the organization needs you is where you will be sent. I hope to be in Double-A. Obviously, my goal would be to break camp with the big league team, but that is probably not going to happen. [laughs] My main goal is just to work hard and stay focused and be productive on the field. Go out there and put your team in the best position to win in each and every game.

Whenever they need you, they will move you up or if they need you down a level, they'll send you down a level. But you have to just go out there and wherever you get sent, you just have to go out there and compete and that's what I am looking for, to put the wins on the board.

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