Instructs Q&A: Ryan Doolittle, P

Ryan Doolittle has gotten quite an education during his first pro season. He has not only had to learn the nuances of pitching to pro hitters and to wooden bats, but he has also had to learn what it takes to be a full-time pitcher. Now Doolittle is adding to that education while taking part in the A's Instructional League, and he is reveling in the opportunity to gain more knowledge about pitching

After an inconsistent start to his first professional season, Ryan Doolittle, the Oakland A's 26th round pick in the 2008 draft, was one of the Arizona Rookie A's most consistent pitchers down the stretch.

Doolittle was a two-way star in high school and college, but the A's selected him as a pitcher. A draft pick out of Cumberland County Community College in New Jersey, Doolittle had an inconsistent start to his pro career. However, in his last 20 innings, he was outstanding, not walking a batter, striking out 17 and allowing only three runs.

In total, he made 14 appearances for the Rookie A's, seven out of the bullpen and seven as a starting pitcher in 2008. Being a starter seemed to agree with Doolittle, as he posted a 1.98 ERA and a 23:3 K:BB ratio in 27.1 innings as a starter, as opposed to a 7.91 ERA and a 13:7 K:BB ratio in 19.1 innings as a reliever.

We recently spoke to Doolittle from the A's Instructional League camp about his first pro season, what he is working on at Instructs, his thoughts on being a full-time pitcher, and more…

OaklandClubhouse: How is the Instructional League going for you? Any first impressions?

Ryan Doolittle: So far, so good. I'm actually learning a lot. We wake up and have practice in the mornings and games in the afternoons. During practice, we really break down mechanics and work on different pitches and things like that. I'm trying to soak up as much as I can at this point right now and then take it to the game. But I'm having a lot of fun. It's great out here.

OC: Were there things in particular that you wanted to work on once the season was over?

RD: Yeah. I'm working on a couple of different pitches right now, trying to add to what I have and make the pitches that I do have better. And then I'm working on a couple of mechanical things that I have seen on film and have talked to the coaches about that I have been working on. It's coming along slowly but we are making progress.

OC: This season was your first experience being a pitcher full-time. Was it an adjustment to know that you were preparing for games only as a pitcher and not as a position player, too?

RD: It was definitely different. It's definitely still pretty hard for me still to watch batting practice and to watch infield practice and things like that knowing that I can only concentrate just on pitching, which I love doing right now. But it's definitely something that I am not used to. In some ways, though, it has been easier now that I can just concentrate on pitching. I have one thing to work on and I can really bare down and go after it harder rather than concentrating on different positions and hitting and things like that.

OC: You really were pitching well over your last 20 innings or so of the season. Was there an adjustment that you made before those outings that helped you pitch so well, or was it more of just getting used to professional baseball?

RD: It was kind of a matter of getting used to it. Definitely when I came in here, I still had my high school and college mindset and [pro ball] is totally different, especially with the wood bats. As I got more comfortable, I got more confident in myself and what I had and my abilities. I started at that point to pitch better and to relax more. Normally, I was always under a microscope with scouts and stuff, so now I am just playing ball and having fun and doing what I have to do. It was nice and the game became fun again. I didn't have to press too much. I would have to say that the improvement came from gaining confidence and definitely experience helps, big time.

OC: You started out relieving and then you were starting towards the end of the season. Was there a role that you preferred?

RD: Definitely starter. I like starting, but, hey, wherever they need me, I'll jump on the mound any time.

OC: What are the classroom sessions at Instructs like? What do you cover?

RD: Pretty much everything. With our meetings, usually the pitchers have their meetings and the hitters have theirs. We usually break-down the game before, and talk about the guys that pitched in the game and they tell us what they are working on. We kind of go pitch-by-pitch. We also talk about philosophy and what pitches to throw when and to what hitters and what to look for in the hitter. We also go over plays. There is a lot of stuff. [laughs] More stuff than I thought there was, so I am trying to soak it up as we go. But we talk about everything.

OC: Do you have a plan for the off-season and preparation for next year?

RD: I guess I do have a plan, in a way. I'll go back home to New Jersey and work-out, lift and eat a lot. I'm going to try to gain some weight. My main goal is to just stay in shape and try to get ready for next year and then I'll start throwing once December/January rolls around to get to feeling good when spring training rolls around. But my goal is to just get myself prepared and to get a little bigger and a little stronger.

OC: What pitches are you throwing now?

RD: I throw a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a slider and a change-up.

OC: Are any of those pitches the ones that you have been working on adding this fall?

RD: My slider is my big project to work on right now.

OC: Your brother [A's prospect Sean Doolittle] is going to be playing in the Arizona Fall League in October. Has he been down there with you in Phoenix already, or is he still back home?

RD: No, he's still back home. He was home for a couple of weeks while I was home. I think he got home a day later than I did. But he'll be out here [in Phoenix] and hopefully I'll see him during those two weeks when I am still out here. That should be pretty fun too.

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