Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Shawn Haviland, SP

Right-hander Shawn Haviland made a strong first impression on the Oakland A's last season when he posted a 3.48 ERA for short-season Vancouver after being selected in the 33rd round of the draft out of Harvard University. Haviland is continuing to show promise in 2009 with Low-A Kane County. David Malamut spoke with the right-hander over the weekend…

Harvard University isn't usually known for producing top baseball talent, but Crimson alum Shawn Haviland is hoping to change that perception. The Oakland A's 2008 33rd round pick has put together a solid first season-and-a-half in pro baseball, posting a 3.48 ERA for Vancouver last season and earning a spot on the Midwest League All-Star team in 2009.

Although Haviland's performance in the second half of the 2009 season hasn't been as strong as his first half (he had a 3.66 ERA before the break and a 5.30 ERA after the break), he still feels strong. He will be counted on to be a strong contributor to the Kane County Cougars' post-season rotation in September.

David Malamut spoke with Haviland over the weekend…

David Malamut: How does your arm feel?

Shawn Haviland: Feeling great, probably the most innings I've thrown since high school, so I'm surprised at how good my arm feels. I tribute that to our throwing program and making sure we take care of ourselves.

DM: In high school you threw a lot of innings?

SH: My junior and senior year in high school I probably threw around 175 innings each year, so I guess this is cake compared to that.

DM: Is that during the high school season or the season plus in the summer?

SH: High school and summer combined because I played for a couple of teams in the summer and got a lot of innings from there.

DM: How much of that is from what you do in the off-season conditioning program?

SH: A larger part of it is I really went after it this off-season and lost about 15 pounds and got stronger. I think that right now and towards the end of the year is where it is beginning to pay off. I feel good where other people are starting to tire a little bit.

DM: What pitches do you throw?

SH: Fastball, curveball, cutter, splitter and a changeup.

DM: What do you want those pitches to ultimately do?

SH: I love to pitch to contact with my fastball, and get some groundballs. The rest I would like to get some swing and misses, if you can get some swing and misses you're going to have a lot of success.

DM: Going into Harvard what was your experience and what had you learned?

SH: Harvard was awesome, I got to meet so many interesting people, every person there has something that they are really good at. I kind of just learned that you should work on the one thing, everyone is good at one thing, and everyone should work on that, and see how far that will take you.

DM: In 2005, you played for Wareham (Cape Cod). What did you learn from pitching against wood bats?

SH: It's a lot different than pitching to metal. You can pitch to contact more, the coolest part about playing there is I got to play with a couple of guys who are in the majors right now, Dustin Mattison, Daniel Bard and I got to play against Evan Longoria. He actually hit a homerun off of me, then I beaned him the next time. It was cool to pick those guys' brains, pick the coaches' brains. I picked up my changeup there.

DM: In college you threw 12 complete games. How gratifying were those?

SH: It is great anytime. Even now, in pro ball, even though it never really happens, you try to get on the mound and finish what you started. Anytime you can get that last out, the catcher comes out and gives you the ball it's a pretty cool thing.

DM: You were signed by former Cougar Marc Sauer. What was that all like, being scouted and signed?

SH: The scouting process is interesting for a guy who is maybe not a top five round pick because you never know who is interested you never know who is there. Marc called me a few days before the draft and goes, "We're thinking about picking you up later in the draft, do you want to play?" and I said yeah you give me a shot I'll sign for whatever money you want. I just want to play baseball, I just want to play pro ball. I'm glad to have gotten the shot I keep in touch with Marc. Probably about once a month I give him a call.

DM: Marc Sauer spent two years in Kane County?

SH: He said he loved it, he says he talks to Max (Akerman) his host dad probably every week and this is a special place to play. You get huge crowds, the city is awesome, the ownership is great and the fans are into it there. Probably isn't too many better places to play in minor league baseball.

DM: What was draft day like?

SH: Pretty stressful. It was actually the day after I graduated from college too, so I was moving out of my dorm and saying goodbye to all of my friends for the past four years. I was unsure I was going to get drafted. I hoped I would have the chance, so it started out pretty stressful and then turned into a great day because I heard my name called and my lifetime dream is fulfilled.

DM: Were you listening online?

SH: We were unpacking. We had it online and really loud. All of my roommates were there and my name didn't get called until I drove away from the school and about 30 minutes from home and I got a call from Marc. He was like "alright you got your shot. I wish they could've called me earlier in the morning to say ok we are going to get you but that's not how it happens."

DM: What did you learn from playing in Vancouver last year?

SH: That was great, the coaching in pro ball is just so different. You can really take the time to work on every little nuance of your mechanics and working with [pitching coach Jimmy Escalante was awesome. You also just learn about what the day-to-day grind of minor league baseball is and that it can maybe not be unbelievable every once in awhile, but if you can be good every day that can take you a long way.

DM: What was your off-season program like?

SH: I worked out four times a week with this guy Erik Kressy right outside of Boston. I live in Boston during the off-season. I started throwing after Thanksgiving and got on the mound around January first. I wanted to show up to spring training ready because I felt I needed to prove myself to make sure I got to Kane County.

DM: Did you get to throw outside at all?

SH: There is a bubble over the Harvard football stadium and they have a turf field so you can throw. When I was at Harvard you could play full games out there, they can get you up on the mound there and I could face the hitters at Harvard which is nice.

DM: Going into this year what were you expectations and do you think you have met them?

SH: My expectations were: 1. Out of spring training I wanted to make Kane County and if I could be in the starting rotation, which I was lucky enough to be, that would be great to as far as that goes. I was happy. Another goal was I wanted to make the All-Star team and I was able to accomplish that. I really want to focus on finishing the second half of the season strong and not tailing off. My numbers haven't been what I would like them to be but I feel like I'm executing my pitches. I feel healthy and my velocity has stayed up and in that sense I'm pretty happy.

DM: You have that one bad inning.

SH: Yeah I don't know what that is. I talked to my dad on the phone the other day. It seems like it is quick too. It's over in like 10-15 pitches and bam four runs then I can settle it down and shut it down. It happened in Cedar Rapids the other day. It's something that me and Jimmy have been talking about. Maybe once the guy gets on maybe just slow the game down a little bit and take our time and not let it get downhill momentum on me. It has been frustrating. It would be one thing if I was throwing the ball badly and they were hitting it, but I was throwing the ball well and it seems like they get a bleeder here or there then the big hit when they need it. I am pretty confident that come playoff time and my next start I will be able to make the big pitches when I need to.

DM: Going into your first start what was going through your mind?

SH: We were facing a Peoria team that rakes. They had Josh Vitters and a couple of other first rounders. Josh Harrison is a good player. I faced them five times in Instructs and four times in spring training, so it was a team I knew well and they knew me well. I just wanted to go in and get the season started off right and see if I could get through the fifth or sixth inning and keep the team in the game. I think I was able to do that.

DM: Did the pitch count hinder you that early in the season?

SH: I was always that guy, and maybe I'm a little stubborn, that once I'm out there I want to throw 200 pitches until the game is over. It's not realistic but early in the year we were right around 80 pitches. It was frustrating I had to come out with two outs and a guy at third base which is when I want to stay in there and battle but the pitch count is for our own good.

DM: What has been the highlight of the year so far?

SH: There has been a lot of them. Playing in the All-Star game was awesome, the July 3rd game we had against the Cubs where it was 15,000 fans with a couple of big leaguers here was pretty cool. I pitched on a Saturday night in Dayton which was really cool. Their fans are really into the games, packed house and they are screaming and yelling at me. That is the kind of stuff you live for.

DM: How have the road trips been?

SH: It's better than the Northwest League. Two road trips ago it was a tough one. We had to go from Cedar Rapids to Michigan to Wisconsin. I'm the kind of guy that just sit on my laptop and mess around and time goes by quickly or read a book or something.

DM: What has been your favorite town to play in this year?

SH: I liked West Michigan. They had a nice stadium and I pitched well there so that kind of helped my opinion. Wisconsin is great because the hotel is right near a lot of stuff, so you can go over and demo a driver in the middle of the day. Normally there is a lot of downtime and not really anything by the hotel but they have a mall there, which is cool.

DM: Favorite stadium?

SH: I like our stadium but I think the best ones are either Dayton or Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne is brand new and they have that huge Jumbotron. I didn't get to pitch there unfortunately, there's is pretty nice.

DM: I love the food there. I went there a weekend ago and it's the only play park I've been to that has ribs.

SH: I think the best concessions in the league is Quad City. You get tacos, pasta and they have like the whole range of food.

DM: With your major being government studies, what is your take on the government?

SH: It looks like we are starting to turn it around. I don't really follow the stock market that much but I look on my phone every once in awhile and it's been trending back up. It's nice that we could get someone in there with some fresh ideas. Whether or not you agree with his ideas, he was elected and he is certainly doing his best to change it.

DM: Before you pitch you always draw something in the dirt on the back of the mound, what are you doing?

SH: My good friend passed away when we were in seventh grade. He drowned when an ATV flipped over on him. I write his initials and his number as just kind of a way to remember. I played baseball with him and he was a good friend of mine.

DM: Your father and your grandfather played baseball in college. How much has their experience helped you?

SH: I think it has been invaluable. My dad, ever since I was a little kid knew that if I wanted to play college baseball -- which I always did -- what I needed to do. Both him and my grandfather taught me the right way to play the game. You play hard, you prepare yourself. My father was a shortstop, so in high school he was great with that. My grandfather was a pitcher so he kind of talked about how to set hitters up. I guess he had a good curveball back in the day.

DM: What was it like being on the mound in your first Elfstrom Stadium start and getting the win?

SH: You always want to pitch well when you are in front of the home crowd for the first time any time you can get the team a win it is great but I think I pitched pretty well that night and I was pretty fired up there were a good amount of fans in the stands.

DM: What was it like being named to the All-Star team?

SH: That was a great great honor as someone who coming into the season I wasn't a first round pick. I didn't go to a traditional baseball school so to get that kind of honor and be out there with the guys who made it from our team and the guys who made it across the league who are good players and big prospects it was a great honor. It was really cool to meet all of them and see them they are all good guys they are all going through the same thing we are.

DM: If you were not playing baseball what would you be doing?

SH: I don't really want to think about that. I just really love baseball so I think I would try to coach and maybe try to be in the front office somewhere or a scout or something like that. If you can get paid to do or be a part of something you love, you are pretty lucky.

DM: How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically to pitch during pregame?

SH: I take notes the day before on maybe what their weaknesses are and what there tendencies are, so I'll go over them with the catcher before the game and I like to get in there and get stretched, get some music going about 45 minutes to an hour before hand and just take that into the game.

DM: What's your mentality on the mound?

SH: I want to go right after the guys and force contact. Make them hit me. Nothing drives me crazier than walking a guy. It is hard enough for them to hit, you can't give them free passes like that.

DM: How has working with Jimmy Escalante last year helped you this year?

SH: It has been great because we are really comfortable with each other now. With me there are a certain couple of keys, if I'm rushing out, I'm going to struggle a little bit with my command and having a full year with him and now a second year, he can --within five pitches in the bullpen -- say "hey you're rushing out a little bit." He picks it up right away so having a guy for a second year is great.

DM: Is this season physically what you expected your first pro season to be like?

SH: Everyone always says it is a grind in August and that you are going to start to feel tired. Maybe it just that I'm a starter and I only have to go every fifth day but it really hasn't hit me quite yet. Knock on some wood but I thought it was going to be a bit more of a grind for me. It's fun to come out here every day and shag batting practice, throw your bullpens and stuff like that. It has been great since I've been so happy it hasn't taken a physically toll on me quite yet.

DM: What are your top five artists on your iPod?

SH: I like Matchbox 20, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Deathcab for Cutie. Maybe only those four. I don't listen to a lot of music.

DM: What other sports do you play besides baseball in the off-season?

SH: I love to golf. I played a good amount of squash last year with one of my college roommates and it's actually a lot of fun. In high school I played hockey but I really don't get to do that as much anymore.

DM: What did you play?

SH: I played center. In high school I played junior hockey and then my senior year I kind of had to make a decision wheher I wanted to go full bore in hockey or baseball, and I picked baseball, as it is kind of my true love.

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