Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Robert Gilliam, SP

Robert Gilliam has impressed people throughout the organization with his arm strength since he was drafted by the Oakland A's in the eighth-round in 2009. Through Sunday, Gilliam had a 3.94 ERA and 78 strike-outs in 91.1 innings for the Low-A Kane County Cougars. David Malamut spoke with the right-handed starter...

David Malamut: How has the season gone so far?

Robert Gilliam: It's been going alright. I've had my ups and downs but overall it's been a pretty good experience.

DM: What pitches do you throw?

RG: Fastball, curveball, slider, changeup.

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

RG: Be strikes I throw all of my off speed pitches to just throw off timing.

DM: What's your mentality on the mound?

RG: To be aggressive, get ahead of guys and compete.

DM: What are you working on?

RG: Throwing all of my pitches for strikes, getting ahead of guys and keeping my pitch counts down.

DM: Have you always been a pitcher?

RG: Not in high school. I was always a shortstop and a catcher, and then I pitched a little bit.

DM: How was the high school experience?

RG: I learned to fill up the zone, never give up. You have to compete all the time.

DM: How hard was it after three years in California to go your senior year in North Carolina?

RG: Not that hard. I grew up when I was younger in North Carolina, so it was kind of like going back home. My whole family is from the East Coast anyways, so it wasn't too tough.

DM: UNC-Greensboro?

RG: It was a great experience. I played three years there, and I had a blast. I definitely picked up a ton of knowledge. That is what made me the pitcher I am today. The coaches there were great. They helped me a ton mentally.

DM: The Cape Cod League?

RG: There you are just playing against the top college guys in the country. It was a really good experience there. I had a blast. I really like the Cape. It was my second time facing wood bats. I just had to pitch inside a lot more.

DM: Political science major?

RG: My plan is to eventually go to law school.

DM: Draft day?

RG: Stressful. I was just so happy to get picked. I was just at my house listening on the computer by myself. I was really excited when I got picked and was really glad when I heard my name. The Oakland A's have a great organization. I feel like you can't really pick an organization better then that.

DM: Arizona?

RG: I really like Arizona. Our spring complex is in Phoenix near Scottsdale and it's great down there. I think it's probably one of the nicer areas I've ever been in. The heat didn't really bother me a lot. It's dry heat so it's not that bad. You go down to North Carolina on a summer day when the humidity is out that is not where you want to be.

DM: Vancouver?

RG: I had a little bit of arm problems there. I just kind of worked it out. It was my first taste of pro ball, and my first taste of having big crowds every night so it was nice. Canada was pretty cool. I didn't really get to see a whole lot of it. I pretty much went from my host house to the field every day. The travel there can be pretty long. We had one trip to Boise that was 14 hours. On the trips to pass the time I just listen to music. No cards, since I was a first year guy I had to share a seat.

DM: Midwest League?

RG: It's been great. I really like it up here. It's really nice. I really like the area.

DM: You worked mainly as a reliever in college and in your first year as a pro. How has the transition been to a starter this year?

RG: I've had to take a different mentality. I was always a late-inning closer type guy in college. Here you have to keep a little in the tank. It's a little different, but overall it's still pitching. It's not anything new. The difference as a starter is you have to face the same batters three or maybe four times. You have to be able to pitch with your other pitches. In college, I just pitched with my fastball and threw a slider occasionally. Now I'm trying to throw all of my pitches and face the guys over and over. It's definitely something I'm learning more as I go. I feel like every single start I learn something. I just try to build on every single start.

DM: Besides baseball what do you like to do?

RG: I really like to go fishing and hunting and boating and just kind of outdoor things.

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

RG: Right now I'd probably be on a lake since it's a great day.

DM: Top 5 artists in your ipod?

RG: Hard to say. I listen to a lot of country music. Dirk Bentley. There are a lot of guys I listen to. I can't name just five.

DM: Biggest influence growing up?

RG: My dad. He taught me everything I know.

DM: Biggest baseball hero?

RG: I always liked Nolan Ryan a lot. He was at the end of his career when I was young, but he was always a guy I looked up to and watched how he was. I got to see the highlights of him. He kicked butt out there on the mound.

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