Exclusive: Jose Capellan Interview

June 13, 1990. That's the last time a young pitcher made his major league debut with as much fanfare as what we'll see today. That time, it was Steve Avery, who went on to help lead the Braves to four pennants and a World Series title.

The BravesNation can only hope that Jose Capellan will have as much success.

Word started to spread almost eleven months ago that Capellan was someone to watch. Braves General Manager John Schuerholz and Manager Bobby Cox fell in love with the 6'4", 235-pound right-hander last October in the Instructional League. All "Cappy" had to do was show off his 100 mile an hour fastball to get in good graces with the two most important people in the Braves organization.

Then, after being placed on the 40-man roster, Capellan went to spring training and battled for a spot on the Atlanta roster. This was unusual since he had never pitched above Low-A. He was only 1-2 last season for the Rome Braves with an ERA of 3.80 in 14 games. But the Instructional League proved Cappy was ready to bust on the scene very quickly. He didn't make the Atlanta roster out of spring training, but there was little doubt he was very close to making an impact in the big leagues.

The Braves sent him to High-A Myrtle Beach where he dominated. In 8 games, Cappy went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, 27 hits allowed in 46.1 innings, 11 walks, and 62 strikeouts. Then he went to AA Greenville, where again he put on a show: 5-1, 2.50 ERA in 9 games (8 starts), 19 walks, 53 strikeouts in 53 innings pitched. Similar to the jump made by Andruw Jones eight years ago, the Braves sent Cappy to AAA Richmond. He continued to pitch well, going 4-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 7 starts. Capellan allowed 33 hits in 43.1 innings, along with 15 walks and 37 strikeouts.

Capellan's overall numbers at all three stops: 14-4, 2.32 ERA, 113 hits in 139.2 innings, 36 earned runs, 45 walks, and 152 strikeouts.

And today, he starts his big league career.

Saturday afternoon BravesCenter (and a translator) got the chance to sit down with Jose Capellan for an exclusive interview. This is the first of two parts.

SHANKS: Can you tell me how the Braves found you?
CAPELLAN: I was playing basketball in school and only played baseball in the streets. I did not play baseball in school. Basketball was my sport. I never played organized baseball. A man who was a St. Louis Cardinals scout saw me and asked if I played baseball. I said, "No. I don't like it (that much). I like basketball." He talked to my daddy and my daddy always liked baseball. He didn't like basketball. My daddy convinced me to play baseball. Between the scout and my daddy they convinced me to play baseball. The scout put me in a program to let me practice baseball. The scout then got released from the Cardinals. He grew up with a guy who was a Braves scout. The Braves scout and a scout from the Red Sox saw me in this program. I played for three months. My daddy chose Atlanta and they signed me for $12,000.

SHANKS: Why Atlanta and not Boston?
CAPELLAN: Cause my daddy picked Atlanta. I knew nothing about either team. My dad always liked baseball so he said to sign with Atlanta. The Braves paid more.

SHANKS: Did you watch any baseball on TV?
CAPELLAN: I didn't watch anybody. I played basketball.

SHANKS: Who was your favorite basketball team?
CAPELLAN: The team that everybody loves: The Chicago Bulls. I wanted to play for the Chicago Bulls.

SHANKS: So you were a 16-year old basketball player spotted by a scout who wanted you to pitch?
CAPELLAN: Yea I just played sandlot baseball. When they signed me I was playing second base and pitching. The scout saw me and he wanted me to pitch. I told him, "No I play second base."

SHANKS: So you had to learn how to pitch?
CAPELLAN: I had to learn everything. I knew nothing about pitching. When I signed the first time it was 83 miles per hour.

SHANKS: How good were you in basketball?
CAPELLAN: I used to be pretty good but not anymore. I don't think I can play liked I used to play. I was 6 feet tall and weighed only 160 pounds at 16 years old when I signed.

SHANKS: When did you start to grow?
CAPELLAN: I had that same size since I was 13. I was 6 foot, 160. As soon as I got 17 and 18 years old, I started developing. I started growing and put on weight.

SHANKS: So at 16 you signed with the Braves. Did you come over here right away?
CAPELLAN: That was to stay in the Dominican Republic. Then in Fall of 2000 I came to the Instructional League in Orlando.

SHANKS: What was it like to come to America?
CAPELLAN: The first thing was the language. It was very different. When I came the language was the worst thing. I found a guy at Burger King in Orlando who was from Puerto Rico. He understood me and I understood him so I went there everyday. I ate the same thing everyday at Burger King for a while.

SHANKS: Did you learn a lot in that Instructional League?
CAPELLAN: I had to learn everything. They wanted me to loosen up and throw everything. It was very different. The first time I was with the Braves after about three days to a week I couldn't move my arm.

SHANKS: Did your velocity start to increase?
CAPELLAN: It went from 83 when I signed to 88 and then to 93. Then I came over here and it went to 94 and 95. Then I got operated on.

SHANKS: Tell me about when you got hurt. (2001)
CAPELLAN: It was with Danville. I had pitched 6.2 innings and struck out 12. I threw a ball and felt it and had to come out. One pitch. It popped.

SHANKS: Were you hurting before?

SHANKS: So after the Tommy John surgery, what was the rehab like?
CAPELLAN: Well Horacio Ramirez was there. Horacio helped me a lot. He knew how to rehab. It was my first year in the U.S. I had really only spent two and a half months in the Instructional League, so for all practical purposes it was my first year in the U.S.

SHANKS: What was the hardest thing about the rehab?
CAPELLAN: Time. It takes too much time. That's the worst thing about it. Thank God everything turned out OK.

SHANKS: Tell me about the first time you threw 100 mph.
CAPELLAN: The first time I threw 100 I didn't know until afterwards when they told me. I never thought I could throw that hard. I was real, real happy.

SHANKS: Who really helped you develop as a pitcher?
CAPELLAN: Bruce Dal Canton. Thanks to his patience, he helped me with my mechanics. He helped me very much. He helped my pitches.

SHANKS: Are you nervous about Sunday?
CAPELLAN: No. It's just a game. I cannot do anymore than I can do. The good Lord has given me ability. You can't always succeed, but if you do the best, that's all you can do.


Jose Capellan is a very confident young man. He knows he's good. He honestly doesn't seem that nervous about his debut today. He's taking all the publicity in stride.

Tonight we will have more of our exclusive interview with Capellan. He'll talk about impressing Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz last fall in the Instructional League and almost making the Atlanta roster out of spring training. We'll also talk with him after Sunday's debut against the Expos.

Bill Shanks can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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