Camp Leo Report: Anthony Lerew Interview

Camp Leo is an opportunity for young pitchers to make a positive first impression on Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone and the rest of the Braves' brass. 22-year old Anthony Lerew, placed on the 40-man roster back in November, is participating in his first Camp Leo. BravesCenter's Bill Shanks had a chance to talk with Anthony about the first week of the camp.

SHANKS: Tell me how Camp Leo is going so far?
LEREW: It's going well. It's pretty laid back. It's good to just get going and get ready for spring training. You see a lot of familiar faces from TV in there.

SHANKS: So how often do you throw?
LEREW: We just throw bullpen. I threw three days in a row, and then got two days off, then I threw three days in a row, and so I'll get tomorrow off. I'll probably throw another two times before I head down to spring training. You just throw a bullpen with like thirty-something pitches. You just try to hit your spots.

SHANKS: Is it nerve-racking to have Leo watch you?
LEREW: It was the first day because I mean the first day I saw like Bobby Cox, John Schuerholz, Frank Wren, and Leo Mazzone. I saw everybody and they all came over and talked with me. I was just like, "Ah man." Where I live (Pennsylvania) I didn't really get to throw that much (this winter) cause it's been cold. I didn't really throw long toss and I've only thrown indoors with a high school catcher. I was kind of nervous at first.

SHANKS: So did they talk to you a little bit?
LEREW: Well (Jim) Beauchamp was standing behind Leo and the first couple of balls I threw I bounced them like thirty feet in front of the catcher. He goes, "Don't be nervous." He was yelling at me. "No one's going to bite your head off the first day." I was fine after that. He made me laugh.

SHANKS: So what has Leo said to you?
LEREW: Not too much. If you're doing something wrong…he's showed me a couple of things. He really knows what he's talking about. He was like, "Try this." And when I tried it, everything works. It's neat.

SHANKS: What has he told you to try?
LEREW: Well with my slider he showed me a different grip that he thought might be better if I started throwing it like that. It works pretty good. I was closing off, trying to open up too much on it. I think it was my slider too. It was not only my grip. I was opened up, so I kept throwing the ball way outside. So he told me to close off. It's weird because people have been trying to get me to open up and go straighter to home plate. He said that on some pitches you don't want to be…you want to be closed off some so you can pull across your body and get it to go where you want to. It makes a lot of sense.

SHANKS: You've never been to the big league camp before, so now that you've been up in that environment is there a different feeling?
LEREW: I guess it does feel a little different with just how close you are. I'm going to spring training right now and I'm like, "Man if I pitch well, I might have a chance." You see the guys in there and you watch them throw bullpens and you know what you can do. You may not be doing it right now, because you haven't been able to throw that much. But you know what you can do and you see what they're doing, and you think you may be just as good as that. I don't know, but maybe.

SHANKS: So it gives you a lot of confidence to see yourself in that environment?
LEREW: Yea. Yea. A lot. I like it. I want to stay there as long as I can.

SHANKS: Have any of the big leaguers talked with you?
LEREW: Yea I've actually been going up to The Forum and Smoltz and DeRosa and Horacio and all those guys go up there to work out up there. I've been working out up there the last week and seeing them. Then at the field Hampton was in there throwing. I threw a bullpen after him and that was neat. You see all of them in there hitting, like Chipper's always in there hitting. Andruw and Giles are there. It's weird just hanging around everybody like that.

SHANKS: Is this going to make it easier for you to walk into your first big league camp?
LEREW: I get to know the guys now a little bit so when I see them there it's not like I'll be nervous about meeting everybody or being nervous about having to pitch to other people. It's kind of cool.

SHANKS: I would imagine if you hadn't had this experience just walking in the clubhouse would be pretty intimidating?
LEREW: Yea. It would be. I'm probably going to just sit there and absorb as much as I can like a sponge. Just to watch how everybody walks around and carries themselves.

SHANKS: Ok, so you have you done? How do you think you've thrown so far, especially considering those nagging injuries you had late last season?
LEREW: I feel fine. My toe, where I had that big callous, is all gone. It doesn't seem to be coming back. I haven't hurt it yet anyway. That's good. I haven't been sick since last year, so hopefully I won't get sick again. I always seem to get sick when I go to Florida for some reason.

SHANKS: And what was your arm trouble last season? It wasn't serious, was it?
LEREW: No I had a little tenderness in my elbow from one game. I had been in a bullpen session throwing curveballs because Bill Fischer wanted me to try some curveballs. It was just a little sore; it wasn't anything big. I started a game and I just took myself out cause I wasn't hitting my spots. I couldn't get the ball down because of everything.

SHANKS: Did that have anything to do with your increased velocity from last summer?
LEREW: No it was definitely the bullpen when I threw thirty curveballs. I'm sure my technique was not what it should have been. My whole arm in the back was sore. I throw a slider about the same angle as I do a fastball. When you throw a curveball, you throw it a little bit different, and I probably wasn't doing it correctly. So it was just real tender.

SHANKS: Do you expect that fastball to be back where you had it last summer, in the mid-high 90s?
LEREW: I definitely feel stronger throwing. I don't know. If I could have what I had last year (with the velocity) and have the accuracy I had the previous years, I'll be ready to go.

SHANKS: But your first half last year was excellent, right?
LEREW: Yea.

SHANKS: And then the second half was when the toe flared up?
LEREW: Yea well it started off with my toe, my push off foot. That changed the way I was throwing. Instead of dragging that toe when it would hurt, I would try to pick it up. I was leaving the ball up. I started to get hit around a lot.

SHANKS: And that was the first bit of adversity you had to deal with in your minor league career, right?
LEREW: Yea. It was tough, but I didn't try to sit there and think about it too much. I just wanted to get to my next start and just hope that I would do my best and I'd be better than my last one.

SHANKS: Sometimes they say you need a little adversity to see how you handle it.
LEREW: Yea. Well I think I handled it pretty well. I hope I can't do too much worse than what I did at the end of the season last year. It would be nice if I never have that problem again.

SHANKS: I guess you know the opportunity you had to come into Camp Leo and make a good first impression, right?
LEREW: Oh yea. I got the haircut. I got it all trimmed up. I'm wearing nice clothes all the time. I'm trying to make sure I don't make anybody mad.

SHANKS: Do you think you have made a good first impression?
LEREW: I hope so. I've been working out a lot. You're just throwing, trying to get into a rhythm for spring training. That's when you really start to gut it out. I didn't have to prepare as much this year I guess because I have come to Camp Leo. That's when you really start to get into it. I just needed to throw so I'd be ready to throw a bullpen.

SHANKS: I know you'd love to win a job in Atlanta, but chances are you may go to AA. That's a big step, isn't it?
LEREW: Yea I get to hit. I'm a little nervous about that. I used to be able to hit. I just hope I can do it again somehow. I always hated it when I was a kid when pitchers couldn't hit, cause I always hit when I was little. Then you go four years without hitting, and then you know why most of the pitchers can't hit anymore.

SHANKS: And you'll be back with Kent Willis in AA.
LEREW: Yea I love Kent Willis. He's a really good pitching coach, and he's worked with me before so he knows how I pitch and what needs to be done for me to do stuff. So I think that will be good.

Bill Shanks can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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