Camp Leo Report: Blaine Boyer Interview

One of the young Braves pitchers that could make his debut in Atlanta this season is right-hander Blaine Boyer. The former outfielder-turned-pitcher has developed into a fine prospect. He continues to make solid progress, and he is now a pitcher close to being able to contribute to the big league club. Before Boyer headed down to Orlando for Spring Training, he talked with BravesCenter's Bill Shanks about his time in Camp Leo.

SHANKS: How has it gone at Camp Leo?

BOYER: It's going well. It's going real well. I've having a blast. This is my third Camp Leo. Things are going real well. It's good to see the guys and to get around Leo again. It's good to get on the mound. I've enjoyed it.

SHANKS: Has this year been any different from the previous two?

BOYER: I feel a little bit more comfortable. The atmosphere at Turner Field is unbelievable, even in the offseason. Just being there and being able to come around and see guys like Smoltz and the new additions like Hudson and some of those guys. It's just been outstanding to hang with some of the players like LaRoche and the new faces like Pete Orr. It's been really cool. We've had a good time.

SHANKS: No matter how many times you go in there you still have to pinch yourself, don't you?

BOYER: Oh my gosh. It's ridiculous. You can't imagine. It's like I'm a two year old in a candy store.

SHANKS: You said the comfort level is there. Is that also a feeling of your getting closer?

BOYER: Well I don't want to say it's a feeling of my getting closer; I kind of just know really in essence what to expect. Being around Leo the first year was pretty crazy because he's got such a great reputation and is very respected. I really didn't know what to think. Now I know what he's like and I love being around him and letting him tweak things here and there.

SHANKS: So what has he done with you this year?

BOYER: Already, he's fixed my curve ball to the way I had it when I was in Macon, which has just been great. It was just something really simple with the grip. It's just little things like that, just getting different ideas, especially when they're coming from a guy like Leo, who is a master when it comes to pitching philosophy. So he's helped out a lot, and I can't wait to get down to spring training and be around him even more. I feel like I'm starting to be able to taste the big leagues here. It's more of a feeling that I belong than maybe in the last few years.

SHANKS: I've seen you on some video behind Smoltz and Hudson watching them pitch. How much are you learning from those guys?

BOYER: Wherever Smoltz is, especially if he's throwing, I'm right there watching his every move. I am still, even when he's throwing bullpens, I'm completely amazed. His mechanics are so perfect, so quiet. The ball just jumps out of his hand. He's just a great guy to be around. I remember the first time when I got drafted I remember being down in Orlando and watching the A's play and remember hearing about Hudson. I started getting on this whole kick about pitching philosophy and hearing about different pitchers, so I was really starting to watch pitchers, and my favorite guy to watch was Tim Hudson because they talk about how aggressive he was and how he just went at hitters. He's just got filthy stuff. So this is my first time to see Hudson live. Whenever he gets a chance to throw too, I want to be there.

SHANKS: Have you talked with him?

BOYER: Oh, yea. Great guy. Unbelievable guy. Macay (McBride), (Anthony) Lerew, and (Brian) McCann and I were all just sitting down talking baseball next to my locker and he walked by and then he came back and pulled up a chair and just talked with us. We talked about Auburn, and his pitching, and Zito. It was great.

SHANKS: Is it hard or easy to not want to copy what you see someone like Smoltz and Hudson doing on the mound?

BOYER: That is definitely tough especially when you see your childhood hero pitching a few feet in front of you – you want to do everything he does because everything he does is usually just great. That's who you want to be. But I do take some stuff that John does and I do implement them into my mechanics, but there are some stuff that I really just can't do and I don't need to do. We're not all robots out there. If we all did the same thing, we'd never get the same results.

SHANKS: So you have to be a little careful of that then?

BOYER: You do have to be careful. You do have to be careful. But I feel that I know my mechanics well enough that I know what I can tweak and can't tweak and I know what works and what doesn't. I know what my finished product is going to be and what I'm shooting for.

SHANKS: Besides the curve ball, what else are you working on?

BOYER: I want to maybe experiment with the cutter. I've never thrown it in a game. I just have an idea of how I would want to use it. It's a great pitch for lefties. You can throw it to a lefty. It's just a great pitch. It just gives me that more of an advantage. So the idea of having the cutter is very attractive to me, but if I don't it's not a big deal. I'll throw it one day. Right now, I don't really need it. I guess I'll wait until I really need it.

SHANKS: You finished real strong last year. How important is it to pick up where you left off?

BOYER: Yea I was. I think it's very important. I need to keep things going. I don't need to put any pressure on myself where I say that I have to get off to a strong start. I just need to keep pitching and stay confident in my abilities and have fun. I know what it's like to put too much pressure on myself and that's just a dead end.

SHANKS: You'll have Kent Willis as pitching coach this year in AA so that'll be good.

BOYER: I can't wait to be around Kent. He and I…we click. Kent's an awesome guy, just a great pitching coach. He's just a good dude to be around.

SHANKS: You have made very good progress over the past few seasons. Do you feel yourself maturing as a pitcher, particularly how much you've had to learn about pitching?

BOYER: Definitely. I've had the best instructors that baseball has. Being around guys like Bruce Dal Canton and Kent Willis and Leo Mazzone – that's the top echolon right there. If you're going to make it to the big leagues, you've got to have the natural ability to do it. If you have that natural ability, they're going to bring it out in you. It's been a lot of fun. The guys I'm able to be with make the atmosphere a lot of fun. The competition is there, but we've got some great guys. If I wasn't having fun, I don't think the outcome would be like this.

SHANKS: Knowing you as I do, I know you'll go to spring training and compete for a job on the Atlanta roster, but either way you've got to feel that this year is very possible.

BOYER: I know I have the confidence that I'll be in Atlanta sometime this year. I know they have confidence in me as well. That gets me fired up. I know no one is going to hand me a job, but I'm going to be working my butt off for it.

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