Devine ready for start of Braves' career

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks spoke with Braves' first round pick Joey Devine earlier this week as he prepared to report to Myrtle Beach on Saturday.

SHANKS: So you were able to skip the mini-camp in Orlando, huh?
DEVINE: I'm working our here at N.C. State.

SHANKS: When are you going to Myrtle Beach?
DEVINE: Saturday morning. I think I'm going to throw a bullpen Saturday, so I'm guessing I'll be ready to go on Sunday.

SHANKS: Well tell me about the last week. I'm sure it's been exciting for you?
DEVINE: It's been a dream come true. I can't be any happier with being with such a great organization. Basically, I'm just thrilled and very excited to get out there and start playing with Myrtle Beach and getting to know the coaching staff and players out there and being able to go out and compete every single day and trying to get better as a person and a player every single day as well. I'm just really looking forward to the opportunities the Braves have presented to me so far.

SHANKS: Give me a little history lesson about you. You weren't really recruited much out of high school, correct?
DEVINE: My junior year I took four official visits across the country. I just didn't feel very comfortable. I didn't commit to anywhere in the early signing period. Then for a little bit there was a time frame where I wasn't being recruited by anybody. Next thing I knew it was the summer after I had already graduated from high school and I still didn't have a place to go. I was thinking about going to junior college route, and then Billy Jones, the Assistant at North Carolina State, called me up and flew down to watch me play. In early July, I ended up signing with N.C. State and reported on the first.

SHANKS: Why do you think you weren't recruited very much?
DEVINE: I played on a showcase team with the Kansas City Sluggers and my primary position was shortstop. In big game situations I never really pitched. I was recruited primarily as a shortstop, a two-way guy that pitched as well. That may have had a little bit to do with it. I came into N.C. State and was recruited as a two-way guy as well. The next thing I knew I was pitching as a closer my freshman year and it just kind of went from there.

SHANKS: So what kind of pitcher were you in high school?
DEVINE: I was pretty much the same pitcher I am now. I didn't throw quite as hard, maybe 89-92 or 93. I was pretty much the same built, same size. I don't know if I got overworked or what. But things happen for a reason, and I was very happy with coming to N.C. State. It's been a fabulous three years. I wouldn't trade anything. I think that was one of my best decisions ever – coming here to Raleigh.

SHANKS: That's surprising that with you throwing 89-92 that no team would draft you. Did any teams scout you out of high school?
DEVINE: You know there were a couple. The Brewers and the Dodgers, but nothing really. I don't know if it was being from Junction City, which is a small town. It's not a big baseball town by any means. Junction City, Kansas. I don't know if I got overlooked or what. I'm just happy things worked out the way they did.

SHANKS: Billy Best said the first time he saw you as a freshman he knew you were special. How long did it take you to become the closer at N.C. State?
DEVINE: It kind of happened the fall of my freshman year. Brad Blackwell was going to be our closer but some things happened where he was ineligible for the season. So they put me in that role and from pretty much the fall of my freshman year I established that position. I continued hitting and taking ground balls my freshman year, and even last year, my sophomore year, there were probably 20 games that I started at third base for N.C. State. But I put the bat down and focused primarily on pitching this year. Even though I was pitching my freshman and sophomore year, I was really able to take in the coaching and focus primarily on pitching this year.

SHANKS: So when did the possibility of being a high draft pick become a reality?
DEVINE: Yeah I knew last fall it was a possibility just because I believed in myself and was confident and I had a pretty decent summer with Team USA and experienced great baseball with that. I was just going to go out there and be myself and continue to play and compete and let the rest take care of itself. Sure enough, things worked out very well.

SHANKS: Now describe your delivery to me. Are you a sidearmer or a three-quarters guy? How would you describe it?
DEVINE: I would say I'm not quite a sidearmer. I'm a three-quarters guy, but my upper body I have a tilt in my torso area toward third base, so it kind of deceives as if I was a sidearmer but it's really a three-quarters angle and my upper body tilts toward the ground as I deliver the baseball.

SHANKS: That sounds like it would really be deceiving.
DEVINE: I think it gives me a little bit better of a chance to hide the baseball for a little bit longer. I'm not sure if that makes it harder to pick up or not. I'm not even sure how I developed that. It just happened over the course of time and after a number of innings that's how I felt comfortable.

SHANKS: Did you top out at 97?
DEVINE: I topped out at 98. I hit 98 a couple of times. But I stay in the 93-96 area.

SHANKS: What about your breaking stuff? Is your slider your best offspeed pitch?
DEVINE: I would definitely say that. I throw it like a spike curve, with a knuckle-curve grip. That's how I've thrown it ever since I was 12 years old. I really haven't changed anything else. I throw it with a slider rotation just from the way I deliver the ball and being at such a low angle.

SHANKS: What else do you throw?
DEVINE: I throw a straight change up and two different fastballs.

SHANKS: So for the last three years you've been in the south. Have you followed the Braves?
DEVINE: Oh yes definitely. I had a conversation with my dad and told him that when you watch TV and see Major League Baseball the Braves are always in the playoffs and have that chance to win the World Series. When I think of the Braves, it's just an unbelievable organization and a lot of great role models. As a young player they are there for you to look up to and see how they handle things on a day-to-day basis. It's just a wonderful organization, and I'm just blessed to be apart of such a great organization.

SHANKS: But you probably knew their reputation for taking high school pitchers, so how realistic did you think it was for them to come after you?
DEVINE: I really didn't know. I know in previous drafts they usually take those high school guys with their first couple of picks. I was just going to go out there and focus on the year here at N.C. State and get better every single day and let everything else take care of itself. But Coach Billy Best and I established a relationship ever since the first day I walked on the campus here at N.C. State. He was just always around and I got a chance to meet with him and we established a wonderful friendship and relationship ever since day one. Billy Best is a great guy.

SHANKS: So last week what were you thinking going into the draft?
DEVINE: There were some different things that I heard, maybe a chance that I could have gone as early as 11 with the Pirates. The Red Sox were showing a lot of interest with their picks at 23 and 26. Early in the year the Marlins showed interest because they had a couple of picks there early in the first round. So the Yankees started showing interest as the draft got closer. The Braves had interest from day one, and I was very fortunate they took me at 27.

SHANKS: So you really had no idea where you were going to go?
DEVINE: There were definitely some options that were available, and I was just going to let the good Lord take care of everything else and just sit back and relax and watch it take place.

SHANKS: So when the Braves called your name and number, how did you feel?
DEVINE: Just unbelievable. There was so much excitement. I don't think there are enough words to describe it the feeling. Chills. I was just so happy. I talked with Coach Best right after they selected me and I couldn't thank him enough. I spoke with Roy Clark immediately after that and thanked him for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

SHANKS: As a pitcher, you know there are organizations that have bad reputations about pitching, so how much of a relief was it to know you were coming to the Braves?
DEVINE: They develop a lot of pitchers and are really a pitching-dominant organization. They have wonderful pitching coaches that really spend time with their players.

SHANKS: You probably know that before the draft there were rumors that you were very close and there were comparisons to Huston Street. How close are you?
DEVINE: There's room for improvement and there's always room for a player to get better. I'm just going to go out there and be patient and learn from all these wonderful coaches and be a part of so many great players with Myrtle Beach. That's the first step to go to Myrtle Beach and learn from those guys and continue to get better every single day and let everything else take care of itself. If that day presents itself where I get called up, I'm just going to take each level one step at a time and give it my all and continue learning and continue competing at the highest level.

SHANKS: Well is that exciting to know that if you do well, it might be possible?
DEVINE: That's one thing I've dreamed about every since I've put on a glove, so now to have that opportunity in front of me where I can control my own destination is very exciting. I'm just going to soak it all in and go out there and try to continue to get better. But it is very exciting knowing that you're almost where you've always dreamed about being – in the big leagues.

SHANKS: What do you think you do need to work on Joey?
DEVINE: I think everything. I don't think anyone, even the guys in the big leagues don't have room for improvement. There are always things you can work on. Every aspect of the game I think I can improve and get better at, and I think that's going to come with great coaching and more experience.

SHANKS: Why do you love being a reliever?
DEVINE: Uh, I don't know. My dad told me, ‘Games aren't won in the first, second, or third inning. They're won in the eighth and ninth inning.' I just love being out there with the game on the line. I just let the adrenaline pick up and feed off everything else and go out there and compete.

SHANKS: Did you ever start?
DEVINE: I was a starter in high school. I think that's the same mindset. Pitching is pitching. You've got to be able to know how to pitch in order to have success and get guys out.


Bill Shanks has a new book out on baseball scouting and player development called Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. Bill can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com.


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