Known for his control in college, the 22-year-old really struggled with it after a promotion to Palm Beach (A-Advanced), issuing 22 walks compared to 24 strikeouts in 36 innings. Furnish improved as he gained experience, posting an ERA of 3.91 in his last four starts. The Birdhouse named him the number 30 prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system this winter.
The former Horned Frog went 3-6 in spite of a 3.94 ERA in 15 starts in his professional debut during 2006. Assigned to the New York-Penn League, Furnish posted 68 strikeouts and allowed five home runs in 75.1 innings. He had a blistering three-start stretch in August during which he struck out 27 hitters in 19 innings.
I recently caught up with Furnish and he shared his thoughts on his first full season in professional baseball and on the upcoming season. Brad also lets us in on the fact that sometimes a no-hitter is not as glorious as it seems.
Dustin Mattison: Tell me, now the season is over, what are your thoughts on your first full season of professional baseball.
Brad Furnish: My first professional season is everything I thought it would be and then some. I love going to the ballpark every day and I was extremely excited to do that for a full season and not have to worry about going to classes or anything else that goes along with being in college. It was also a learning experience because the schedule allowed me to set up a routine and I also learned how to listen to my body as the season went on.
DM: It seems that for the first time, you had some trouble with command. What was that like and to what can you attribute that?
BF: I can say at the beginning of the season I thought my command was pretty good; as the season went on, it faded. There are two reasons for that, one of them being that my arm gradually started bending more and more at the elbow and I could not extend my arm completely which led to an inconsistent release point. The second reason is that I fatigued as the season went on and had to make adjustments in throwing and running schedules for that reason.
DM: Tell me about your repertoire and what pitch do you consider your out pitch?
BF: My repertoire consists of a fastball, curveball, and changeup. Going into the season I would say that my out pitch was my curveball, but as the season went on it definitely became my changeup.
DM: Eliminating stats, compare the pitcher you were in March of this year to the pitcher you had become by the end of the season.
BF: When you eliminate stats I think I am a better pitcher at this point than I was going into the season. First of all I'm smarter from a conditioning standpoint. This season I had to develop a throwing and running schedule that I never had to do before. With that being said I would do everything max effort for the first part of the season and that hurt me as the season went on and now I've learned what I have to do now to make sure that my arm and legs last the entire season.
Also, I have more confidence in my changeup. At the beginning of the season I didn't have confidence in my changeup and ergo I didn't like to throw it. As the season progressed, I not only threw my changeup but I threw it in every count. It became more consistent and reliable than my curveball.
DM: A lot has been made in the St. Louis media about the Cardinals' pitch-to-contact philosophy. Was that a big change for you and if so, how have you adjusted?
BF: I would say the pitch-to-contact philosophy has been a change, but not necessarily a big one. I hate to give up hits, so in college I would rather walk a hitter than give a hit. There are obvious flaws in that philosophy but the biggest change for me in the pitch-to-contact philosophy is not to overthrow. Sometimes I have the tendency to try and do too much, especially when I fall behind in the count. I feel for most of the season I did a good job of making hitters put the ball in play regardless of what count or situation I was in.
DM: What's life like on a Minor League bus? How do you pass the time?
BF: Life on a minor league bus can be entertaining and boring at the same time. At the ballpark you get to know your teammates, but it is in an athletic environment. When you are on the bus you have the opportunity to learn a lot about your teammates that you don't get the opportunity to learn at the ballpark.
It can be boring because some of the bus rides are through the middle of nowhere and there is nothing to see by looking out the window. I pass the time by talking with some of the guys on the team, talking on the phone with my fiancé and family members, and when I'm not talking, I'm watching movies, playing video games, surfing the internet, and listening to my iPod. I have a hard time sleeping on buses so I have to come up with several things to occupy my time.
DM: Going forward, what do you feel is your biggest strength that you can build upon? On the other end of the spectrum, what do you feel is your biggest area of improvement?
BF: Going into this upcoming season I feel that my strengths are that I can locate my fastball well and I have confidence to throw it to any hitter in the lineup. I also have a quality changeup that I have enough confidence in to throw in any situation.
My biggest area of improvement is regaining consistency with my curveball. I spent a lot of the season struggling with the command of my curveball and I feel confident that when I am able to make that I adjustment I am going to have a lot of different options on the mound.
DM: What are you doing this winter and has anything you've learned during your first full season changed the way you approach the winter?
BF: Well this winter I got engaged, bought a house, and visited my sister at college in New York City. I continued the same weight-training program as last year but I am going to wait a couple more weeks this off-season before I start throwing.
DM: What was the biggest adjustment going from the Quad Cities to Palm Beach?
BF: I would say the biggest adjustment from Quad Cities to Palm Beach is having to adjust to some of the older, smarter hitters. In Quad Cities, most of the hitters have about the same experience as the pitchers, but at Palm Beach I had to face some hitters that are a few years older and they are a little bit smarter, so I didn't get away with some of the things I did at Quad Cities. Another adjustment I had to make was the weather. I have never had to spend a lot of time in a hot and humid climate so I had to learn how to cope with those differences.
DM: Who has been the toughest hitter you've faced?
The toughest hitter I have faced was actually a teammate at the University of Nebraska, Alex Gordon who is the starting third baseman for the Kansas City Royals. He has unbelievably quick hands and power. Most of the time he hits the ball where it is pitched and he takes what you give him. I faced him a handful of times in inter squads and it was a challenge every time.
DM: Where is your favorite place to pitch?
BF: I actually have several places where I love to pitch. I have had the opportunity to pitch at Petco Park, Minute Maid Park, and the Metrodome in game situations. I love pitching at those places. I had the opportunity to throw a bullpen at Fenway and I would love the opportunity to pitch in a game there. And the last place I really loved to pitch was at Haymarket Park, which is the home field for the University of Nebraska. I love places with tall mounds and/or where the ball doesn't fly very well, and of course pitching in a big league stadium is a blast.
DM: Tell me about your no-hitter at TCU. At what point during the game did you realize that you had a chance to make history?
BF: My no-hitter at TCU isn't as glamorous as everyone thinks it is. The no-hitter came on a Sunday and I got food poisoning Friday night/Saturday morning. On that Sunday it was extremely cold and wet and I didn't feel very good at all and I actually stopped in my pre-game bullpen and told our Coach Matlock (our bullpen coach) that I didn't think I was going to be able to throw. He told me that everything looked great and that I should go out and see what happens.
So that's what I did. For the first few innings, I felt fine when I was sitting down and terrible when I was standing up, and then in about the fourth inning it switched. As for the game itself, I really don't remember a lot besides just trying to throw the ball over the plate, trying to act like I wasn't sick, and to get off the field as fast as possible.
Our offense put up a lot of runs so I really didn't really think about it until in the last inning and a guy hit a line drive to center. I realized that I had a no-hitter while the ball was in the air and I didn't think our centerfielder was going to get there. The centerfielder not only got there but he doubled up a guy on first to end the game.
Danny Wheat (TCU Trainer) talked to me throughout the entire game to make sure that I was feeling all right and to make sure he wasn't going to have to take me to the hospital. We got back to school on Monday and he apologized for talking to me because he didn't realized I had a no-hitter; he was just worried about my health. I honestly think that because I was able to talk to him and make sarcastic jokes about the way I was feeling allowed me to just go out and throw and not think about anything else.
DM: What are your expectations for 2008?
BF: My expectations for 2008 are to go into spring training and do the best I can and make a team. Once the season starts, I want to go out work hard and get better everyday. If I do that my performance will take care of itself. I can only control the things I do and the way I perform so my goal for 2008 is to continue to learn more, get better, and have a better year than I did in 2007.
Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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