Jonny Bravo: Nothing Comical About this Lefty

After finishing up in the fall instructional league, Johnson City Cardinals left-handed pitcher Jonny Bravo spoke with our Dustin Mattison.

Prior to this past June when most St. Louis Cardinals fans heard the name "Jonny Bravo", he or she would most likely think of the animated series with a hero of the same name.  But after the team made its choice in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, new visions took hold, those of a 5-foot-7 fire-balling left-handed pitcher. 

 

Drafted out of Azusa Pacific in California, Jonny Bravo quickly began to mow down the competition in the Appalachian League for the Cardinals' Johnson City affiliate. 

 

Working in the Cardinals' tandem starter system, Bravo worked in 10 games including three starts.  In those three starts, he really struggled.  Covering 10.1 innings, Bravo was tagged with an 8.71 ERA while the competition batted .367 against him.  When coming out of the bullpen, things were much different for the native Californian.  In 24.2 innings, he allowed only a 1.09 ERA while allowing only a .191 average against. 

 

Especially tough against left-handed hitters, the southpaw held them to a .192 average while right-handers hit .268 against him.  Bravo took it to the competition in the Appalachian League, striking out 48 batters in 35 innings.  The 22-year-old showed good control by walking only eight. 

 

After finishing up his 2008 in the instructional league in Palm Beach, Florida, Bravo was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about his first season in professional baseball. 

 

 

Dustin Mattison: Tell me about Jonny Bravo the pitcher. What pitches are in your repertoire and is it true that you throw your fastball in the high 90's?

 

Jonny Bravo: Jonny Bravo the pitcher is a small, compact lefty that uses his lower half for momentum to throw strikes. I am determined to get to the top by living my motto, "Never give up." My repertoire consists of fastball, curveball, and change. My fastball sits between 88-92.

DM: Your strikeout rate has exploded since you became a professional; is this due to coaching at the professional level?

 

JB: My strikeouts went up because of better pitch choices in the right situations and little technique changes may have also helped. Also changing from college baseballs to professional baseballs helped with more strikeouts because the seams were not as high on professional balls, which made my curveball better and break more.

 

DM: Along the same line, what is the difference between college coaching and professional coaching?

 

JB: College coaching is more speaking to the whole group, giving general suggestions on areas to work on. The professional coaching gives more one-on-one attention, and repeat the areas they want each pitcher to work on.

DM: What has been the biggest adjustment that you have faced since turning professional?

 

JB: The biggest adjustment was playing a game every day versus only 3-4 times a week in college. Also focusing on healthy eating habits while on the road was very challenging.

DM: Scouts love pitchers with projectable frames. You have a big arm but lack the frame. Is that fair for scouts to judge a player in that way and does that just give you extra incentive to prove yourself?

 

JB: I don't think it is fair for a scout to judge a pitcher on size because if a pitcher can get the job done and throw strikes and win games for his team, then he should get a shot to pitch at the next level. Yes, it gives me extra incentive because I have had to prove myself my whole life, and I won't give up until I make it to the big stage.

DM: Tell me about draft day 2008. Did you think the Cardinals would be the team and what other teams had been in contact with you?

 

JB: Obviously, Draft Day was highly anticipated and I was basically at my house for those two days just watching the draft. Yeah, I thought that the Cardinals might have been one of the teams to draft me because the scout kept in contact with me the most often. Some of the other teams that called a couple days before Draft Day were the Rays, Royals, and the Astros.

DM: What team did you root for growing up? What did you know about the Cardinals before they drafted you?

 

JB: Growing up I rooted for the Red Sox because that was the first baseball hat my Dad ever gave me when I was two-years-old. Honestly, I didn't know that much about the Cardinals. But the thing I remember the most is Ozzie Smith's back flips to short.

DM: You saw time as a starter and a reliever in college as well as your first season in pro ball. Have the Cardinals given you any indication in which role they see you taking in the future? Do you have a preference?

 

JB: The Cardinal's have not given me any indication of what role I will play in the near future; I will do my best either way.

DM: Tell me about your win in the in the 2008 NAIA World Series. With your team facing elimination, you struck out a career high 11 batters against Ohio Dominion.

 

JB: My 2008 NAIA World Series experience was very memorable because our team was going as returning participants. Obviously, our win was big because we were facing elimination. It was probably my most important win because it gave us a chance to survive another day. I felt comfortable on the mound, and once I got ahead on batters, the strikeouts just came. I also threw 145 pitches, which was the most I have ever thrown in one game.

DM: In your first year of JUCO ball at Mt. San Antonio CC, you hit .327 with only six strikeouts in 101 at bats. I know it's been a while, but can you still swing the lumber?

 

JB: Yeah, it has been a while since JUCO ball at Mt. San Antonio College, but I'm sure with some time in the cages I could get my swing back.


DM: How hard was it to adapt from California to the mountains of Eastern Tennessee?

 

JB: The transition from California to Tennessee was easy. The weather was not as humid as I expected; just more rain. Obviously, in Tennessee there is no beach. The biggest change was not having family and friends at the games for support, but it was good to have to make new friends and to be in a different atmosphere.

DM: You're an Entourage fan. Are you more Vince or Drama?

 

JB: Yes, I am definitely an Entourage fan. People, who know me, would say I am more like Vince. I like the spotlight.

DM: What are your plans for the offseason?

 

JB: My plans for the offseason are to spend time with family, get a job, and train hard to get ready for spring training and 2009 season. 

 

DM: What were instructs like? How do you feel you improved?

 

JB: Instructs was very short for me, because I was only there for three days then sent home. I had a pinch in my shoulder when I threw my first bullpen in Florida, so we had a meeting and thought it would be best to send me home and rest. I was very bummed not to compete. But I can now say I am 100% healthy and will be ready for spring training.

 

 

I thank Jonny for his time and wish him the best of luck in his future as a Cardinal.  With his fastball from the left side, he should be a player for Cardinals fans to watch in the coming years.

Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at dustin@whiteyball.net.

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