InsideTheIvy.com visited with Struck to ask him about his first pro season, what his off-season plans are, and more in this Q&A.
Q: Can you just talk a little about your background? Growing up in the northwest, how did you get your start in baseball and when did you know the Cubs were paying attention to you?
A: I started playing Little League when I was 7, and when I got to high school, I made Junior Varsity my freshman year and played varsity the summer after that. I won the State Championship my senior year and was selected All-State after that. Coming out of high school, I felt I got overlooked a little bit. Only the University of Portland offered me a scholarship. Oregon and Oregon State wanted me to walk on, so I decided to go to Mt. Hood Community College, and that's where the Cubs started talking to me. I pitched a game and one of the scouts began talking to me from there.
Q: What kind of program did Mt. Hood have relative to what you were looking for by the time you entered college?
A: They were a winning program. That's what I was looking for the most. They had good coaches, reputable names that I'd heard about before. They really just had the kind of program that I wanted, plus I was able to play both the field and pitch, which was a big thing with me because playing infield all through high school, I wanted to do both. I was able to do that. It really was just a good fit for me.
Q: What position(s) did you play aside from pitcher?
A: I played short (in high school) and when I got to Mt. Hood, I played second and left and right. I hit all the time in high school and college. I'm one of those guys that feel weird when I don't swing. Knowing that you can start hitting once you get to Double-A, every time in Peoria whenever the cages would open, I'd usually try to go and hit off the tee.
Q: Was it a little surprising at first when the Cubs told you that you'd be starting the season – and your career – at Peoria and not at one of the short-season clubs?
A: A little, yes, but the way I looked at it was I threw really well in spring training. They kind of had their rosters set, but you still had to fight to keep your spot. I threw well in spring training and I felt I had the ability to be where I was. The way I look at baseball, I've played for so long that no matter what level, I just don't feel nervous. It's still the same game; 90-feet bases and 60-feet, 6-inches to home plate. They (the players) are playing against me, too, so I don't think about being nervous. I just play the game like I know how.
Q: You kind of flew under the radar coming out of high school and in college, and this past season, it seemed you flew under the radar again. But you still pushed for 10 wins and had an ERA of about 3.4. Were you happy with how your season ended up?
A: Yeah, I was really happy. I went through some up and downs a little bit, but I've been through so many of them that I know just to keep working and trying hard. That's what I kept doing and eventually it ended up paying off for me and I was able to get on a little (hot) streak in the second half. Then I got moved up (to Daytona).
Q: How big was the promotion to Daytona at the end of the season in terms of confidence and just being a nice little bonus for you after the numbers you put up in Peoria?
A: Coming out and being in my first year, I wasn't really expecting to move up too much. I'm only 20 years old, and it really boosted my confidence that I was able to get moved up.
Q: You mentioned the streak you had in Peoria. At one point, you won five straight starts and six straight decisions there. What do you attribute to that stretch from mid-July to the time you were promoted to Daytona where you were pitching so well?
A: I was able to locate my fastball really well low and away. In the first half, I wasn't as able to get hitters out with two strikes with my off-speed pitches, and I really worked on those quite a bit and started throwing them more low and away instead of as perfect strikes and things like that.
Q: What's your full repertoire and what would you say is your ‘out' pitch?
A: Right now, I throw a fastball, curveball, changeup and a sinker. I would say right now to lefties my ‘out' pitch would be my changeup and to righties, I like to throw my curveball, which is more of a slider.
Q: What are your plans for the off-season? Will you be in the Instructional League?
A: I'm not doing any of that. I wasn't asked to go. I did instructs last year, but as of right now, I'm just relaxing and regrouping my body. I'll start working out again in a week or so and get back into throwing about December.