Billy Petrick Feeling Good

MESA, Ariz. - Billy Petrick is considered one of the locals; a fan favorite. Petrick, a 2002 third round pick out of high school in Morris, Ill., some 60 miles southwest of the Windy City, grew up a Cubs fan and won 13 games pitching for Class-A Lansing last year.

"Things look really good for me this year," said Petrick, who fanned 113 batters in 24 starts a year ago. "My career has been going pretty good ever since I got drafted, and I keep moving up a step each year. I'm still young and the Cubs have taken their time with me. I feel good."

Petrick, as with former Cubs pitching prospect Andy Sisco, was recruited by Washington State University and then-Head Coach Mike Price to play football in Pullman, something Petrick says he politely declined.

"I'm from a big football town and everything," said Petrick. "I was a long-snapper in high school and I always thought going somewhere to play football right out of high school would be a big thing. They (Washington State) actually came out to my school to watch me play and offered me a chance to play both football and baseball. The Cubs just came up with a better offer."

So does Petrick think he's better off having skipped past college for a chance to go straight into the professional spotlight?

"I think so, yeah," he says reminiscing. "This is as good of a coaching staff as anywhere, and the chance to have this kind of coaching right away was very important. The Cubs have some great pitching coaches here and that's helped me a lot."

In addition to Petrick's 13 wins and 100-plus strikeouts a season ago, the right-hander allowed only three home runs for the entire year in 146 2/3 innings. (He allowed four at Boise in just 64 1/3 innings in 2003.)

"A lot of people say I have a sinking fastball, but I just think I try to keep the ball down a lot," Petrick said. "I don't really have one of those soft curveball's that hitters can hit out of the park, either. What I do have is a hard slider that I try to keep down. I also avoid giving hitters anything that is right down the middle, so I think my ability to keep the ball down was a big part of my success last year."

Asked what are some of the things he's fine-tuning this spring, Petrick replied, "For me, it's all about command. If I can keep good command on all three of my pitches - fastball, slider, changeup - I know I can definitely move up.

"I've always relied on my fastball, which is what got me here and what gets me out of many jams. On a two-strike pitch, though, I'm getting to where I can throw the slider and feel confident I'm going to get the guy at the plate. But I like punching guys out with the fastball."

At 6'6", 240 pounds, Petrick is an imposing presence on the mound. He uses it to his advantage.

"Having a little more weight and endurance behind me is a big thing," he said. "Having those hitters look at you and know you look a little meaner on the mound definitely gives you an advantage I think."

As with many pitchers, there's another thing Petrick uses to intimidate hitters: location.

"I like to throw well off the plate inside," Petrick said. "I show the hitter I can go there whenever I want."

Lastly, while Petrick calls the Land of Lincoln home, he says it took a devoted Texan to inspire his career the most.

"Nolan Ryan was the man," said Petrick. "That big leg kick he had, I always wanted to have one and I think that's where I get mine from. I also pitch with a leg kick, and I was always imitating him. I just kind of developed my own."

Petrick will turn 21 on April 29.

Don't forget to visit Inside The Ivy's Interview Database for more interviews with Cub minor leaguers and more this spring.

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