Q&A with David Aardsma

For a pitcher who's made a career out of pitching in the bullpen since the college level, having to adjust to a starter's role can be ever so challenging and a bit overwhelming.

That was perhaps the case for right-hander David Aardsma when he began last year at Double A in the Norwich Navigators starting rotation before eventually returning to the bullpen.

Heading into Spring Training 2005 with the San Francisco Giants, Aardsma was fresh off a full season divided up between the Giants big league club and Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies bullpen. A relief specialist since his college days at Rice University, Aardsma had enjoyed enough success from the 'pen to warrant the Giants first round pick in the 2003 draft.

But when '05 began, Aardsma suddenly found himself in a partially unfamiliar role as a starter, having only made six starts in college for the Owls and none since he was drafted. After he was traded to the Cubs with pitcher Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins last May, he would go back into the bullpen and close out the year as a reliever.

This spring, Aardsma impressed Cubs officials by throwing in the upper 90s throughout camp after only reaching the low 90s on the radar gun for Double-A West Tenn the previous year.

Inside The Ivy: Welcome back to your old self. Why the sudden resurgence in velocity this year?

David Aardsma: I think there are two reasons. The main one is that last spring with the Giants, they had me starting. I think that definitely hurt my velocity a whole lot because in Spring Training, I was throwing probably 93-95. That was pretty decent and then they made me start and I began topping out at 91. Toward the end of the season when I had been back in the bullpen for a while, I topped out at about 95 one game. I was starting to get it back a little bit and then in the [Arizona] Fall League, I got up to 97 one game.

The other reason was that my elbow started acting up on me late into Spring Training. It was nothing major. I didn't really pitch that well in a game against the White Sox and they wanted me to go to the minors and just get some rest and let it heal. There was a small write-up about it somewhere saying that it was my shoulder when it was really my elbow. It was no big deal.

Inside The Ivy: So have you given up starting permanently?

David Aardsma: I'm kind of at the mercy of whatever the organization wants me to do and whatever I can do to get to the big leagues faster and help contribute. What I want to do is be in the bullpen because I feel that's where I'm most comfortable. But you never say no to the organization that's giving you a chance to be in the big leagues. If it's as a starter, then so be it. I just want to be there.

Inside The Ivy: With that said, how much of a downer was it to be optioned back to minor league camp toward the end of Spring Training, or were you more focused thinking of Iowa as a step up from where you were last season in Double-A?

David Aardsma: It's always disappointing to assume that you're not going to make the major league team. On the other hand, they basically tell you straight out that you did everything you could. They had to make some really hard decisions and a lot of times, that's all you can ask for: to put them in a position where they have to make a tough decision about sending you down. I did everything I could and hopefully there will come a time this year where I can help out the major league club and soon.

Inside The Ivy: How would you rate your first year with the Cubs last season?

David Aardsma: Very good. I wish I could have performed a little better, but as far as coming to a new ball club, the organization is wonderful. They've treated me very well. Just the communication alone is great, starting with the people who make the decisions to those of us who have to do the work and win the ball games. It's wonderful all the way around.

Inside The Ivy: Going back to Spring Training when you were impressing the Cubs brass, what was one thing you did particularly well besides throwing in the upper 90s?

David Aardsma: One of my focuses was throwing better off-speed pitches, like throwing a curveball and having the control to throw it for strikes and strikeouts. I think that's one thing that really changed a lot for me this spring. I was at a point where I was able to throw it for a first pitch and get it over for a strike. That changes the whole at-bat.

Inside The Ivy: What are your thoughts on some of your teammates and coaches this year at Iowa?

David Aardsma: It's really good because Alan Dunn is our pitching coach. Working with him last year at Double-A, I know he's a great pitching coach and that he knows how to talk to the players and figure out how to make us better pitchers. We have a really good team here and I think we have the best pitching staff that I've ever been a part of in the minor leagues.

Inside The Ivy: What are your goals this year?

David Aardsma: One of them is definitely to get that off-speed pitch a little better and develop some more consistency with it. It has been going well, but I want it to go a little better. From there, I want to get up to the big leagues and help bring a World Series to the Chicago Cubs.

Inside The Ivy: With you and Roberto Novoa designated as the team's closers before he was called up, how did it feel to get the news that you'd be returning to closing after doing it with the Giants two years ago?

David Aardsma: Yeah, I was told when I got here that it was going to be split between me and Novoa. I enjoy closing here. As long as I'm here, I'm going to take this opportunity to get better so that I'll be a better pitcher when I get back to the big leagues.

E-mail Steve Holley: staff@insidetheivy.com.

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