Q&A with Matt Avery

Few Cubs minor league relievers had as strong of a season as right-hander Matt Avery. In his second year removed from the draft, the former starter posted a 2.15 ERA and saved 18 games for Class-A Peoria in 2006.

Q: You were a starter throughout most of your college career, but you spent all of 2006 from the bullpen. What role do the Cubs you see in long-term?

A: As far as next year is concerned, I'm not really sure. I haven't heard too much. I'll probably just wait until Spring Training. I'm sure a lot of it depends on some of the people above me and what happens to them. I'm just going to go in assuming a reliever's role. As for what type of a reliever's role, I guess I'll find out when I get there. Anything can really happen, so I'm not trying to concern myself with any specific role.

Q: You saved 18 games. Did you like closing?

A: Yeah, it was some of the most fun I'd ever had pitching. I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved coming in multiple times a week and pitching in the last innings of close games. I really got a lot of enjoyment out of that role.

Q: Who were some of the people that really helped mold you into that role?

A: I just picked up on what other people did. Our closer in the first half, (Ed) Campusano, I watched and learned from him. He's a good person to kind of model yourself after. And then as far as the feel of it goes, Jody (Davis) and Rich Bombard would just help me out with the style of closing and understanding that relieving is a little different than starting.

Q: Would you object to going back to starting now that you've had some success from the bullpen under your belt?

A: Either way, I'm pretty happy. I loved starting, too, and I had a great time with relieving, especially closing. I'm pretty open to whatever role they want me in. Either role, I think I'm going to enjoy.

Q: What did you find the most different between the two roles?

A: I think both (starting and relieving) are very difficult. When you're starting, you can really control the pace and momentum of the entire game from the get-go. But then when you're relieving, it's a tough change at first. I struggled a little early on just walking people. You go in there on short notice sometimes, and you just have to be ready to pitch every time because you're going out there multiple times a week. Even if you don't feel like you have your best stuff, you have to find a way to get a couple of outs. They're both difficult and they both present different challenges.

Q: Do you have any quote philosophies on pitching? Going by your numbers, it seems you're somewhat aggressive.

A: Yeah, I try to stay away from all the nibbling. Really, I try to go out there hoping I can get someone to hit a groundball on the first pitch. That's my goal and it can't happen on the first pitch if you're nibbling on the corner. I just feel like I've always had more success when I go out there, attack hitters and fill up the strike zone as much as I can. Hopefully if I get ahead of the count, I'll expand it a bit and maybe get the hitter to chase a pitch.

Q: We understand you worked a lot this year on the development of your slider. How pleased were you with the progress of the pitch?

A: In high school and in my first year of college, I stuck to the curveball, but I was having problems throwing it from the same arm slot as I throw my fastball. It just didn't feel natural to me, so I was talking with Rich when I first got to Peoria this year and told him I wanted a breaking ball that I could throw as hard as I could that would look the same as a fastball to the hitter. That's what I did and it turned into more of a slider, so I felt that was probably the best change I made as far as what type of pitches I was going to throw this year.

Q: So have you abandoned the traditional curveball?

A: No, I still have it. It's just in the situations I was in, they never really called for it. It's there. Once you've had a pitch, you never want to totally abandon it or give up on it, because you might be in a situation where you might want to use it. I still work on it so that I don't lose it completely.

Q: Which pitch do you consider your "out-pitch," or does it vary from hitter to hitter?

A: A lot does depend on the hitter. If the catcher picks up that the hitter has a problem with a changeup, then for that at-bat maybe the changeup is going to be my out-pitch. For the most part, I would like to stick to the fastball as long as I can. The Cubs have always said that you have to have a fastball no matter where you're at. I think it's the most important pitch, but it was nice to develop the slider where I felt comfortable using it as an out-pitch.

Q: How does your arm feel now that the season is over? Are you experiencing normal wear and tear, or less of that since you didn't log as many innings as you would have had you been starting?

A: The arm feels great, and I wasn't sure how it was going to hold up. Starting, you throw a lot of innings, but you also have a lot of rest. Relieving, you have a lot of appearances, but not quite as many innings because you're throwing every other day. My arm held up well. I felt the work I did after I would throw every day was good and that it kept me healthy. Hopefully I can continue to stay healthy in the future, but it feels great right now.

Q: What do you have planned now that the off-season is here?

A: I'm back in school taking classes. It's kind of tough because I missed the first couple of weeks with all the travel, but that's what I'm doing now at the University of Virginia. We have a bunch of guys here, former players playing pro ball that I've worked out with.

Q: Any players in particular that we might recognize?

A: We've got Andrew Dobies, who's with the Red Sox; Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals), who was my roommate in college; and Mike Ballard, who's with the Rangers right now. It's a good group of guys here.

Q: What was your major in college again?

A: I was a Politics major.

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