Cubs Prospect Interview: Jake Renshaw

The Cubs tapped into the Junior College market early and often in this past year's draft. One of the first names they selected was right-hander Jake Renshaw from Ventura College in California.

The 20-year-old Jake Renshaw made 11 starts in his professional debut season between the Mesa Cubs of the Arizona Rookie League and the Class Low-A Boise Hawks.

Renshaw combined to go 1-4 with a 4.87 ERA in 44 1/3 innings. He posted a three to one strikeout to walk ratio with 37 K's to 12 walks.

Overall, how would you grade your progress in the few months you spent with the Cubs?

It started out a little rocky. After a pretty long season in Junior College, I just wanted to come in, get my feet wet a little bit, figure out how the system worked and get familiar with some hitters. I think I started getting a little more comfortable at the end.

What was the hardest part about figuring out the system?

I'd say the patience in the hitters is a lot different. They're a little bit more selective and they aren't going to chase a pitcher's pitch as much as guys at the JC and high school level would, so you really have to make effective pitches – especially ahead in the count.

What else did you have to adjust to upon making the transition from JC to pro ball, if anything?

I couldn't really see a big difference. I just tried to stick with my game plan and make minor adjustments throughout the game. With different hitters, you have to make different adjustments obviously.

When you were drafted, what kind of pitcher did the scouts project you as?

I had actually talked to a couple of teams about maybe coming out of the bullpen, but for the most part, the scouts wanted me to stay with starting because of the fact that I have too many pitches. They felt that I had three or four quality pitches to work on and improve on.

What would those pitches be?

Fastball, mainly a four-seamer, but I mix in a two-seamer every once in awhile. I've really been working on my changeup a lot. It's a pitch I started throwing my last year of college and it's working out well for me. I was throwing both a slider and curveball, but after talking to the pitching coordinator (Lester Strode) and a couple of others, I think we're just going with the slider now.

Where does your fastball normally sit?

I think when I was at Ventura, I was anywhere from 91 to 94 (mph). I think in Boise I was usually 88 to 91 or 92. It went down a little bit; probably because of all the innings I'd thrown in college the past year.

Are you pleased with the progress of the changeup?

I was actually struggling a lot with left-handed hitters and was trying to throw backdoor sliders and curveballs. They were making a better adjustment on that than they were my changeup, so I just started really bearing down on that. They wanted me to really concentrate on one or the other. Instead of having two average breaking balls, they wanted me to have one really good one. They just felt like my slider came out of my hand looking more like a fastball. My curveball kind of changed my mechanics a little bit when I went to throw it, so they wanted me to stick with the slider.

You also feature a splitfinger pitch, is that correct?

I didn't really get a chance to throw it too much once I got to pro ball. I had some flexibility issues when I first arrived in Mesa, so they were concerned about my arm a little and wanted me to stay away from the splitter because they felt it might damage me a little bit. But it's a pitch that I'm going to get back and work on in Spring Training. I'll have it available next year.

When you say "flexibility," are you referring to the number of innings you threw in college?

Yeah, that and the Cubs in the last couple of years have had a lot of problems with players going down with torn labrums. They found that there was a direct correlation with a lack of flexibility in the shoulder, so they were kind of hesitant to let me throw when I first got there. I just continued stretching and strengthening my shoulder and I haven't had any problems in a year and a half.

So did you ever have any previous arm problems in Junior College?

Not in college. When I was in high school, I had a cuff strain and received a cortisone injection.

You said earlier that some teams had talked to you about relieving. Is that something you'd still be open to if the Cubs asked?

I'll do whatever it takes to pitch in pro ball as long as I have to. If someone wants me to do that, I think it'd be fine.

What do the next few months hold in store for you, and how are you preparing for your first professional off-season?

They send us home with an off-season workout schedule, kind of a little guide to work with. My agent set me up with a really good trainer who works with a lot of professional athletes and has some pitcher-specific workouts that we do. I'll be starting up with him pretty soon. As far as throwing goes, I'm just taking a little time off and will be taking my cardio up and trying to get a little bigger.

Do you feel you're where you want to be in terms of build (6'3", 215)?

When I first reported to Arizona, I think I was about 215 or maybe 220 pounds. Over the course of the season, just from working out – we didn't really work out too much when I was in Junior College, so I think I put on about 10 pounds. My body is just going through a phase right now where I'm starting to grow a little bit and starting to feel out.

Lastly, what all did you work on in the Instructional League?

The Instructional League was really great for me. We worked on command of the fastball and locating it down in the zone. With my off-speed stuff, the only one I really threw was my changeup and working on hitting spots. I did really well and didn't give up any runs in my 13 innings.

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