Alex Maestri Interview

Chicago Cubs pitching prospect Alex Maestri has been back in the bullpen at Class AA Tennessee after having his season cut short due to injury a year ago. In 29 appearances, the right-hander has a 3.08 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 49-plus innings.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about your pitching style?

A: It's all about being aggressive. This year I felt like I wasn't able to [be aggressive] during the first half, but lately I feel like I've gotten back to it.

Q: What is your full rundown of pitches at the moment?

A: Right now I'm pretty much just throwing fastballs and sliders. My fastball is a two-seamer so I'm always trying to get the late movement on it and get a lot of ground balls. My slider is a pretty hard slider; it kind of looks like a fastball.

Q: What is your velocity at right now?

A: I don't know; I haven't really been checking that much. I guess it's between 90 and 93 [mph], but I haven't really been asking lately.

Q: What is it like to be one of the first ever Italian players to sign a pro contract?

A: I was the first pitcher to sign from Italy. We had a few guys signing before I did, probably no more than eight. They were all position players, though. It was cool, though. Coming from over there and playing baseball in the States is great and not many guys got that opportunity back home.

Q: What's it like to try and make it as a player from Italy?

A: It wasn't easy at first. People weren't looking at me as a baseball player being from Italy since nobody really played baseball there. So it wasn't easy at first, but then it got easier. This is my fourth year already so after my first year everything started to be easier.

Q: What made you get into baseball?

A: I started because my brother was playing it. He's four years older than me and he started before I did so I was doing everything he was doing.

Q: Is there anything from your heritage that helped you get into sports?

A: Yes, there are a few teams around my house. If you want to play, you can find a team. Our little league was pretty good back then so I always had good competition.

Q: Can you describe the little leagues in Italy?

A: Yeah, we probably had like six teams around the area and we all just played each other all summer. One year, we also won the national championship so we were playing the other teams in the other regions, too. There are teams around in Italy. A lot of people don't know about it, but there is baseball.

Q: Do you think those teams are as organized as the little leagues in the United States?

A: I don't really know how you guys organize it, but I guess so. We got to play enough games.

Q: You came up to Double-A last year and started, then got injured. What exactly happened?

A: I had a shoulder problem. It was just getting real tight so I had to cut back. I had to go back to Arizona and rehab. My season was over in August pretty much. This winter, I worked a lot to get my shoulder back in shape so I feel good now.

Q: Do you think that is the big reason you were moved to the bullpen this year?

A: Yeah, probably. I guess it was a few things, but one of those was probably because I had that problem.

Q: Are you more comfortable in the bullpen or as a starter?

A: I like it better; I like the bullpen better. Just the fact that you can be in the game every day or every other day, I just feel like more of a part of the team. Being a starter most of the time, you have to be in the stands and doing charts and stuff. For some reason, I never really liked that.

Q: What adjustments have you had to make?

A: Just trying to use more pitches. I just like to get in the game and try and be as aggressive as I can.

Q: Have you worked on anything specific with pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn?

A: Yeah, last year I was throwing across my body a lot and ‘Lew' said that was probably one of the problems with my arm hurting. I've been trying to stay in line as much as I can and now I think I'm pretty in line when I pitch.

Q: Do you think you're a better prospect as a reliever?

A: Yeah, I guess so. Once you feel more comfortable in a position, you are better, so yeah probably.

Q: Do you set a timetable for yourself to make it to the big leagues?

A: I mean, you think about it, but it's tough. I'd like to be there maybe next year, but ‘Lew' always tells us you're so close to the big leagues that you don't even know. It could be, like, in a month or something like that. I know I didn't start too hot this year, but I'm [doing much] better.

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