Cubs Prospect Interview: Austin Kirk

Left-hander Austin Kirk is headed to short-season Class Low-A Boise to begin his 2010 season along with 25 other players from the Chicago Cubs' farm system. The 20-year-old Kirk, a third-round Cubs pick in the 2009 draft, has spent the past two months in Arizona stretching out his arm and ironing out his mechanics in extended spring training.

For the past several weeks, Kirk has been pitching on normal rest, building up his pitch count in the head-to-head schedule of extended spring training and averaging four innings or 60 pitches per start. recently caught up with Kirk and got his thoughts on the season ahead, what he's worked on in Arizona, and more.

Q: How excited are you to join the Boise team?

A: I'm really looking forward to it. I'm excited to play in front of some fans. Last year, I was up there for a week and a half near the end of the season and I had a lot of fun. I'm definitely looking forward to going back for a full season.

Q: When the Cubs made the decision to keep you in extended spring training instead of sending you to Peoria, what did they tell you their reasoning was?

A: They didn't really say much. I suspect it had a little to do with me being younger and they wanted to work with me a little more. It turned out to be a good thing because I improved a lot working with the pitching coaches here in Mesa that I don't think could have happened if I had been with a full-season squad.

Q: Were you initially hoping to be in Peoria by now and getting a chance to compete on a full-season roster, or did you expect you'd end up in Boise all along once you learned you'd be starting the year in extended?

A: I was always hoping to go up, but I couldn't really think about it too much because if you expect it and it doesn't happen, all that's going to happen is you're going to be disappointed. We learned to enjoy our time (in Mesa) and take it day by day. We're going to go to the field, work our hardest and show them that we're ready to go.

Q: What are you working on with your pitches?

A: Right now, we've been working on just being able to pitch and command at least a secondary pitch and all three pitches. We're working on throwing strikes, especially with my fastball. We went through a phase where we weren't allowed to throw breaking balls except in certain counts when we were ahead so that we could learn how to get ahead with our fastballs. That helped out a lot from a pitching standpoint.

Q: Were you pleased with the starts you had (in extended)?

A: Whenever I was starting out, I was still working on some stuff that we saw in spring training that we wanted to correct. I've been feeling really good about how I've been pitching lately.

Q: When you say you had some things to correct, what would they be?

A: We noticed in some video that my arm swing … I wasn't able to get a full arm swing and it was actually causing a lot of problems. I wasn't staying back so I was kind of cutting my pitches off, which was taking velocity off and making me push the ball more than I was able to just throw it.

Q: You said last year that you just needed to show the Cubs why they drafted you. In what ways have you been able to do that?

A: I don't throw as hard as a lot of the other guys, but I think in the beginning I had quite a few strikeouts and stuff. I think that's what they drafted me for -- to go out and get outs and not walk a bunch of people. I feel like I've been doing a good job of that.

Q: How has the work gone toward improving your curveball? That was one of the things the organization really wanted you to focus on.

A: It's definitely gotten a lot better. I've been able to work on it a lot and I've learned a lot about it. I'm able to control it a lot more for strikes and not just on an 0-2 pitch where it's not really a strike and you just hope they swing. I've been able to throw it over the plate a lot more, which is getting me a lot more strikeouts.

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