Giants Prospect Interview: Eric Surkamp

When the Giants dealt Zack Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran, Eric Surkamp became the system's top pitching prospect overnight. The 24-year-old lefty is putting together a stellar season at double-A Richmond -- posting a 2.14 ERA with 161 strikeouts in 134.1 innings. As the back end of the Giants rotation continues to struggle, speculation has mounted that Surkamp might get called up soon.

Yesterday, GiantsPipeline Richmond Reporter Matt Sadler caught up with Surkamp and asked him about it.

GiantsPipeline: Your name is being rumored for a possible call-up to the Giants. Is there any truth to those rumors?

Eric Surkamp: I haven't heard anything. Obviously that would be a dream come true, but you can't really worry about that too much. You gotta stay focused here and control what you can control. If you lose focus, you'll start scuffling here and then you won't have that opportunity down the road.

GP: So the Giants are in the midst of a pennant race. If you were called up, would you be ready to help with a postseason run?

ES: Yeah, I mean, obviously it would be exciting. I'm sure I'd be a little nervous, a little butterflies in my stomach before I got out there. But I think for your first couple of years in the big leagues it's always going to be exciting every time you go out there. Facing the best guys in baseball is something you grow up wanting to do. You're in double-A now and at the beginning of the year you don't realize how close you really are to the big leagues and then injuries and stuff like that happen, you put together a good year here and it's like, all the sudden, your name's getting tossed around. It's cool. It's exciting.

GP: Who were your favorite teams or players growing up?

ES: I grew up a Reds fan. Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin went to my high school so I was always fans of them. Big Griffey fan my whole life. But as far as pitchers go, being a lefty I like to watch lefties. Andy Pettitte was always a guy I loved to watch. Right now in baseball, every time Cliff Lee's on, Jon Lester, guys like that, I try to pay attention and learn a couple things.

GP: How's your pickoff move?

ES: Well, I got called on a balk last night [laughs]. It's alright. It definitely could get better. I think I picked a few guys off this year, but it's not quite as good as Pettitte and them.

GP: You've been pretty much in the top echelon of pitchers in the Eastern League this year. Who have you enjoyed competing against as a pitcher?

ES: I was talking to a couple of guys today about it. The lineup that the Bowie Baysox ran out there last night was, I thought, probably the best lineup we faced so far this year. Joe Mahoney wasn't there earlier in the year when we played them. [They have] a couple of guys in there that have some pop, that can knock the ball out of the park. But each team probably has two or three guys that you think, hey, this guy could definitely hurt you.

GP: Have you been able to pitch against any of the other top pitchers in the league? When [the Baysox's] Steve Johnson was here, or even Mike Ballard, they seemed to pitch well against you. What about the guys from the Trenton Thunder?

ES: I've only actually pitched against Bowie twice. I faced [Trenton's] Manny Banuelos earlier in the year -- that was pretty cool. I can't remember if I lined up with Dellin Betances or not. But we faced [Tigers pitching prospect] Jacob Turner when he was up in Erie. I'm trying to think who else I lined up with. I don't think there's anyone else really.

GP: Do you get any extra adrenaline when you're going up against a top pitcher?

ES: To be honest I try to pitch every game the same. I try to pitch like it's a zero-zero game no matter if we're up, if we're down or whatever. You just hold the lead and try not to let anybody score.

GP: Is this team capable of winning the Eastern League?

ES: Yeah, I think we are. We've been scuffling a little bit as of late. But there are twenty games left. I think we're a game-and-a-half back of second place. We can sneak into second, hey, maybe even win the division. Once you get into the playoffs anything can happen.

GP: What's it like working with pitching coach Ross Grimsley?

ES: He's an awesome pitching coach, especially being left-handed. He was never really a guy that threw very hard and neither am I. I just pick his brain when we're in the bullpen, just have him help me out with different pitches. It's always good to have a left-handed pitching coach. I've been lucky to have a left-handed pitching coach my first two years with him and Steve Kline. I think it's really helped me out.

GP: What's your at-bat song?

ES: It's Return of the Mack right now, but I didn't even pick it. My old roommate Daryl Maday picked it out for me.

GP: Do you have an at-bat song in mind for when you go to the majors?

ES: I don't, to be honest. I listen to music but I'm not a guy that's super into music or anything like that. It doesn't really matter to me. I'll pick whatever's popular.

GP: You seem to have helped your own cause a few times this year at the plate. Are you comfortable at the plate?

ES: Yeah. I guess right now, your first year batting, you don't feel any pressure. You're having fun up there. For the most part you're getting fastballs. These past couple games they've started mixing it up, throwing you off-speed stuff. But I just try to get a pitch in the middle of the plate and try to put a bat on it.

GP: What's the difference between a three hit, ten strikeout shutout versus a three run, five inning performance?

ES: Probably, honestly, a matter of 5 to 10 pitches -- if you make those pitches differently. You're gonna throw good pitches a lot of games, but the pitches that really matter are when you have first and second like [Tuesday] night and leave a ball over the plate 1-0 to Mahoney and he hits a double and all the sudden two runs score. If I throw a better pitch in that situation, groundball double play or something like that. So I think it's just really executing your pitches in situations that you need to.

GP: When you're warming up on a given day before a start do you have a feeling of how you're going to pitch?

ES: Not really. So far this year my body's felt good and everything like that. I try to do the same thing all week long, try to have that same feeling every fifth or sixth day. It's been a little difficult this year going from a five-man rotation to a six-man rotation. And then you have an off day in there and all the sudden it's seven days in between your outings. It's almost like you're going back to college ball again. I just try to stay fine tuned in the bullpen and stuff like that.

GP: You were hurt a little bit earlier this season. You feeling fine now?

ES: Yeah, I'm feeling fine. I think it was just a fluke thing. Something started bugging me running, and honestly if I was playing on an American League team I probably wouldn't have missed a start. But I was going to have to hit and they didn't want me to have to try to leg anything out on the infield or anything like that.

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