Q&A with St. Lucie Pitcher Jacob Ruckle

Inside Pitch Magazine caught up with the young right-hander to talk about his spring, his stuff and his spot in the St. Lucie Mets pitching staff. After a consistent and successful 2006 split between Brooklyn and St. Lucie, Ruckle looks to have an even stronger year.

Inside Pitch Magazine: What was your spring like? How would you rate your performance?

Jacob Ruckle: I always start out slow it seems like. It's frustrating because I'm trying to find that month in the offseason when I can start throwing. But I also need the time to take off and recover. For me, it always seems like I need a little more time to get going. I come into camp healthy and ready to get throwing but it seems like it always takes me that month to really get it all together to face game situations. We're playing games, but my springs are usually just ok.

My first year, I did not start throwing until late January. But this year I started throwing around Christmas. It just feels like it takes all of spring training to get ready which is why my springs always feel a little shaky or unfulfilling.

Inside Pitch: What did the coaches specifically work on with you?

Ruckle: This year in spring training, I haven't really been worked with directly. I just tried to get everything going. I usually spot all my pitches well, but it seems like in spring training I come in kind of sloppy and I try to get back in the groove of where I left off the previous season.

Inside Pitch: What in your repertoire progressed? What do you think needs to develop more?

Ruckle: Everything could use a little more work, all three of my pitches. My slider has gotten a little better. I'm always working on my changeup. I could improve in every area whether it's spotting my fastball better or getting my changeup a little more consistent. Sometimes my changeup is untouchable or sometimes it gets hit hard. I try to keep my slider more consistent and have more depth to it.

Inside Pitch: Last year in Brooklyn, and with St. Lucie, you made 23 appearances, and started in 20. This year you have yet to make a start. What have the coaches told you? Has the move affected you at all?

Ruckle: I was told ‘Don't lose train of thought in starting'. I'm supposed to be starting again here soon in the Florida State League. I was a little nervous about it because I never really came out of the bullpen. But it's the same thing in some respects because I still need to come out and throw strikes. The only difference is when I come out of the bullpen, the hitters are already geared up and I'm coming in fresh. As a starter, I can find my groove and set the tone. When I relieve, it's like ‘Here I go'. I kind of liked it. I've been told multiple things in my career so far. I've been told I've been a better reliever or better as a starter. But as long as I'm pitching, I'm satisfied.

Inside Pitch: Are they waiting for a your production to increase for you to start again?

Ruckle: They wanted to see a few things out of me. They wanted to see what a couple guys could do or if I could just relieve a little. When I broke in they told me never to lose my starting mentality although I would be pitching out of the bullpen a little. It's a little awkward sometimes. They haven't named me a reliever officially, but they have told me I would be starting again soon, perhaps next week.

Inside Pitch: What has worked the best for you so far this season?

Ruckle: Although I'm not overpowering, I'm aggressive. I come at guys with everything I have and keep the ball down. I'm not going to come in perfect. Honestly, I'm usually a guy who takes an inning or two to get going. Even in high school, it seemed like the first inning would be my worst because of that problem. My main focus has been to keep the ball down and stay in my game – change speeds and locate. I don't always have it, but I figure if I can at least keep the ball down that's a big part of being successful.

Inside Pitch: Speaking of how you attack hitters, your delivery is a little more unorthodox than most pitchers. How does that give you an advantage?

Ruckle: I think the way my windup is, it can be a distraction which allows my velocity to appear harder than it is. I used to be high 80's-low 90's guy. So far this season I've been mid-80's. I just think with the funkiness, my windup helps set up changeup. My windup is quick, and since I get the same arm action with my change as I do my fastball, it keeps guys off balance.

Inside Pitch: Through good times and rough times you've always had stellar control. What do you attribute that to?

Ruckle: Honestly, I had a pitching coach in high school that always taught me to never walk guys. John Littlefield was my coach. He's a former Rolaids Relief Award winner and he always taught me to go after hitters. He taught me how walks could kill me. I took that in at a young age and now I just hate walking guys. I'd almost rather give up a home run than walk a guy. My mentality is that if I walk a guy, he's getting a free chance to score. I can't let that happen. I'd rather have guys beat me by getting a hit. I've got one walk in eight innings so far. I was real upset at myself when it happened.

Inside Pitch: What do you think makes you unique?

Ruckle: I try to stay even keel whether it's good times or bad times both on the field and in my personal life. Every time I go out there I give everything I've got to be the best. I want to go to the bigs of course, and I just figure every time I go out there I've got the chance to make myself that much better.

Inside Pitch: What do you want to accomplish this season?

Ruckle: I just hope to stay healthy all year. I haven't really had an injury before. I've been shutdown for the past five days due to forearm tightness and that was too much. I want to be healthy and have a solid year all around physically and statistically.

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