Q&A with Mets 2010 18th Rd Pick A.J. Pinera

With their 18th round pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, the New York Mets selected right-hander A.J. Pinera out of the University of Tampa. Inside Pitch caught up with the Mets' new right-hander to talk about his experience in college ball, his draft process, what he needs to work on when his career begins and much more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: What went through your mind after you found out you were drafted and that it was the Mets that drafted you?

A.J. Pinera: Oh man, it was so exciting. There was a lot of built emotions and a lot of waiting. I got a little anxious for the day to come, but eventually excitement just came over me. It's such a good feeling to know that all my hard work paid off. I have so much support from family and friends. It was just amazing. All my friends were calling me, everyone's seen it and it's just been great.

Inside Pitch: Were you surprised that it was the Mets who selected you? Did you and the organization have any discussions leading up to the draft?

Pinera: The Mets have been the one of the main teams that has followed me since I was playing at Hillsborough (Community College). They were actually the first team to talk to me then and that was back in my second year. Then I move to UT and stayed in school because I wanted to get as close as possible to graduating before I took this step. They were pretty much the first team to ever be interested in me.

Last year, it was mostly them and the Cardinals, but again I wanted to come back to school. This year, there was more interest because I'm a senior and there is less money involved, but the Mets were still the main team to talk to me. I'm really ecstatic to be playing for the Mets. I loved the guys I talked to throughout this process and it's just a great opportunity.

Inside Pitch: You are a senior. Did you make your decision to come back to school based on draft position or was it a matter of academics as well?

Pinera: The main reason to come back to school didn't have much to do where I was drafted or signing bonus. School has always been very important to me and I always wanted to go to UT, so I was excited to be here. Last year, we didn't do as well as we hoped and I knew we had a great team coming back. I really just wanted to come back to school. Now, I'm only a semester away from graduating and that's pretty much taken care of. Graduation is pretty much taken care of which is important to me because I didn't want to leave another year and a half or more of school out there. I was honored to play at UT, somewhere I really wanted to play. I was hoping I'd still have the opportunity to land a good spot in the draft and I feel I did.

Inside Pitch: You're from the Tampa area originally in addition to playing at UT. Now, you're going across the state and joining the Mets whose base is in St. Lucie. Are you familiar with the organization?

Pinera: I really don't. I know there are a couple different places I could go. I don't know where I'm going to be going. I know there is a team in Brooklyn and another in Tennessee. I wasn't sure how the minor league system worked until recently as far as the different levels. I believe I'm going to Brooklyn to start and then maybe St. Lucie down the road after this season. I've never really been away from the Tampa area except for a few vacations so that's going to be real exciting especially if I get a chance to play in Brooklyn.

If I end up going to Brooklyn that's going to be amazing experience. I love the New York area. Hopefully soon, I'll find out exactly where I'm going but I'm excited regardless of where I end up. Hopefully it will just be a good experience.

Inside Pitch: Did you have any expectations of where you went in the draft?

Pinera: I did not. I was pretty much clueless. My pitching coach told me anywhere from the 15th round on. Around four o'clock I started to get a little nervous because I figured that was the time when my name would come up. I was going to be happy no matter where and when I went. I didn't hear from anybody during the draft. I'm happy I didn't just stay home and watch it because I thought that would have made me more anxious and nervous. I tried to just go about the day as any other by relaxing and do normal things. I didn't hear anything and then I started getting text messages and I was told I got taken in the 18th round by the Mets and all the emotions came out.

Inside Pitch: Being a four-year college player, how do you feel your amateur stays set you up to make the jump to pro ball?

Pinera: I think it's huge because UT is a heck of a program. They run the program like it's a minor league team. I feel like playing at UT has prepared me in the fact that we run our workouts, our conditioning or the way the coaches run the team a lot like a minor league team. I feel like the last few years have prepared me very well. As far as coming from HCC and UT, I feel like I may have a step ahead of a lot of guys because UT is such a great program.

Inside Pitch: Can you describe yourself as a pitcher? Do you see yourself fitting into a specific role?

Pinera: At UT, I ended up starting last year and we had a lot of guys starting but I feel like we underachieved a bit as a team. I started my junior year but I wasn't too happy with my performance. This year, we had a great year and I feel like I had a great year. I think I was pitching more to my potential.

I use my fastball, slider, and changeup. My changeup is a bit of a struggle. I think that's my biggest weakness and it's going to be something I really concentrate on because I hear from a lot of guys about how that's the biggest pitch that can bring you success at the next level. Pitching with two pitches is hard especially as a starter. The changeup is going to get a lot of my concentration and I hope it will give me a bigger edge out there. I'm just excited to keep working and hopefully get better.

Inside Pitch: Is there any pitcher out there today whose style you may resemble or any pitcher out there you like to incorporate parts of into your game?

Pinera: Maybe not the way I pitch, but the mental part of the game and the aggressiveness and the way he went about the game, I was always a huge fan of Pedro Martinez. He was my idol when I was younger. Obviously he's not pitching anymore, but the way he attacked hitters and his demeanor on the mound I just loved about him. I've always wanted to pitch with that kind of competitiveness.

Inside Pitch: Who was your favorite player growing up?

Pinera: My favorite team has been the Rays. As soon as they came up in the beginning in '98 I became a fan. Obviously the last few years have been great when they got to the World Series and really turned things around for the club. I used to be a fan of the Red Sox before that especially when they got Pedro and Manny and all them. I loved how much fun that team had. Now, it's just been the Rays.

Inside Pitch: By joining the Mets system, you get the chance to one day play in New York. Have you given any thought to what that may be like?

Pinera: I guess if you've got to play anywhere, New York would be the place you want to play. It's a great city. I've been on vacation there and it blew me away. The city was amazing and just being there for a little bit was great. If I go to Brooklyn, that's going to be a great experience playing and living there and getting a taste of playing ball in New York. If I had to pick a place to play it'd be New York. It's really exciting to think that if I work my butt hard enough, I could actually make it there.

Inside Pitch: Being a senior draft pick, is it safe to say you want to get signed and begin your career as soon as possible?

Pinera: Yea for sure. They told me I'm leaving in a couple days over this weekend. They want to get me ready to go as soon as they can. I'm going to get to packing and get going to where they want me.


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