MadFriars' Interview: Dennis O'Grady

EL PASO, TX – Dennis O’Grady was picked in the thirty-fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Duke University or for those of you playing at home six rounds after the Padres picked Johnny Manziel in this year’s draft.

Only the selection of O’Grady, 25, hasn’t been a joke.

The five-foot-ten, 190 lbs. O’Grady played four years for the Blue Devils and in his senior year started 11 times on the mound and 41 at either second, first, left field or as the designated hitter hitting .275/.360/.350 with 20 RBI and eight steals.

But it was his work as a pitcher in his senior year where he went 6-3 with a 3.65 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 86.1 innings that got him drafted.

Since joining the Padres, the former two-way star at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, New York has steadily worked his way through the system as a middle innings reliever making stops at all of the affiliates along the way.

For his career he has averaged just under a strikeout per inning and his performance has improved as he moved upwards.

This year for the Chihuahuas he has a 4-1 record with a 5.40 ERA in the hitter friendly PCL South. 

We caught up with Dennis before a recent game in El Paso.

You attended Archbishop Molloy and played both baseball and basketball under Jack Curran, who is really famous coach in both sports. How did you end up getting to Duke?

Dennis O’Grady: In the summer of my junior year I went to a few showcases down south, the Blue-Gray Classic was one of them I believe, and the pitching coach at Duke told me to come down for a camp so the head coach could see me pitch.

After the camp they said that they wanted me to come. I went down for my official visit and that was it. I loved it and just couldn’t see myself turning down an opportunity to go there.

At Archbishop Molloy you were also a star second baseman, which is kind of unusual because most pitchers are shortstops, how did you decide what you wanted to do?

Dennis O’Grady: I actually played a little bit of both. I didn’t play much in the field during my freshman year but from my sophomore year on I played there quite a bit. I would throw on Friday or Saturday and then play the other days at either second, first or DH.

My freshman and sophomore year I came out of the bullpen and in my junior and senior year I started.

It is something that I loved doing. I don’t think I would have had as good a college experience if I just pitched and I think doing both really helped me. Sometimes I still feel that I am just a second baseman out there.

I think all of the pitchers that I have ever spoken with still consider themselves position players.

Dennis O’Grady: [laughs]I love getting out there early and getting a few ground balls in before the coaches get there before I have to go out and shag.

You also played basketball in high school too, correct?

Dennis O’Grady: Yes, I played for four years under the late Jack Curran. He was awesome and I think we only had four or five days off from each other. Because we had fall baseball, then basketball and then the baseball season.

He was a great mentor in sports and so many other things. He was a great role model that taught me a lot of things that I will never forget. We played in a pretty good league up there the CHSSA.

Did you played point or shooting guard?

Dennis O’Grady: Point, but Russ Smith, who played at Louisville and is now in the NBA, and I switched off sometimes. I was a senior and he was then a sophomore. We haven’t really had any big time players since Russ left, but we have some guys this year that are going to Division I schools.

You are five-foot-ten and most pitchers you always think of are six-foot-three and taller. Frankly, and no offense, you look like a second baseman.

Dennis O’Grady: [laughs] None taken, I have heard that a few times in the past.

What are the advantages of being your size on the mound?

Dennis O’Grady: Today everyone says you have to be that six-foot-five, 190 lbs. guy that is out there throwing from a higher angle so they go downhill but at the same time smaller guys can still do the same thing.

You can still throw your four-seamer and sinkers down in the zone and sometimes it’s harder for them to pick up because of the angle; the pitches can seem to get on you a little quicker.

For me, because I am a little shorter, everything is coming out of the same arm angle. If it’s a four-seamer it’s going to be straight, if it’s a two-seamer it will fade to the right left and a sinker to the left. I think I have a little of the deception factor.

What do you throw?

Dennis O’Grady: A four-seam, two-seam, change-up and a slider.

In your career with the Padres you have had pretty good success, except with your walks, which are down this year. What did you do to improve your command?

Dennis O’Grady: It’s been a bit of an issue in terms of walks. Talking to Buddy [Black] and Darren Balsley before we broke camp in the spring is something that they wanted me to work on. It wasn’t really about walking guys per se, it was more about just executing and making my pitch.

It’s something that I have really worked on. This year I have really tried to emphasize staying out of the three ball count. If I can keep out of those, it will help me out.

How much of a difference is there between AAA and AA? Especially since the parks in El Paso and San Antonio are so different.

Dennis O’Grady: A lot of these guys have played in the big leagues and know what they want to hit and in specific counts. If it isn’t what they are looking for, they aren’t going to swing at it. Really, they just have much more advanced approaches than at the lower levels.

Some guys have them in AA, but everyone has them here. In AA you will find the guy that will chase the slider in the dirt early in the count. What I have learned is that you have to make good pitches in the zone. Before in AA that slider you were throwing might have been at his ankles, here it has to be at the bottom of his knees.

You were a thirty-fourth round draft pick and now you are on the brink of the major leagues. Obviously you haven’t reached your final goal but at the same time it has to feel pretty good to be where you are.

Dennis O’Grady: I have accomplished some things but I definitely still have some work to do and haven’t reached my goals.

Being a late pick you going to get your opportunities but just not as many as someone that was taken higher. So each day you just want to compete and make sure you are not out worked.

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