Jon Link: The biggest comfort for me is knowing the coaches have faith in you. They can use you in both roles and put you in day in and day out and trust that you can do the job.
Is there a comfort level you had working out of the pen instead of your normal routine as a starter?
Jon Link: I was ok with that. I had some relief experience my first two years of college. Talking to different people, my friends back home, they told me it was not much different. That made me feel a lot better as I did not know how my arm would react to being a relief pitcher. I talked to a buddy of mine the day before I was going to throw and he said, get in there and throw as hard as you can for as long as you can. You don't have to worry about going five or six innings, the most you will throw is two. Get in there and throw heat for two innings and everything will take care of itself.
When you originally went to the pen, was there a feeling of ‘what did I do wrong?'
Jon Link: It wasn't really what I did wrong. It was more the fact that from a business point of baseball, understanding that they brought in two guys, pretty high draft picks that they gave a lot of money to and they were obviously going to get the call over a guy they didn't give so much money to farther down in the draft. That is really just the business of baseball. They are going to get those opportunities because they have a lot of money invested in them. Cesar did pretty well and Josh is doing great. Cesar got moved up to Fort Wayne and I guess it is just getting out there everyday and working hard. When they call on you to start you start and when they call on you to relief you relief and go with the flow.
It seems that low walk totals have been a staple of your career and clearly something you have carried over to professional ball.
Jon Link: I have been told by a lot of people that I throw too many strikes. Seeing guys up there with wooden bats – seeing guys in BP (batting practice) every day and watching guys take BP, our pitching coaches lay it in there for them to hit and out of the five or six swings they will maybe hit one ball that will be a hit during a game. If I get up there and feed the hitters strikes and make them put the ball in play, there is a lot better chance that we are going to get them out. When you walk somebody, your fielders can't even make a play on the ball. They get to first base pretty easily. It puts some pressure on the batter to make a good swing on the ball and let my defense help me.
Are there adjustments you have to make with the strike zone as you go up the ladder so you aren't ‘throwing too many strikes'?
Jon Link: At each level you are going to have your hitters that are going to put good swings on balls. You still have to work your corners here and at every level. Change speeds, up, down, in and out. The game doesn't change. You still have to throw strikes. You still have to get people out. The competition just gets a little better. That is how you move up; when you show the people in the organization that you can throw a 3-2 changeup on the outside corner to a right handed hitter or left-handed hitter or you can throw an 0-2 curveball, bury in the dirt and let them swing at it. The more you go up, you figure it out as much as the hitters. Your pitches and your pitch selection and your availability.
Talk about your repertoire and what kind of pitches you throw.
Jon Link: A lot of people say I am a power pitcher. I pitch off my fastball – a pretty good fastball. I pitch between 88 and 90 miles per hour. I throw a cutter that I just started throwing the last couple of outings and have had pretty good success with it. I also throw a changeup and a slider – or a slurve.
Did you find that you had too many pitches for work as a reliever and perhaps cut one out of the equation?
Jon Link: In the relief role I found I was only throwing two, maybe three pitches. A lot of fastballs, a lot of cutters and changeups to left-handed hitters.
Has this been a tiring season for you with college ball and now this? It seems the fifth inning has been your bane as a starter.
Jon Link: Not really tired. Every pitcher has that one inning where they struggle a little bit and the fifth has been my inning. The sixth inning, normally I come back and go 1-2-3. It is just the fifth inning has given me trouble. I think I need to focus a little harder in the fifth inning. Just go out there and pitch and hopefully I will have some success and let my defense help me a little bit.
You mention bearing down, but could it also be just a situation to forget about and not think so much on it – perhaps causing you to overdue it?
Jon Link: The mentality of it – you certainly don't want to forget. You want to focus every inning. You focus before the game, you focus on the first hitter, the first three hitters. As you go through the game you focus on the charts and see what they have done. The fifth inning has been a stumbling block for me but we will get through it.