Pirates Prospect Interview: Victor Black

Right-handed pitcher Victor Black was selected as a supplemental pick following the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, number 49 overall. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Black went 6-4 with a 4.16 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 88 2/ 3 innings at Dallas Baptist University. The 21-year old is off to a 1-0 start at Class A State College. PiratesDugout.com's George Von Benko caught up with Black.

GVB Did you have any inkling that the Pirates were interested in you?

VB I had none, I had seen Mike Leuzinger our area scout once at the beginning of the year and then I never saw him again until he came to the house to talk with my parents after the draft. But I had no idea that they were interested.

GVB You had mentioned that they saw you pitch against Rice – is that right?

VB They told me the thing that sold them on me was that an assistant general manager was at a game against Rice when I hit three people. You can't throw away against those guys because they are going to hit. I kept going in, and I ended up hitting a few guys, but at least I wasn't giving in. They loved it because I kept going in and a lot of guys in college will go away and you just can't win doing that. They were impressed that I was willing to keep going inside.

GVB You haven't been pitching that long – you started out as a catcher in high school is that right?

VB It has been a huge project for me and the coaches I had in college helped a lot. It's been three and a half to four years at the most that I've been pitching. I'm fairly new at it, but it's coming along well.

GVB How did you feel about your senior season in college?

VB It was good, after my start against Texas A&M I was 6-1 and I finished 6-4. I went 0-3 in my last three starts. For some reason I guess I just lost it, physically worn out, mentally worn out. But overall it was a blast. I felt like our team got skipped over getting a bid to the regional – going 38-17 and there were a couple of teams that made it in that we had beaten. So that was a big surprise, but other than that it was the best year that I had in college.

GVB Did you start out in college as a reliever and then become a starter?

VB My freshman year I was closing and I had two saves and then I decided to make me a starter since halfway through my freshman year. GVB What are the Pirates plans for you – are you going to remain a starter?

VB I think that the relief idea is there right now. They still have me as a starter – I'm working up to my set innings and I will be piggybacking back and forth with Tyler Cox most of the season. They've got me starting right now and I'm coming in later in the game because of all of got is up two innings as of right now, but once I reach the max there I'll be switching off starting and then piggybacking and then starting. But there have been no signs of me relieving.

GVB Tell me about your repertoire – what do you throw?

VB I throw a fastball, slider and a changeup. In college if you threw hard and I'm around 95 – you could get away with fastball – slider most of the time. But it definitely a priority here in pro ball to have a changeup especially as a starter And over the past couple of weeks that has really come out of nowhere – just having the time off and now the arms fresh again and the changeup has just kind of taken off and turned into a pitch that may be close to my second pitch instead of my slider now.

GVB Would you be willing to try the closer role?

VB I would not be against it, but my plan right now is to start and to start and that's the dream. Some scout's asked where do I see myself in five years? I said in a big league rotation – so that's definitely what I want. They said something on the MLB Network about me being able to go up faster as a closer. If that's what they want me to do — and it's something I haven't done since my freshman year of college — then I'm all for it. That would let me get some innings instead of preserving me for six or seven. I can let loose.

GVB You got your deal done with Pittsburgh quickly – was that a priority?

VB I definitely felt it was important – the first season is always important and I didn't want to go blindly into spring training and the instructional league not knowing anybody and not having a clue. When it came down to signing it took us two and a half – maybe three weeks.

GVB What are some of the areas that you are really concentrating on as a pitcher?

VB Definitely the consistency, I've always been able to throw hard, but the strikes haven't always come easy because the original thought process was the harder I throw was best. I don't have too many major glitches, but consistency is key and keeping the third pitch the changeup – that's the biggest thing that I am trying to work on right now. I'm not going to take on too many things at one time. Just find one that I can master and go on to the next one.

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