Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Justin Grimm

Texas Rangers prospect Justin Grimm is set to make his major league debut against the Houston Astros on Saturday. Grimm, who says he's viewing the opportunity as more of a spot start, sat down for a Q&A after learning of his call-up on Thursday.

ALSO SEE: Justin Grimm feature and scouting report

Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on getting a chance to prove yourself in the major leagues on Saturday?

Justin Grimm: Yeah, it's a little overwhelming. I wasn't expecting it at first, but I'm excited for the opportunity. I think it'll be a good test to see where I'm at. Obviously it's a goal to reach the big leagues. But I didn't know it would come quite this soon. So, like I said, I'm just going to give it everything I've got, pound the strike zone, and give it my best.

Cole: I think it's safe to say your mental makeup is one of the reasons the Rangers feel you can handle a start in the majors right now. How far have you come mentally from your college days, when the results weren't always there?

Grimm: I think it's one of those things where you have to have confidence in yourself, and I think that's the whole mental side. Physically, you're going to be out there, your heart is going to be pounding, and your knees are going to be shaking. But you've got to mentally stay within yourself. That's really the name of the game.

It's going to be my first time throwing in front of 50,000 fans, so it's going to be a good test. But I feel like my maturity level has increased dramatically over the past couple years––since I left Georgia. I threw in front of maybe 18 to 20,000 at the College World Series for a couple innings. I was just out there flinging it. I think it's going to be a little bit different approach––it's not going to be just seeing how hard I can throw.

The adrenaline is going to be super high. It's hopefully just going to come out nice and easy. Like I said, I want to try and stay within myself and don't change a thing. I need to concentrate on what I normally concentrate on––getting the front foot down and getting out in front with the pitch.

Cole: Looking at your season as a whole––your 13 starts with Frisco this year––what have you come away with? How have you felt about it?

Grimm: Overall, it has been a success. There have been a couple hiccups here and there. But it's a learning progress. That's what I'm taking away from this opportunity. It's going to be a great learning process to see where I'm at.

Cole: You've pitched pretty consistently well throughout the season, but as you mentioned, there have been a couple hiccups once every five or six starts. You've pitched particularly well in your last four starts, though. What do you feel has been the difference in those games?

Grimm: Mainly going out there and competing. Obviously I'm still working on getting that front foot down before I jump at the plate––that sort of stuff. We have been going to work a lot in the bullpens. The bullpens with (Frisco pitching coach) Jeff (Andrews) have just been really good.

I just think being prepared going into the starts––it gives you a little more confidence. With all that said, I think it's just showing up to the field and trying to get better every day. When you have a good ‘pen, it gives you a lot of confidence going into a start. You just go out there and you compete to the best of your ability and pound the strike zone. Over those last four starts, I feel like that's what I did, for the most part.

Cole: It's probably safe to say that people will look at this season and call it your breakout year. But would you say last year was even more important developmentally, since you spent the entire campaign focusing on refining your mechanics and developing your changeup?

Grimm: Yeah, definitely. Last year was just one of those things––it's your first pro season. You're trying to adjust from instead of getting seven days, you're adjusting to five. You're throwing less bullpens but, at the same time, you're trying to maintain more focus within those bullpens. It was a big adjustment. I came a long way maturity-wise and everything with it. Yeah, definitely. Last year was huge for me. It gave me a lot of confidence, and I saw my ability and what I can do at times.

Going into this offseason, I just wanted to continue that and show them––coming into spring training, I wanted to show them that I didn't get off of it. I'm not doing my own thing. I'm still listening and trying to repeat what we were learning last year.

I think that was the biggest thing that helped me out in spring training. I had a pretty decent spring training. So my main goal was just to get to Frisco––go up a level at a time. This is pretty huge. But like I said, I'm just going to try and make the most of the opportunity.

Cole: After developing your changeup last season, you've had three reliable offerings this season that you've been comfortable using in just about any count. You were making yourself pitch a little uncomfortably at times last season by throwing the changeup––a pitch you'd rarely ever thrown at that point––20-plus times per start down the stretch. Tell me about that development.

Grimm: I believe it was the front office who wanted our pitchers to start doing that. At first, it was very uncomfortable. I think it was my first inning of doing it when I walked the first guy, and (Myrtle Beach pitching coach) Brad (Holman) comes out to the mound. He was like, ‘This isn't an excuse to do terrible. Get it together and you can do it.' From there on, I just challenged him with it. I made it much better. That was huge. That was what pitching was all about. It was the first time that I had actually pitched instead of said, ‘Alright, here's my fastball. Hit it if you can.' I think it was huge.

Cole: Your changeup has been reliable more often than not this season, but you've still had arm speed issues from time to time with it. How do you feel the consistency has developed during the course of this season?

Grimm: It's just one of those pitches that I've been throwing in my sides a lot, and it has been my main focus. The breaking ball has been there for the most part. And the fastball has been there for the most part.

It comes and goes at times. But I think as long as I maintain the focus on getting inside of it––not coming around it, not coming across my body with it, and trying to do too much or sell it––I think it's going to be a plus pitch here in the future.

Cole: You began toying with a two-seam fastball in side sessions last month, and I know you mixed it into a start against San Antonio in May. Have you been using it in games lately?

Grimm: The two-seam––Jeff (Andrews) and I just started messing around with it one day while playing catch. I started throwing it more and more. When I throw it on the flat grounds, it's a really nasty pitch. I just––it's one of those things where, if my body stays straight toward the plate and I get out in front, then it happens on the mound.

I wouldn't say it's very consistent right now. I haven't used it in the games except for maybe once or twice. But I've been waiting. I was waiting to get a big lead to do that just in case it was something that I got hurt with. Because at the same time, I still want to get out there and compete for my team and try to get a win. It's something that, once I get confidence in, I'll start running it in there maybe to lefties or even righties in the game.

Cole: Is that something that you would like to be doing by the end of the year?

Grimm: Yeah. That was my break-off point. I told them, ‘I want to develop this pitch by the end of the year.' I want to be doing it on a consistent basis. Hopefully by the end of the year, I'll start using it in games and then it can just be another pitch to tie over into next season.

Cole: For a period last year, the Myrtle Beach rotation included yourself, Robbie Ross, and Joe Wieland. As of Saturday, all three of you will have already pitched in the major leagues. What's it like to have three guys graduate so quickly?

Grimm: It's pretty crazy when you look back at it. I think a lot of people, when they're in the minors, they look at the big leagues as the top of Mount Everest. It's just something that's far away. But when you really put things into perspective, it's not that far away.

It's the same game––it's just making pitches a little bit better as you go up. Wieland and Robbie were doing really well last year. I think Robbie, going into spring training––I'm not sure his expectations were to start off on the big league team. But if you throw strikes and go out there and compete, then good things start to happen.

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