Beavan looking for more

CLINTON, IA - Although Rangers prospect Blake Beavan has a 2.97 ERA as a 19-year-old in the full-season Midwest League, he isn't quite satisfied with his performance. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the hurler for an in-depth Q&A session after his start on Tuesday.

Blake Beavan shut down the Beloit Snappers on Tuesday night, as he surrendered only one unearned run in six innings. The 6-foot-7 right-hander gave up four hits – all singles – while walking two and striking out three.

The 17th overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, Beavan does not have high strikeout numbers [27 in 57.2 IP], but he has had little problem retiring hitters in his debut season. Beavan carries a 2.97 ERA through 11 starts and he has walked only seven batters all season.

Lone Star Dugout was able to sit down and chat with the Irving native on the day after his most recent start.

Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on your last start?

Blake Beavan: It was good. I just worked on stuff, being in the second half. I just worked on throwing more changeups and pitching inside a lot more. I'm just trying to work the inner half, which opens up the outer half for relievers coming in after myself. It may be helping me out too at certain times.

Cole: Do you know about how many changeups you threw last night?

Beavan: Ten.

Cole: About how many have you been throwing per start before that?

Beavan: Maybe three or four. That's why this half is more about development with every club – the second half. We've clinched playoffs, so that's a good thing. I think for the second half of the season, everybody is trying to get better with certain stuff in their game. The big picture is that everybody is trying to do good to move up next year and work on the things they need to do to get to move up.

Cole: How do you feel your changeup has progressed throughout the season?

Beavan: It's a lot better. I mean, I've really only thrown a changeup for – this is really the first year I have thrown a changeup. In high school, I never threw one. I just threw fastballs and sliders. My senior year, the only time I really threw changeups were in warm-ups just to show it and stuff. But this is actually my first year of throwing a changeup.

Cole: Are you using the same grip as you did in high school?

Beavan: No, I've gone to a circle change. The other grip I had was a little difficult to explain without showing you on the ball.

Cole: How did you pick up that first grip?

Beavan: My pitching coach, that was our summer coach for the Dallas Tigers, he taught me how to throw the changeup. He just pretty much said, ‘whatever grip feels comfortable to you.' At that time, that grip felt comfortable. Now, the circle change feels a lot better. I can keep the same arm motion.

Beavan throws his circle change.
Cole: Was the circle change something you did on your own or was that an adjustment made by a Rangers coach?

Beavan: No, that was something I did on my own. I changed it myself whenever I went to instructional league. I just started working from instructs all the way to this point.

Cole: Tell me a little bit about your slider. How has that progressed this season?

Beavan: It has gotten better. I still think it needs a lot of work as far as staying on top more. Just like any pitcher, when you stay on top of your offspeed stuff, it's usually not hittable for anybody. I'm just trying to stay closed more and not drop my arm as much. When you drop your arm and don't stay closed, the ball spins a lot more than it breaks. Hitters, especially at the next levels, can definitely pick up on that stuff. You can tell just by throwing bad sliders down at these levels. They hit it. So you can only imagine what they would do at Double-A, Triple-A, and in the big leagues, of course.

Cole: When I talked to you at instructs, you said you threw both four- and two-seam fastballs. It seemed like you were throwing quite a few two-seamers last night, is that correct?

Beavan: Yeah. There were only two lefties in the whole game. Whenever the lefties were up, I threw a lot of four-seams because I threw inside a lot to them. When I'm going away from people, it's going to be a two-seam. When righties are up and I'm going in, it's going to be a two-seam. When I'm going away, it's going to be a four seam going away from them. It just depends on who is up.

Cole: Did you throw a lot of two-seams in high school as well?

Beavan: In high school, all I threw was two-seams. I never threw a four-seam until this year.

Cole: Was that something you had to learn how to throw? Has it always been there for you even though you didn't throw it in high school?

Beavan: Not really. All the four-seam is, is just putting your fingers in a different place. It's just putting your fingers on the right laces to get the four-seam grip and get that backspin. But it's no different from a two-seam, you've just got to sit there and have a couple of days at it in a bullpen. Just work on a four-seam for that bullpen or just keep throwing four-seams all the time warming up so you can just get used to it.

Cole: Is there much of a difference in velocity between your two- and four-seams?

Beavan: Not a whole lot because two-seams are always going to be slower than four-seams. Four-seams have backspin and that's what makes the ball go a lot harder. I think four-seam and two-seam might be a mile or two difference right now. It just depends. I'm not trying to overthrow out there. I'm just trying to hit my spots and throw it. When I'm actually trying to bring one, there might be a two to three mile per hour difference on it. Sometimes I'll lay off on my two-seam just to get more movement and see if I can get them chasing.

Cole: Do you know what your velocity was like during last night's start?

Beavan: Not what I'm used to, as far as coming from last year in high school when I was throwing 94-96 and hitting 97. I was mid-90s all the time. My velocity has been down a lot this year just because it's my first year in pro ball. I'm not used to throwing all the time. I'm always traveling – first year of doing all the bus rides, hotels, and waking up. Not always getting the right nutrition and stuff. But I think my arm is starting to come back a little bit. I've been throwing low-90s these last couple of starts. I think my arm will be there, especially towards the end for the playoffs.

Cole: It seemed the same thing happened with Kasey Kiker last year. His velocity was down for most of the season, but he got it back at the end of last season and appears to have it back for this year. Knowing that, does that take some of the pressure off you personally?

Beavan: It's hard not knowing that you have your fastball. You know it's there, but it's not coming out of your hand like it usually does. I struggled the first half of the season a lot of the time just because I didn't have the velocity. I was almost pretty much going from being a power pitcher to a spot-up pitcher. And I'm not a spot-up pitcher. It's throw hard – throw hard and spot-up at the same time. It is difficult when you don't have your usual velocity and you have to work on 88-89 mph fastballs to try to blow by people.

I had a couple of rough outings in the beginning of the year – about three or four rough outings out of that first half that just made me realize that for me, I think the velocity has to be there for me to be more effective. I've always been a power pitcher – that's just how I've always been. I can't throw slower and get people out because it almost takes movement out of my ball and flattens it out.

Cole: Even though your velocity hasn't always been there this year, you have still had quite a bit of success for a guy that had just graduated high school this time last year. What has allowed you to be so successful this season?

Beavan: Just competitiveness. I've always had competitiveness. My brothers and family taught me the best about that stuff. I've never had a problem with competing. I've never had a problem with saying, ‘give me the ball, I want to go out there and throw.' Every time I go out there, you're either going to do good or you're going to get beat. The best way to do it is to just go out there and give it your all every time. Go out there and do as good as you can do. You might not have the best day, but as long as you keep fighting, good things are going to come out of it. The number one thing is throwing strikes and good things are going to happen sooner or later.

Beavan wants to stay in Clinton.
Cole: As we move into the second half, there are always quite a few promotions. Are you expecting to stay here the entire season?

Beavan: I wouldn't expect anything more than just to stay here. I don't expect to move up. I don't even really prefer moving up. I'd like to get a full year down here to get a lot of experience and work on my changeup, work on my slider. Maybe next year if that opportunity comes up to move me to High-A or wherever it leads from there, then that's good. But I think staying down here for a full season would be the best thing in my interest.

Cole: You guys have already clinched playoffs. I also imagine you'd like to win a ring, right?

Beavan: Oh yeah. That's what every team shoots for – winning a ring. It doesn't matter what you do in the regular season, it's what you do in the postseason. It's what you're doing in the playoffs and what you are doing to prepare yourself to be better in that last half of the season. Everybody can go out there and put up numbers in the first half. It's the second half and the people that can fight through the long days and the grind, coming up to that 130, 140 games. Everybody is getting tired, velocities are dropping, hitters are getting tired, and all that kind of stuff. It's the people that can fight through that are going to succeed in the end.

Cole: Have you set any personal goals for yourself for the rest of the season?

Beavan: I've set a couple. As far as pitching-wise, I'd like to keep my ERA in the twos somewhere. That has been my goal for the year – at the end of the season, somewhere in the twos. If it gets lower than that, then that's just a pat on the back for me because I've worked hard enough to get it under that. Like I said, changeups are something I'm going to be working on during the second half of the season.

Pitching inside a lot – if I get beat, I get beat. But that's what I'm working on. We know that as a team, every pitcher with our pitching coach and organization, we have stuff we're working on. It's not about the results, it's the process. That's just what I'm going to be working on for this second half. Mainly just trying to get my skills better to get me ready for the next level.

Cole: You've hardly walked anybody this year. I believe you only walked a few last year in high school, is that right?

Beavan: Three walks I think last year, my senior year.

Cole: Even guys known as great control pitchers often times walk more batters than you do. What has allowed you to keep your walk totals so low?

Beavan: I think just getting ahead. A lot of people pitching-wise, you can still have good accuracy – maybe one of the best accuracies in baseball – and you can still walk a lot of people. I think when you're pitching and you get down 3-1, you get down 3-0, a lot of pitchers – including myself – will get lazy. You get that first strike, foul the second one off, and you get it back to 3-2. They foul the next two off and you're almost giving in, but you're not giving in. Then you throw the next one and it goes up, sails on you, or goes down in the dirt, and you're like, ‘okay.' Your mind can fall into a laziness.

These last couple of games I have walked two people each game. That's just a shock for me. I mean, I'm not used to walking people, especially two in a game for a start. It makes me mad when I'm out there. But you've just got to let that go and keep going and try to get that next guy out.

Throwing in the zone – it's bad to say – but a lot of people are scared to throw inside and throw in the zone because they're afraid they are going to hit them. Maybe they're not confident with throwing in those certain areas. Maybe they're going to walk them or give up a home run. The only real way to find out and get better at it is to pitch in the zone. That is what I have mainly focused on in bullpens, warming up, and all that kind of stuff. Just pounding that mitt and just always trying to throw strikes.

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