Justin Gutsie – the Rangers' 14th round pick in the 2008 MLB Draft – is one of the more talented relief arms in the organization. The 22-year-old spent three years pitching out of the bullpen at St. John's University, where he compiled a 3.33 ERA over 78.1 career innings.
The right-hander is armed with a fastball that tops out between 93-95 mph and sits comfortably in the low-90s. Gutsie's slider has plus potential, but it remains an inconsistent pitch. He has worked on a changeup since joining the Rangers' system.
Gutsie got off to a fast start with the Spokane Indians last season, as he yielded only two earned runs in his first 13 innings. But like most college products in their first professional summer, Gutsie ran into a dead arm period, and he coughed up 10 runs in 9.1 September innings.
The Pennsylvania native enters his first full season looking for more consistency. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Gutsie during our recent trip to the club's Spring Training complex in Arizona.
Jason Cole: You've pitched in two games so far, right?
Justin Gutsie: Yeah, I've thrown in two games so far.
Cole: How's that going for you?
Gutsie: I feel good. I mean, coming out of Pennsylvania, it's cold and I had to throw indoors. Coming back out here, it is a big difference throwing to batters – throwing live. But I've been feeling good. My stuff has felt good. I've been throwing fastball, slider lately.
Cole: You played your college ball at St. John's in New York City. Do they practice indoors there before the season starts?
Gutsie: Yeah, we practiced indoors. Sometimes Coach Blankmeyer would take us outside when there was snow on the field. They'd have to plow it for us. But most of the time we would throw indoors in the batting cages to batters and stuff like that. It was mostly indoor stuff.
Cole: What's it like being in Arizona and being able to practice in warm weather this early in the year?
Gutsie: It's beautiful. It's a chance to work on your stuff, it's a chance to get better and improve delivery-wise. You can make sure you're repeating every time. It keeps your arm feeling good and it's just beautiful out here.
Cole: What are your thoughts on your first season in pro ball?
Gutsie: I thought my year went well overall. It could have been better, and that's what I'm looking forward to this year. I want to be more consistent than I was last year. I had good outings, I had some bad outings, and I had some in-between outings. Towards the end of the year, I felt a little tired, but I just kept going through it and trying to throw my pitches. It went how it went.
Cole: When you were tiring down towards the end of the year in Spokane, did it help that it seemed like everyone else was going through the same thing at the same time?
Gutsie: Yeah. There were a bunch of college guys out there with me and they were talking about the same thing. Their arm was feeling dead. I felt the same way. My arm felt fine, it was just that I didn't have everything that I'd had a couple months before. But overall, the college guys were all talking about it and we were all tired. But we just drove through it and we won that championship.
Cole: How are you feeling right now?
Gutsie: I'm feeling great right now. My arm is feeling good. I can't complain.
Cole: What have you been working on since you got out here to Surprise?
Gutsie: I've just been working on consistency. Just repeating my delivery every time – staying back, not getting out in front of myself, and not rushing. And I've been working on my changeup a lot.
Cole: Have you thrown any changeups in games yet?
Gutsie: No, I haven't thrown any changeups in a game, but long tossing and throwing every day, I try to get at least 10 changeups in there. I'm just working on it because I really haven't had a changeup.
Cole: So you never threw a changeup in a game in college or anything like that?
Gutsie: I threw one here or there in college, but not really. I was just a fastball, slider guy. I'm trying to get three pitches instead of two right now.
Cole: Have you changed the grip on your changeup from college? Are you doing anything differently with it?
Gutsie: Oh yeah, I change it a lot. I used to hold it like more of a two-seam grip in college. Now I've switched over to four-seam.
Cole: How much has that helped it?
Gutsie: It helped me a lot. When I was holding the two-seam, it felt like it was getting away from me. I was probably rushing out in front and stuff like that, but now I feel like I have a good grip on the ball and it feels better coming out of my hand.
Cole: Going into your first full season, do you have any expectations and any idea of where you will be playing?
Gutsie: I really don't like to think about that. I'm pretty much the kind of guy where I do the things that I can control. Where they put me, they put me. I'll go from there.
Cole: Have you set any expectations or goals for yourself for this first full season?
Gutsie: I just want to go out there and compete like I always do – go after hitters. I want to stay more on an even pace the whole year. I don't want to have ups and downs – just try to stay even the whole year.
Gutsie wants to be more consistent
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