Austin Henry - Toledo Mud Hens

An in-depth Q&A with Detroit Tigers prospect and Toledo Mud Hens pitcher Luis Cessa

The trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets brought two pitchers back to the Tigers. The hard-throwing Michael Fulmer gets most of the publicity, but the team got another live arm in Luis Cessa. TigsTown talked to Cessa about his adjustments in Triple-A, his past as an infielder, and his future with the organization.

TigsTown: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from originally?

Cessa: I’m from Mexico. I was born in Cordoba, Veracruz, but actually I’m living in Tabasco right now.

TT: How did you get into baseball?

Cessa: I started with my dad, playing catch at home. Actually I played soccer before I signed up for baseball. I liked soccer, you know in Mexico there’s more fans of soccer than baseball, so I started with soccer. I started playing baseball when I was 11. I played in Villahermosa, the league from Villahermosa, and the national Olympics in Mexico, and one of the scouts for the Mets saw me there and signed me.

TT: So you spent seven or eight years with the Mets. What was it like getting traded from the only organization you’ve ever known?

Cessa: Seven years, yeah. I feel weird the first couple of days, you know, I have my whole career with the Mets. I was 16 years old when I signed, so, it’s a pretty big change for me. I know it’s my last year with free agency (coming up). I feel actually pretty good with the trade, you know, it’s a big trade! For Cespedes and for two prospects in the minor leagues, so it’s a pretty big trade.

TT: How have things been for you so far in Toledo? Did you know anybody on this team before?

Cessa: I’ve seen them before in a couple of leagues. The Florida State League, but it was mostly just to say “hey” and talk before the game a little bit. It’s a good team here right now. A lot of Latins here in Toledo, a lot of Latins in this state, so it’s not too pretty hard. You know, I don’t speak a lot of English, it’s not too very perfect. It’s maybe 75%, but it’s getting there.

TT: They have you living around here? Have any roommates?

Cessa: Yeah, I live across the street. I have two roommates, Jose Valdez and Rafael Dolis.

TT: So how about your pitching style? What do you throw?

Cessa: I throw a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, circle changeup, and a slider.

TT: Which is your favorite pitch?

Cessa: I use too much my fastball, actually. Especially in this league, it’s different from AA and high-A. In high-A you can throw a lot of fastballs. Here, you need to mix in a lot of offspeed, or breaking balls. You know, a little more big-league experience for the other hitters, so it’s more difficult. It’s a big change for me this year. In AA my first half was really great. My second half I had problems in AAA. But you know I try to learn this year. I feel really good, I have my stuff, but sometimes the pitching coach say I use too much my fastball.

TT: So you’re finding that here in AAA you need to work on your secondary pitches more? Which one do you favor?

Cessa: Yeah. Actually, you know it’s different. For a righty I throw more sliders and for lefties I throw more changeups, but I have to mix it up for both. Changeups and sliders for righties, and changeups and sliders for lefties.

TT: Have the Tigers or the Mud Hens asked you to work on anything specifically?

Cessa: Yeah, I work for my pitching coach Mike (Maroth), I’m working on my sliders and making them more for a strike. I throw my breaking ball and my offspeed stuff a little off the plate, so right now we’re working to throw more strikes. You know I have a problem in the first couple of innings. I throw my fastball for strikes, but my offspeed or my breaking ball is off the plate. So we work in the bullpens to throw more sliders and changeups for strikes.

TT: So how do you feel like you’ve done this season?

Cessa: I feel really good. Physically I feel really good, but I’m having little problems right now with my ERA and my runs in the games. Too many base hits. I talked to Mike today and said I don’t know what happened. In AA I had pretty good stats, but I haven’t done as well here. So I try to finish strong the season. I have just one or two more starts, so finish strong and stay healthy.

TT: You were originally a shortstop though, weren’t you?

Cessa: Yeah, I signed as a shortstop, but actually I never played shortstop. I signed as a shortstop for the Mets, but that year they signed a prospect at shortstop, so the Mets moved me to third base and second base.

TT: How many seasons were you doing that?

Cessa: I had two years. I played in the Dominican Summer League for two years. I had surgery on my left shoulder. I dislocated my shoulder, so I had surgery. When I came back, when I swing it hurts a little bit, and this time the coordinator for the Mets said, “Hey, you ought to pitch now. Because in the report it says you play infield and you’re a pitcher.” So, I threw a bullpen before the surgery, and throw 93 on the mound. So after the surgery they say “you’re a pitcher now.”

TT: Do you wish that you would have stayed in the National League so you’d have a chance to hit?

Cessa: You know, sometimes the other people like hitting. I had the opportunity to hit in AA and AAA in Binghamton and in Vegas. I had a couple of base hits, but actually right now I feel better, more focused on just pitching. Sometimes it’s more hard hitting and running the bases and after that you go to the mound a little more tired. It’s a big change to go from the National League to the American League, but I think it’s much better to just -expletive- pitch!

TT: Is there anyone that you patterned your game after? Any Mexican pitchers, like Joakim Soria?

Cessa: Not really, I think there are like eight or ten Mexicans in the majors right now, but I try to be me.

TT: Have you heard or thought at all about what the Tigers are going to do with you after the season?

Cessa: Right now, no. We have a couple days more, so maybe after the season I’ll find out what move, if it’s the 40-man roster or a release or something.

TT: Do you have a significant other right now? Is it hard to have a relationship while playing pro ball?

Cessa: No, I’m single now. It’s pretty hard because I stay so far away from my home. I had a girlfriend two years ago and I could see her for five months, but then I had to go play for seven months. So it’s pretty tough, you know. We’d be on FaceTime, send text messages, or cards, but it’s pretty hard. But, actually I feel much better, you know? A little more focused just on baseball now.

TT: So what else do you like to do? You into movies, or music?

Cessa: I like movies and music. I also like to watch TV series, and I watch TV a lot.

TT: Do you watch comedias, or the American TV?

Cessa: I like American TV, but comedias too. I like shows like the Walking Dead, Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, series like that.


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