TigsTown Q&A: Lakeland pitcher Jordan Tata

Jordan Tata may not have the blazing fastball of Justin Verlander or Joel Zumaya, but Tata can bring it much the same, and is quickly emerging as one of the top prospects in the organization. Lakeland Correspondent Aaron Westgate talked with Tata about his current success and his future.

TigsTown: First off, how's your arm?

Jordan Tata: It feels great. Being in the Florida State League helps: not having to deal with the cold. We're in August now and I know I'm lucky because my arm feels great. I know some guys start dragging now. Some guys feel like their slowing down. Luckily I went through that earlier in the year. I'm catching my second wind here.

TT: How have you handled the transition of coming down to play here in Florida?

JT: Biggest adjustment coming here is the weather. I'm from Texas but I was up in Michigan last year. It's taken some time to readjust to the humidity.

TT: What pitches do you throw? Are you developing any new pitches?

JT: No new pitches. I throw a 4-seam, 2-seam fastball. The 4-seamer I cut a little in on the lefties. I also throw a circle change, and I throw a spike curve ball; like Mike Mussina……it's not as good as his right now, but one day.

TT: What have you been working on with the pitching coach? Seeing any improvement?

JT: Biggest thing they wanted me to work on coming in was the consistency of the spike curve and the change up, being able to throw them consistently for strikes. Burnsie (Pitching Coach Britt Burns) is helping me out a lot as far as getting confidence in my offspeed pitches. He's really been a big factor in my season.

TT: How about conditioning, what's your workout routine like?

JT: We have a set schedule. The day after a start we do a 20 to 25 minute run and a lower body workout. The next day is upper body workout and a bullpen throw; lately it's been about 45 pitches. The next day is a long toss and workout. Then the fourth day is light toss and rest. Then fifth day pitch. It helps having a routine and being able to show up at the park and know exactly what you have to do. It's especially helpful if you've had a bad start the time before and all you want to do is think about how to improve on it.

TT: Have you changed anything (mechanics, approach) from last year?

JT: I was 1-10 at the all-star break last year with the Whitecaps. My approach this year was just to continue what I was doing in the second half of last year. That was throwing more strikes, challenging hitters, and not beating myself; that was the most important thing I had to deal with. I feel that so far this season, the times I've gotten beat, that I can say that the other team beat me. I didn't shoot myself in the foot. I'm going to try and stick to the same approach next year.

TT: What was draft day like? (Tata went in the 16th round of the 2003 draft)

JT: (chuckling) All the scouts that I talked to had projected me somewhere from the 20th to the 25th round. They said most likely the second day of the draft is when I would go. I was back home in Dallas, in the living room watching TV. My parents were hovering over the computer watching the draft in simulcast. I wasn't paying attention. In the 16th round my Mom started screaming that she heard my name. I said "no, probably someone else." It took a while, but it eventually came up on the draft tracker on the computer. I got the call a couple hours later. It was exciting. Very unexpected.

TT: How long until you signed?

JT: I signed the next day. I was a senior so there wasn't too much negotiation. It pretty much came down to; take my thousand-dollar singing bonus or leave it and I was more than happy to take it.

TT: What's been the hardest part about adjusting to the professional level?

JT: Hardest thing to get used to is going out and throwing every fifth day. In college, it was once a week, maybe twice. At this level, it's just nonstop grind for six months and that's the biggest adjustment; being bale to stay competitive for that long.

TT: Have you heard anything from the coaches about being sent up to Erie?

JT: I think I'm here to stay for the year, which is fine. We have a real good thing going with this group of guys. We're going to try and win the championship. Hopefully I'll get to make a fresh start in Erie next year.

TT: Do you think Lakeland will win the division in the second half?

JT: Definitely. The biggest thing is the confidence level of this team. In the beginning of the year, all the starters were getting a lot of wins because we were scoring 8, 9 runs a game. Blowing people out made it real easy. That level of confidence has been maintained throughout the year. It builds on itself and then everybody's playing their best ball.

TT: Is it hard to build team unity when you constantly have players being called up, sent down, etc.?

JT: It's tough. We lost three all-stars right after the all-star break. Scott Tousa is probably the best defensive shortstop I've ever played with. Juan Francia was another great asset. And then what can you say about Justin Verlander? The way he just dominated the league, we all knew he was going to go up. We just enjoyed him while he had him. When you have a manager like Mike Rojas, he has a way of just keeping us focused, keeping a group of guys that want to win. He doesn't tolerate anything else. That's probably the glue that holds everything together.

TT: What are your goals for your career?

JT: I've wanted to play in the big leagues since I was three. I want to do this for as long as I can and give it my best shot. If it happens then it's a dream come true. If not, I can say that I tried my hardest to get there.

TT: What will you do in your off-season?

JT: Last year I went back to Texas. This year I think I'm going to be in California. A buddy of mine runs baseball lessons out there. I'll probably do that until December, and then go back to Texas for a couple months with the family before next season.

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