TigsTown: I know you and I have spoken about this in the past, but you spent some time on the DL at West Michigan, and you were rehabbing down in Lakeland after the season. Can you explain to our readers what the problem was, and how you are doing now?
Nick Cassavechia: I was up in West Michigan, and my elbow was bugging me for a while; I had been pitching through that for about a month, and it just got really bad. They sent me down to Florida and I got an MRI there, and it came back that I just had a bone bruise, or a bone contusion. When I was throwing, my arm was straight out, and when I finished, some of the bones in my elbow were banging into each other, causing the bruise. The rehab was really just resting it and taking it easy, and then getting some strength back. I have to make some alterations in my delivery to prevent that from happening again.
TT: You mentioned the changes in your delivery, and when I've spoken with Greg Sabat over the last two years, he's mentioned that they are trying to get you to elevate that arm angle a little bit and maybe add more velocity. How is that process going for you?
NC: He first brought it up in extended spring training, and we kind of fooled around with it a little bit. Then when I got sent off to New York to play, I went back to where I was more comfortable. At the start I was a little tentative about changing my arm angle. That's what I was comfortable with, and I had been pretty successful with it. I continued to throw side arm, and then after the injury, [Greg] came back and talked to me again, and he wanted me to stop throwing side arm. With the injury, it just kind of made sense that maybe I do need to raise my arm angle, add some velocity, and prevent me from getting hurt again.
TT: When you have toyed with it before, were you having the same type of success with movement on your pitches and control, or did you find yourself having to make additional adjustments in that respect?
NC: I actually really had positive feedback in regard to movement. They liked the movement on my fastball, and they really liked my slider; they just were better pitches, with better velocity and a little bit sharper. The only problem I was having was my mechanics and trying to stay consistent. I was all over the place. I was sometimes walking four people in an outing, and that's just unacceptable. That was the real hump for me, was getting the control back.
TT: How did you get started throwing side arm?
NC: My pitching coach at Baylor came up to me before my sophomore year and talked to me about it. Prior to that I was more over the top. He just thought that if I changed my arm angle it might help me stand out a bit more and get on the mound more; rather than not being very important at that time. I was going to do anything to get on the mound and pitch for Baylor. I gave it a try, and it just kind of took off really fast.
TT: Going back a little bit, you're down in Waco, Texas now, and you pitched at Baylor, was it a dream to pitch at Baylor?
NC: I went to high school in Dallas, and Baylor is just ninety miles down the road, so I played a couple of games on Baylor's field. Right when I stepped on the field I was amazed how beautiful it was, how beautiful the campus was. Right away, I just wanted to pitch there one day. Believe it or not, I actually walked on at Baylor, and I just kind of moved all the way up and ended up being just about a full ride by my senior year. I came with intentions of going to school here and hopefully being able to pitch at some point if I worked real hard. It took off real fast and I had a little bit of success.
TT: Looking at draft day, you've done your time at Baylor and its time for the next step in your baseball career. Were you aware that the Tigers were interested and may pop you in the draft, or was it a bit of a surprise?
NC: I knew they were interested. I had talked with the area scout here several times, and I knew there were some teams a little more interested in me; the Tigers being one of them. I was completely excited to be drafted! I had a really bad senior year, so just getting the opportunity to play for the Tigers was great for me.
TT: Coming in, did you know much about the organization, or was there a lot to learn when you got to Lakeland that June?
NC: It was a big learning process. I didn't really know anything, and didn't know many of the guys either. I just went in there and didn't really know what to expect at all. I just kind of hopped right into it. No matter where you are, its still just baseball.
TT: What was the biggest adjustment you felt you had to make from college ball to pro ball?
NC: I think it was more the mental side of things. I don't think I really struggled with the competition as much, but it was more dealing with the grind. It takes a toll on your body being there for six or seven months. Starting with spring training, you're up every single morning, going for four or five hours. It's tough; there's 150 or more guys in the organization, and you're competing with all of them. You really have to have a good head on your shoulders and do your job, and not get too far ahead of yourself.
TT: Have there been some moments that have stood out to you as those moments where you really know you learned something and can become a better player from that experience?
NC: There's a couple of things that come to mind. When I was in extended spring training, I was a little upset, losing a little bit of confidence with the change to my arm angle, and also not being assigned to a full-season team to start the year. I was a little bit down. One of the pitching coaches down there, Jorge Cordova, sat me down one day and really raised up all my confidence in one conversation. He just talked about how he still believed in me, and how he could see me moving up through the system. That really changed a lot for me, and helped a lot. It really changed my whole attitude. The other thing has just been Greg Sabat working with me so much. Just the time and effort he has put in, has made me feel really important.
TT: You mentioned that you were a little disappointed that you didn't make a team right out of spring training. Walk me through that a little bit. Did you enter spring training with the idea that you might be heading to West Michigan to start the year, or were you just hoping for the best?
NC: I was really set on West Michigan. I thought that was for sure. Having so much success in rookie ball, I thought with my age, that I'd be up there in level-a, showing them what I could do up there against better competition. It kind of hit me really hard. At the time I didn't know what else I could do, because I had some pretty good success in spring training as well, and I just felt like there wasn't much I could do.
TT: The last time I talked to you Nick, you were out here in Lowell getting ready for a game, and maybe a day or two later you were on your way to West Michigan. Talk to me about when you found out you were going to West Michigan.
NC: I was extremely excited about it! I was really excited about being in New York too. It was a chance to start over and have a good season there and show them what I could do at that level. The day after I talked to you, I got called into the office by Howard Bushong, and he played a little bit of a trick on me. He wanted to know what happened in the hotel room last night, as if we were up to late running around and horsing around. He pulled me in there and said, ‘Nick, you've got to tell me everything that happened at the hotel last night.' I told him I really didn't know. I went to bed and I don't really know anything. He said, ‘Oh, I don't really care, you're going to West Michigan tomorrow.' It was pretty neat. It kind of stopped my heart for a second.
TT: Did you have any exposure to Howard Bushong when he was at Texas-San Antonio, or no?
NC: I did. He actually offered me a scholarship right after my senior year. I turned him down to go to Baylor. We joked around about that quite a bit when I saw him in that Tigers uniform in spring training. It's fun to joke about now looking back at it, but at the time it was real serious.
TT: Let's talk a little bit about this upcoming season. Where are you with your off-season preparation and what does your workout plan look like as we head closer to spring training?
NC: The guys in Lakeland worked me so hard there that I was really happy with where I was physically. So when I came home, I kept working out lightly just to maintain that strength, and now that December is here, I am starting to pick it up again and workout real hard. In regards to pitching, I'm still off, and I haven't picked up a ball since I got home. I think I'm going to wait until the January throwing program starts just to give my elbow a little more time to rest, before I start throwing the way Greg and I have been working on.
TT: Do you have some goals heading into the 2010 season?
NC: I haven't really set any specific goals, but I'm really hoping I am going to get an opportunity to show them what I can do on a full season club right from the start. I want to show them what I can do for my full season. The way I throw, I'm not going to be a power arm or a big time prospect. Where ever I am, I'm going to have to put up some good numbers, and that's what I'll shoot for.
TT: In an organization like the Tigers where the really value those guys that can absolutely bring it, is it kind of funny for you to sit there and chart pitches on an off day, writing down 94, 95, or 96 pretty regularly with some of these guys?
NC: It's two things really. One, I'm really jealous. The second thing, I absolutely hate radar guns. They've absolutely killed me since I started pitching in college. I've never been fixated on the radar gun. There's a lot of people that will joke, looking at my numbers in college saying this closer for Baylor must be this huge power guy that throws 95 or 96. They always wonder how I get so many people to strike out. I wish they would look at the results more, and not always look at the numbers on the radar gun.
TT: I always do this, but this is your chance for the final word….
NC: My main thing that comes to mind with the Tigers organization is really that I just hope I get the shot to prove what I can do in the organization.
TigsTown would like to thank Nick for taking the time to speak with us about his career and his plans for the 2010 season. We would like to wish him the best of health in the upcoming season, and we can't wait to see him back on the hill!