TigsTown: The last time we chatted briefly, you had just been removed from the 40-man roster. When we talked, you were understandably surprised by it and hadn't quite figured out what was going on. Can you give me an update on where you stand and have you learned anything more about the Tigers decision making process?
Zach Simons: Well, I'm still going back, and I'm still looking forward to it. I knew when I got out-righted off the roster that something big was likely happening. I didn't really look at it as a negative toward me. I mean it happens to guys all the time. It happened to Eddie Bonine last year, and he went in and made the team out of camp. I'm trying not to look at it in a negative way as I come into camp. I don't think it hurts my chances. It was a difficult decision they had to make, and it is what it is.
TT: For you personally, as you start to head into the New Year and get on a throwing program for spring training, does that serve as a little bit of extra motivation for you?
ZS: I've always been that way. When something like that happens, I just want to show others what I can bring to the table. I've been working hard and I want to earn my spot back. It's a good thing to be on that roster, and I want to get back there. I had a good season last year and the year before that; I just need to show that I can keep doing that. If I can go out and do that, then things will take care of themselves.
TT: You and I have already talked quite a bit this fall about your time in Venezuela, but can you sum it up for our readers?
ZS: It was a great experience! You get to face some Major League hitters and it is a really good test. I just kind of got worn down. Right after I got back, I got sick, and I found out I had cholera.
TT: Seriously? You contracted cholera?
ZS: Yeah! I dropped like 13 pounds. I was with the doctors for a little bit and I'm finally feeling better now. I'm working with a trainer, and I'm starting to put that weight back on, but I was pretty sick there for a week or two.
TT: That's a bit of a surprising twist to your off-season.
ZS: Yeah, when I got back, the health department was calling me and stuff, because we don't have a problem with cholera here, and they were trying to make sure it didn't spread at all.
TT: Let's go back and talk a little about the beginning of your career, Zach. You were drafted in the second round by the Rockies and had a bit of an up and down career in their system; all before being traded straight up for a big league reliever in Jason Grilli. How did that feel when it sunk in that another team thought enough of you to trade a big leaguer even up for you?
ZS: It felt great! At the time it was a little bittersweet because I had my friends with the Rockies and all that. The more I talked to guys though, that first trade, that's always the tough one. I was there for four years and got to know the guys really well. It was like new life for me though. I love the Rockies, they are a great organization, but I didn't really feel like I was in their plans. This was a situation for me to come in after being traded for a big league guy, and I felt like they really wanted to see what I could do. I feel like I've made the best of that opportunity so far, and I just want to continue doing that.
TT: After the trade, you reported to Lakeland and you turned in an absolutely fantastic second half of the season. You mentioned that the trade recharged you a little bit, but what really allowed you to turn in that kind of performance?
ZS: I went out there with a new life like I said. With the Rockies, I had sort of hit a wall, and was really struggling to get over that. When I got traded, I was really excited about the opportunity, and I started working with Joe Coleman, and he did wonders helping my confidence. As soon as I started throwing well, it just took off from there. I was lucky enough to work with Ray Burris the second year. I'll tell you, at first, Ray and I had our differences, but once I got on the same page with him I really started to take off there too. Both of those guys helped me a ton.
TT: Talk to me about the differences you have seen in the developmental philosophies with pitchers in the Detroit and Colorado organizations.
ZS: Both of them are class organizations. The people are amazing in both places. For me, Detroit is a better fit for me because when I got here, they just took the approach that he's a veteran and we just need to let him go out there and get after them. I've always been a guy that is super aggressive and I just want to go out there and attack all the time. Along the way with Detroit, I've learned to pitch a little bit too. With the Rockies, they had certain things they were trying to work with me on that weren't clicking, and I just didn't feel like they fit with my style.
TT: You had your first experience last year with big league spring training, which is obviously a lot different than minor league camp. How did you change your approach to big league camp last year, and if you get the chance to go to big league camp again this year, how do you approach it differently this time around?
ZS: The first one I was just kind of getting my feet wet. Now I know what to expect. Last year I still wanted to go in there and show them what I had, but it was the first one, and it was a big learning curve. This year I get it more, and I'm going to go in there and show them what I can do.
TT: What are some of the things you have identified – by yourself or with the help of the staff – that you want to continue working on to make yourself a more viable big league option?
ZS: Just being more consistent. Sometimes I get away with bad pitches because I throw hard, and I just want to get better about that. I don't have to make a better pitch every time; I just have to make a good pitch more consistently. If I do that, the numbers will speak for themselves and hopefully I will get a chance to pitch up there.
TT: When you were in big league camp last year, can you identify a player or coach who sort of took you under their wing and showed you the ropes; someone you could rely on to be there to answer questions?
ZS: All of them are great guys. Every one of them is approachable, and you can talk to any of them about anything. If it's a dumb question, you might get ribbed a little for it, but its all fun and games. I think that's why they are so good. They know how to go about their business, but also go out there and have fun at the same time. Last spring, I really stuck with [Rick] Porcello and [Ryan] Perry. I lived with them and we would always talk about what was going on and what was happening. It's always a little easier to stick with the rookies, you know?
TT: You mentioned Porcello and Perry, two guys that you pitched with in Lakeland in 2008, and two guys that made the jump from their to Detroit the very next year. When you see the roster announced and those two guys are heading to Detroit a year after pitching with you in A-ball, what's your thought process?
ZS: Living with them in spring training, I was around the house when all of that was going on, and I was just as pumped as they were. Rick and Ryan are special talents. Everyone talks about Rick and how mature he is, and it's true; he's got a great head on his shoulders. Perry, he's just fun to watch pitch. He's laid back but he's a wild man too. He just lets it rip and he'll deal with the consequences later.
TT: That's not necessarily a bad thing to have at the back end of your bullpen.
ZS: Not at all. You have to have that fire to get it done sometimes.
TT: Would you describe yourself as someone that has that type of fire?
ZS: I would definitely say that. I'm not afraid to go after the situation, that's for sure.
TT: It's time to give you the final word, Zach. Is there anything else you want to touch on today?
ZS: I'm just looking forward to this year, and having all things be positive. I'm going to try and make a push to make the Tigers team, and help them win some games. I think they can be really good this year, and I want to try and be a part of that.
TigsTown would like to thank Zach for taking the time to speak with us upon his return from Venezuela. We wish him the best in his continuing recovery and hope to see him back on the mound during spring training and maybe in Detroit in 2010!