Q&A with TJ Beam

With the recent surplus of young arms in the system, one power arm that tends to be overlooked is TJ Beam. After a season of making adjustments, Beam looks to be a sleeper prospect to keep a close eye on. We caught up with TJ for a Q&A about his past, his future, what he's learned so far in the pros and his strategies for success.

PinstripesPlus: We've heard rumors that you could possibly be pitching out of the bullpen in 2005. What are your thoughts on that and do you see yourself more as a starter or a reliever?

TJ Beam: I've been a starter during my whole career in my two years with the Yankees. The only time I wasn't is when I was having some control problems. Then, they sent me to the bullpen for a little while to straighten myself out. I just had to work some stuff out that was going wrong. But, as soon as I fixed what I needed, they put me back into the rotation. I was a closer in college but the Yankees and Mark Newman really liked me as a starter. I would feel comfortable in both roles.

PP: Do you have any idea where you'll be starting the 2005 season?

Beam: Really, I have no idea. Most times, we really never know until we actually get in there and start playing in spring training. That's usually when those decisions are made for the most part.

PP: Now, with the current depth in the lower levels of the system with starting pitchers, what would you say to possibly becoming a long man out of the bullpen?

Beam; Yeah, I'm not too worried about stuff like that. There are some great, young pitchers moving up through the system now and I understand that. If that means me taking some sort of job in the bullpen, I'm fine with that. I just like to do whatever is best to help the team. I'm not the type of guy that is going to make a big deal about stuff like that. If that's my job, it won't change the way I prepare and my approach to pitching.

PP: What type of goals do you have for 2005 as far as what level you'd like to be at by season's end?

Beam: You know, everyone has high expectations for themselves. They always want to say they are going to make it to this point or something like that. I don't think I'm any different than that. My goal is maybe trying to make it up to AA. That would really be nice. But, to meet those goals, I just have to keep doing what I have been off the field. If I do what I need to do off the field, it will translate into really great results when I take the mound. Like, last year, I got sent back to Staten Island to straighten myself out. I put in the work down there and a lot of things went the way I wanted.

PP: You mention you were sent back to Staten Island last year after struggling in Battle Creek. What exactly went wrong for you in Battle Creek last year?

Beam: Well, I didn't have the command that I wanted. But, I was struggling with my curveball too. So, when I went back to work with Dave Eiland in Staten Island, we worked on getting that pitch back for me quite a bit. So, even thought it was disappointing to be sent back down, it is good that I was able to make improvements like I did. But, when I was in Battle Creek in 2003 for the first time, all I really had was my fastball and the curveball. So, in 2004 I was able to add a lot to my repertoire.

PP: What were you able to add to your repertoire in 2004?

Beam: After I got my curveball straightened out, I messed around with some other pitches with Dave Eiland. We had a really good relationship and I think we really click whenever we work together. He has really just helped me out so much. Something great he showed me was my cutter. That has become a very good pitch and I am so comfortable with it. I guess it is just because it feels a lot like throwing a fastball. I was able to pick up that pitch really nicely and it has worked out great for me. I have worked on a changeup but it isn't one of my best pitches at this point. But the depth of my repertoire is much farther ahead than it was in 2003.

PP: Here's a story for you. You started a game back in August in New Jersey against the Cardinals while pitching for Staten Island. The fog was thick that night and before the game you got to take a bullpen session while the rehabbing Steve Karsay looked on. Tell us a little bit about that night.

Beam: Wow, the fog, that was brutal. It was really strange weather; it was even weirder to pitch in. But, I think I threw the ball pretty decent that night. But, having a guy like Steve Karsay there helping me out was just great. He actually worked with me on my changeup a lot and we were out in the bullpen for a while. He's a really great guy and we loved having him there. He actually lives right down here near me in Scottsdale, Arizona. That was a pretty interesting night though. Having someone there like that with Major League experience just to hear what they have to say is great. 

PP: Statistically speaking, do you have any standards for yourself in 2005?

Beam: Nothing is ever good enough to me. I think I'm my own worst critic. But, I'd definitely like to aim for an ERA under 3. I don't think that is too big of a goal for me either. Also, the real important one for me is my strikeout to walk ratio. I'm the type of guy that really likes to rack up the strikeouts but I just hate walking a guy too. I think I'd rather give up a home run than walk a batter. So, I really want to have an outstanding ratio there. I want a bunch of strikeouts and very little walks. That's my goal.

PP: Switching gears for a moment, which one of your teammates in 2004 impressed you the most?

Beam: Wow, there were just so many. I played with some great guys this year. But, the one I'd have to say that stands out the most is Jesse (Hoover). He just has an amazing arm. But, besides just that, the way he made strides this season really impressed me. He came in with a big fastball and he came out with an improved curveball. Just the fact that he made some great improvements over the course of the season impressed me quite a bit. Jesse and I are really close. We would work a lot together during the season. Whenever I would be pitching, he'd talk to me between innings and I'd do the same for him.

PP: What are your thoughts on Tyler Clippard?

Beam: Oh, he's really good. What a smart kid he is. When you see him out there, some underestimate him because he might look like a goofy kid. But, once he gets going, he is amazing. One thing he's got is a hammer curveball. I mean, that is a great curveball. What makes him so good though is how smart and advanced he is for his age. He's going to be a really good one.

PP: Back to you, now. What do you think is your best attribute?

Beam: Well, I am my own worst critic like most pitchers are. One thing I'm very fortunate for is going to college. I'm really happy that I went to college. Not only is it nice to have but I think that some pitchers that haven't gone to college miss out on a lot of stuff. I think it really helped me mature as a pitcher. Also, I see myself as a leader. I don't know, I just like to help out. I like to talk to my teammates and help them out as much as I can. If I can help them, I'm helping the team.

PP: Is there anything that you think sets you apart as a pitcher?

Beam: I love to work out. I really do. I love it especially during the season. I like to work hard because I know if I do, it is going to pay off for me in my next time on the mound. It was funny; during the season the guys used to make fun of me. They always called me the bullpen king. I would take two bullpen sessions between starts. The session after you pitch is always going to be one where you don't feel your best but I feel those sessions really help me. And, Hoover started doing it during the season too. Another guy that started doing it was Jason Jones. I guess it seemed to help them as well.

PP: Do you feel that taking the extra bullpen session will help your arm in the long run?

Beam: I do know that it is strengthening my arm, and that is an important thing. You know, if it was up to me, I'd throw four bullpen sessions. It is all about the preparation for my next start. That's the way I look at it.

PP: Give us a brief scouting report of yourself, please.

Beam: I have a very good fastball and I throw that like 92-93 MPH. I think it came up on the radar gun at 97 MPH a few times. I know I have a good fastball but I've worked more on location and off speed stuff. I also have a decent curveball. That pitch is like 70-74 MPH. Me and Dave Eiland have worked on that and he always calls it a Big California Break. I guess it is like the guys out from California with the slow curves like Barry Zito. It is a decent pitch for me though. But, the pitch I really like is my cutter. Right now, I'd say that is my second best pitch. It's a lot like my fastball so I'm so comfortable with it. I have a changeup too but I'm still working on that.

PinstripesPlus would like to thank TJ Beam for his time and efforts in answering these questions. We'll be checking in from time to time with TJ over the course of the 2005 season.

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