2010 MLB Draft Q&A: Evan Rutckyj

Only recently converting to the mound, Evan Rutckyj found enough potential to leave behind a professional hockey career in order to pursue one in baseball. We sat down with the big lefty to discuss his stuff, his mechanics, and just how difficult a decision it was for a Canadian boy to leave the hockey rink behind.

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Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Just to start things off, are you still 6'5", 200 lbs?

Evan Rutckyj: I'm still 6'5", but I'm 210 lbs now. I've been working out with a trainer a lot and have put on about 10 lbs in the past two months. I've been concentrating on my legs especially.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is the correct pronunciation of your last name?

Evan Rutckyj: Rutt-skee.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being Canadian, the natural assumption for baseball fans is that you play hockey. Is there any truth to this?

Evan Rutckyj: Well, I played hockey growing up, was a defenseman, and this is my first year not playing. I ended up being drafted into Juniors for the Barrie Colts, which is the OHL up here, and that was pretty big – it's basically like the minor leagues for the NHL.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you going to do anything with that? Which one would you say is your passion?

Evan Rutckyj: Oh, definitely baseball. For sure. It was a big life decision, but I think I made the right choice.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: When was it that you knew that you were pretty good at baseball?

Evan Rutckyj: [laughs] Probably just this last year. I got clocked for the first time by a Major League Scouting Bureau scout and got invited to the national team. I just really though about it and figured I'd focus on baseball and forget about hockey.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How did the whole situation with getting clocked come around?

Evan Rutckyj: Well, I never really focused on pitching, I was more of an outfielder, and one day my coach told me to try it out, so I did, and it worked out pretty good. From there I just started pitching. I really got seen at the Major League Scouting Bureau Camp in May of last, and then another time in Toronto. I had pitched once in a while in the past, I'd come in for a couple of innings, but I wasn't a serious pitcher up until last year.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Have you committed to a college yet?

Evan Rutckyj: Not yet, I'm still waiting. I'm probably going to wait until April or May. I'm considering Central Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State, and then a couple of schools down south. There are a bunch of people calling me right now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was the Under Armour experience like for you?

Evan Rutckyj: Oh, it was awesome. First class, for sure. I felt like a big leaguer for the time I was there. It was pretty nerve-wracking playing on that field, but I settled down after a little bit. Just knowing the history of the place was pretty awesome.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is it like being from Canada when all the major showcases and tournaments are in the U.S.?

Evan Rutckyj: I actually didn't really have a summer last year because I was gone to Florida, and California, and North Carolina with the national team. That really helped me with getting exposure, but it's definitely harder because you're traveling a lot more and you're hardly at home.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How often can you, being from Ontario, be outside practicing?

Evan Rutckyj: Well, right now it's pretty cold outside, so probably from September to October we'll start pitching in the gym. We'll work off a mound in the gym and on fitness programs indoors, and also do a bit of hitting in the cages, until about May, March at the earliest, until you can get outside for a little bit.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much have you thought about the draft?

Evan Rutckyj: I just want to enjoy the experience. I try not to think about it too much, but it's always there – obviously I'm thinking about it. When I pitch I try not to think about it, try not to try too hard, just have fun and enjoy what I'm doing.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What's your dream when you think about playing professional baseball?

Evan Rutckyj: I grew up watching Randy Johnson, so I like to think of me being the next Randy Johnson when I dream.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How many teams have you heard from?

Evan Rutckyj: Probably 26, I think.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Any contact from the Yankees?

Evan Rutckyj: Yes, I have heard from them.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: As a pitcher, tell me about your arsenal.

Evan Rutckyj: Just recently I totally changed my mechanics, and he's helped me out a lot. I've been working on my two-seam a lot, and it tails away from a righty. Once in a while I'll throw in a four-seam when I want to heat it up a bit, but right now my velocity has been 89-91 MPH, so for me as a lefty that's pretty good. My slider is probably my outpitch, it's a hard, breaking slider that bites right at the end, and I think it's right around 81-82 MPH. I throw a circle change, and that tails and tumbles a little bit. I think that comes in about 78-81 MPH.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What is your personality on the field? Are you a boisterous guy like Joba Chamberlain, or more quiet like Mariano Rivera?

Evan Rutckyj: I'd say Mariano Rivera. I'm quiet and patient out there.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: We touched on your mechanics a little earlier, but I'm interested in a bit more detail. Being taller and lefty historically has led to difficulties with repetition - have you encountered that? How much have you changed since your appearance in the Under Armour game?

Evan Rutckyj: Well, being from Canada there aren't too many very good pitching coaches around here to show me stuff, and I'd never really been taught mechanics – I basically started going to the mound and just throwing, and nobody really told me anything, they just liked my velocity. That made me very inconsistent with my pitches. Just recently, starting in September, I got a pitching coach from Michigan, and he's helped me out so much. He's straightened me out – literally – because I was crossfiring a lot before, and now I'm more linear; I bring everything towards the plate. As far as the video of the Under Armour game, I don't like looking at that [laughs]. I'm very different now.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is it safe to assume you were a Jays fan of growing up?

Evan Rutckyj: No, actually I'm a Tigers fan, I'm right across the border. I usually go once a week to a game with my Uncle.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Having gone to college in Ohio, I'm all too familiar with Windsor. What is it like for you growing up in the Canadian Vegas?

Evan Rutckyj: It's funny, when I was down south a lot people would ask me about that, and it's not a big deal, it seems pretty natural to me.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Besides Randy Johnson, who are the other players that you look up to in terms of their skills or the way they play?

Evan Rutckyj: I actually really like Justin Verlander from the Tigers. I like his intensity and composure on the mound.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you could steal any pitch from any other pitcher in your draft class, whose would it be and why?

Evan Rutckyj: I probably would take Stetson Allie's fastball. 100 MPH? I'd take that any day!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What do you like to do off the field?

Evan Rutckyj: Right now I do boxing three times a week, and then workout almost everyday twice a day, in the morning and after school. I've got a lot of free time without having Hockey coming around, it's my first winter without playing hockey, so it's kind of weird. I miss it a little bit, but I've got things to keep me occupied.

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You step on the mound less than a year ago, and now you've got all this attention - what's this whole process like for you?

Evan Rutckyj: Actually, everything is happening so fast it's been hard to take it all in, so it's been crazy. But I'm enjoying it and I'm having fun, so I'm liking it!

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