Here’s an interview I did with Mets pitching prospect Darin Gorski this offseason. We’ll be re-posting some of the 30 interviews I conducted this Winter as baseball gets back into full swing and many of our readers return from their offseason hibernation. Enjoy!
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And the 2011 Sterling Award Winner: Mets Organizational Pitcher of the Year, is…. Darin Gorski. And he was the perfect choice because he simply had the best season, start-to-finish, of any pitcher in the Mets system. With a record of: 11-3 and an ERA of 2.08, Gorski finished 1st in the Florida State League in ERA, and WHIP (1.00), and finished 3rd in strikeouts with 140. I caught up to Darin in the days leading up to the Christmas Holiday, and he was kind enough to put aside some time for the readers and staff at MMO, to spread a little holiday cheer:
Petey: Hi Darin, thanks so much for taking the time out to answer some questions for our readers and staff at MetsMerizedOnline.com. Congratulations on an awesome year in 2011. You are one guy that everybody who is a fan of the Mets has been talking about this year. I’m sure plenty of people throughout all of baseball have sat up and noticed what you accomplished. It’s amazing what hard work and perseverance can do. Are you back in PA for the winter holidays? How are things going, is your Christmas shopping done?
Darin: Thanks a lot Pete! I am back in PA for the holidays and the off-season. Everything is going great, spending time with my family and friends as well as getting ready for next season. Christmas shopping is finally complete I like to do most of it online because I’m not really into the lines or trying to find a parking spot at the mall.
Petey: Me too man, online shopping was invented for people like us! When the Mets drafted you out of Kutztown University in the 7th round of the 2009 MLB Player Draft, how did you first hear about it, and what was that feeling like? Did you know the Mets were interested in drafting you? What round(s) were you thinking you might be taken in the draft?
Darin: We had some friends and family over for the draft that day and they were all listening to it on the computer. It’s hard not to pay attention to it when it’s on, I tried to keep myself occupied while everything was happening but I will probably never forget hearing my name called. I knew the Mets had interest in me, I had spoken to them quite a few times and I had been to Citifield for the pre-draft workout. But then again I was also in contact with a lot of other teams too so it was up in the air. Prior to the draft I was told I could be taken anywhere between rounds 4-10 so naturally you want to be the first pick of the 4th round. But regardless of when you’re name is called it’s an amazing feeling knowing that a team is willing to take a chance on you and give you the opportunity to play professionally.
Petey: Is there one person, a coach, a friend or family member, or even another player, who you have learned the most from, or who inspired you to chase your dream of one day becoming a major league baseball player?
Darin: I have been blessed with a very supportive family growing up. From my dad sitting on a bucket and catching me in the backyard when he got home from work to my mom travelling all over the east coast to get me to games and watch me play. They have both sacrificed so much to get me where I am today and I am so thankful for them. My dad was my coach for a couple of years when I was growing up, he taught me how to respect the game and to play the game hard and the right way. As far as a coach that has helped me I would have to say my pitching coach from St. Lucie, Phil Regan. He had a profound impact on my career in just one season. He really helped me refine my mechanics and on top of that he taught me how to pitch and study hitters. With all those things I learned how to get guys out and I became very confident in my ability to pitch.
Petey: Several other pitchers have also told me really great things about Phil Regan. He is undoubtedly one of the best out there. What you accomplished this year was simply fantastic. I guess you can say the ‘cat’s out of the bag’, after you were the ace of a staff that went deep in the play-offs, were named to the 2011 Florida State League Mid and Post-Season All-Star squads, named the Florida State League Most Valuable Pitcher at season’s end, and in October, MLB.com named you 2011 Class A Advanced Pitcher of the Year. Whew! Holy-moly Darin what are you going to do for an encore? Haha! When did you first realize that things were going to be different for you this season? How did you maintain an even keel, and pitch well as consistently as you did? Was your mental state as important as you physical state when it came to giving a superb effort on the mound every start?
Darin: Well this season was a lot of fun; we had a great group of guys in St. Lucie and it wasn’t a surprise to us at all that we went as far as we did. Wish we could have come away with the championship but we were right there. I think I realized things were going a little bit differently for me this season when I made a start against Bradenton early in the year. It was just supposed to be a spot start but then I had an opportunity to make a few more starts and it took off from there. If there is one thing I have learned since being drafted it is that you can’t let your emotions get the best of you. The game has a funny way of humbling you and it will tear you down just as quickly as it builds you up. For that reason I tried not to let a little success or failure change my outlook and ultimately my preparation from start to start. I tried to focus on doing what I needed to do each day to get myself ready to pitch and give my team the best chance to win. It was a lot of fun with the staff we had down there because every night you were going to see a well pitched game so when your number was called you wanted to go out there and do the same thing. I do believe it is important to have good mental preparation otherwise the game will speed up on you and you’ll find yourself it a bad situation pretty quickly. You need to take it one pitch at a time and trust your stuff to be successful.
Petey: Let me ask you to assess your arsenal for us. Give me the most up-to-date scouting report on Darin Gorski LHP. What do you throw pitch-wise, at what speeds, and how do they move? Do you have a particular way, generally, that you like to go after hitters? Are you working on any new pitches?
Darin: I throw a 4-seam fastball, which is usually in the 89-91 mph range maybe a tick or two higher at times. I also throw a slider and a change-up, both of which come in somewhere around the low 80’s. Both the fastball and the change-up have arm side run and a little sink to them. The slider naturally has glove side break. Personally I try to read the hitter, I believe his body language or how he takes a pitch says a lot about how you should pitch him. I like to get in on hitters at times because that will give me the opportunity to pitch more comfortably away without him leaning over the plate. I started working on a 2-seam fastball late last year and I have been throwing it since so we will have to see how it is looking come spring training.
Petey: Ok, the big question, the one you’ve probably been asked a million times already, how did you do it? I have heard writers previously credit the development of your change-up, but could it really be as simple as that? You went from a 6-8 record in 2010 at Savannah, with a 4.58 ERA in 114 IP’s, to a record in 2011 at St. Lucie of 11-3, with an ERA of 2.08 in 138.2 IP’s. And you were the model of consistency all year, which says a lot about your mechanics. But tell us what changes you made between the 2010 and 2011 seasons that made such a dramatic difference for you?
Darin: It’s funny what a little bit of confidence can to for a pitcher. I’d have to say the first big difference I noticed from last year to this year would be my fastball command, which is one thing Phil and I had worked hard on. Second is just being confident in my ability to pitch and trusting my stuff each time out there. The fastball command definitely helped all my pitches because when you’re ahead in the count you can expand the zone and keep the hitters off balance. If you’re always behind in the count, as I was quite often in Savannah, it puts the hitters in good fastball counts and they are ready to hit and that’s where I ran into trouble. The work that we did mechanically in the bullpen allowed me to make that adjustment and it translated in the game, which is when the confidence started to kick in.
Petey: What’s next? I have every reason to think you will open next season in the Binghamton starting rotation. That’s a pretty big jump to go from Advanced A to AA. What are you focusing on right now to keep moving up and to be ready for those guys?
Darin: That is what I have been told, everyone talks about that jump and I am excited to see what all the fuss is about. As far as I am concerned regardless of what level you are at the game never changes. Pitches that get guys out are still going to get guys out you just need to limit your mistakes as you go. You continue to work every day to be the best you can when you get out there and that means limiting mistake pitches, if you can do that you can get guys out and that is the name of the game.
Petey: What do you like to do for fun over the off-season? When did your workout schedule begin? Can you describe your regimen?
Darin: I like to hunt during the off-season. Archery is more my thing, I am not sure if it is because the weather is nicer or maybe just because I am a better shot with a bow than I am a rifle. That was made very clear this year, I missed a buck the first day of rifle season, haven’t been out since. I also like to play video games; MW3 and NHL 12 would have to be my favorite games as of 15 minutes ago anyway. My workouts started three weeks after our season concluded and I have been working out 4 days a week since then at Power Train near my home town. I started working out there about six weeks before spring training last year and I noticed a big difference in my overall preparedness for the season. We do a lot of work with bands and time under tension in there as well as running. I also just started throwing last week so I am getting excited for the season.
Petey: What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Your favorite player? Is there a major league player, past or present, that you think you are similar to in style? Or someone that you can see yourself pitching like someday in the majors?
Darin: I really never had a favorite team growing up; I just like watching the game not so much cheering for a particular team. With that being said my mom was a Phillies fan and I found it amusing cheering for any team they were playing just to get under her skin. Since ’09 though she has become more of a Mets fan and I have stopped rooting for the opposing team, I guess we’ve both grown up a little. I was always a huge fan of the rocket, Roger Clemens, but in the past few years I found myself watching Cliff Lee pitch a lot more. I like the way he throws; his tempo and aggressive style are kind of what I like to do. At one point this year Marte told me I reminded him of Cliff Lee, I am assuming it is because we are both left-handed because I have a tough time associating myself with Cy Young winners at this point in my career.
Petey: Pick one teammate, position player or pitcher, that really impressed you with his play this year at St. Lucie, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.
Darin: This is probably the toughest question we’ve had because of the team we put on the field night in and night out in St. Lucie. But if I were going to pick one guy I would have to say Juan Lagares. I played with him last year and Savannah and started the year with him again in St. Lucie. I feel like guys only got him out when he didn’t want to have to run the bases. He put together an amazing season and it was no surprise to any of us that he finished the year in Binghamton and got some playing time in the fall league. He plays the game hard and the right way, he is a lot of fun to watch and have playing behind you.
Petey: He’s another player that has put in a lot of hard work, and it has really been paying off for him lately. And now to finish up Darin, just a little personal info not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?
Darin: Because of it being the holiday season and I can hear Christmas music playing in the background right now I am going to add a Christmas twist to this question, I hope you don’t mind.
Petey: Not at all, that’s a great idea! Ho-ho-ho!
Darin: So my favorite Christmas movie, which I am about to watch, is National Lampoons Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. I love that movie I probably watch it 10 times each Christmas. My favorite Christmas musician would be Bing Crosby but I also enjoy Mariah Carey’s rendition of “All I Want for Christmas is You”. And my favorite food would have to be the deep fried turkey my dad makes. I am making myself hungry just thinking about it.
Petey: Yum! I’m getting hungry too. Thanks so much Darin, it was a lot of fun doing this interview with you. Have a really great, happy and healthy holidays, and new year. We’ll see ya in spring training!
Darin: No problem Pete, it was a lot of fun! Happy holidays to you as well.
That was really nice. Darin is a great guy and his answers were outstanding. It’s really cool to see that despite his terrific season he states over and over how much he appreciates his teammates, and the people who have helped him get where he is. You have to root for a guy like Darin Gorski, and we all wish him continued success!
For more of my player interviews, and some other cool stuff, click here.