Get To Know Mets Pitching Prospect Rob Carson
I contacted Rob Carson, left-handed pitcher for the New York Mets by phone on Monday, less than a week before he is due to leave for spring training in Port. St. Lucie. This year spring training will be a little different for Carson, because he will be in the big league camp for the first time, a result of being added to the 40-man Major League Roster this winter. Rob and I discussed a myriad of topics, his pitches, his focus heading into the new season, where he sees his career heading and we had a lot of fun just talking baseball. Check out what Rob had to say, I think some of his answers will really surprise you.
Petey: We are talking today with New York Mets left-handed pitcher Rob Carson. Rob pitched out of the AA Binghamton starting rotation in 2011 and was 2nd on the team in game starts (24), and innings pitched (128.1), and was 4th in K’s with 91 punch-outs. After the regular season ended he pitched in the Arizona Fall League, in relief, and did so well that he was added to the Mets 40-man roster. Hey Robert!
Rob: What’s up big dog. How you doin’ man?
Petey: It’s Pete from MetsMerizedOnline.com. How you doin?
Rob: Good man good, how you doin?
Petey: Doin excellent!
Rob: Good man. I actually just came back from working out, and throwing today, man. Got a good workout.
Petey: How hard are you throwing right now?
Rob: Like 75-80%, cause you know I’m trying to be spring training ready. I’m not trying to burn it up, just 75-80% to be bullpen ready, and I’m feeling pretty good right now.
Petey: Did you spend the winter at home in Mississippi?
Rob: I actually went to the Arizona Fall League, went out there first, and then I came back and have been working out and stuff ever since.
Petey: Did you get some home cookin?
Rob: Yeah it’s always good to come home and get some home-cooked meals from your mom, and your grandmom. Cause when your on the road you don’t really get that you know, so it’s pretty good to come home to it.
Petey: After last season, you pitched in the Arizona Fall League for the Peoria Javelinas, as a relief pitcher. What was that experience like?
Rob: Man, the experience was really good man, they sent me out there last year also and I started. It was my first year going out there last year and just being around all those guys, all those big prospects, everybody out there’s you know, pretty big prospects from other organizations that get sent out there. And it’s just great competition man, it’s great to spend time, and it’s great baseball. And going this year man, you know you kinda come in, cause this year there’s a lot of new guys, and me and a couple of the guys from last year coming in were kinda like the veterans of it you know, kinda cool. And you know it was just real fun, and different this time cause I went last year as a starter, and this year a reliever you know, they moved me to the bullpen. So it was pretty fun man, it was different, you know, but after my first two times out there, I kinda got into a routine as a reliever cause I was still used to starting. The first time I got called to pitch out of the bullpen, I wasn’t as ready as I wanted. But I still got the job done. Just because of a starter mentality, routine to a reliever. But as the fall league got going, I got into my own routine and it was great, it was fun.
Petey: What are the differences for you relieving as opposed to starting?
Rob: As a starter you pretty much, you have to start the game off, you have to set the tempo, you have to go in and have at least two pitches, at least, that you can get over for strikes. You wanna have three, but you need at least two, coming out and starting a game, and you just go with how you feel that day. You want your fastball to be working but some days you don’t have it where you want it to be, so you have to deal with that as a starter, and work with your strengths. And as a reliever, I’m not saying it’s easier than pitching as a starter, but as a reliever you can come in and not have as much pressure depending on the situation when you come in. As a reliever you can come in and can be hard. You know, go right after hitters you know? Just go right after them.
Petey: You don’t have to save it.
Rob: Exactly. With your best stuff for that one, or two innings, you can show your pitches and mix it up. But as a starter, you don’t want to show all your pitches that first time through. That’s why you wanna have those two pitches you can throw, a fastball and another pitch, that you can throw for a strike. And that way you can maybe show something else, but not use it where everybody will see it the first time through. So that’s the only difference to me. I made up a routine after that as a reliever, so after that it was real fine.
Petey: What we were hearing back here in New York when you were out in the AFL, was “Carson’s throwing gas out there, he’s throwing gaaaas!”
Petey: How hard were you throwing out there in the fall?
Rob: Actually I was surprised but the guy told me I had touched 100, like two or three times, you know.
Rob: Yeah man, I hit a hundred two or three times and I was sittin’ like 95 to like 98, out of the bullpen.
Rob: So, it was kinda amazing to me too, the highest I ever did as a starter was like 97, that was the highest I ever topped out at, and I was consistently like 93 to 95. Then after I went to the bullpen it went up a little bit. So it was kinda fun, you know guys coming up to me, “Hey you just joined the hundred-mile power club.” And me being left-handed, that’s kinda cool man.
Petey: It is very cool! I mean the only one I can think of throwing that hard from the left side is Aroldis Chapman of the Reds.
Rob: Exactly. Yeah that’s pretty cool.
Petey: Well what do you attribute the increase in velocity to? Is it just command? Or is it getting stronger, or something else?
Rob: Oh man, it’s probably a little bit of both, command and getting stronger. A good long toss program, and stretching good, and then just coming from that starter mentality to a reliever, where you come in as a reliever and your just going. It’s like, “here, here’s my best stuff, see if you can hit this.” And it’s just that adrenaline rush, and going back to the command, just a little bit of both.
Petey: Very cool. You really opened some eyes out there in the desert, which compelled the Mets to add you to the 40-man roster so you’d be protected in the Rule 5 Draft. Now less than a week away, is your first Big League spring training camp, you must be extremely psyched!
Rob: Yeah, Pete man, it’s real exciting, you know. It’s very, very exciting for me and also my family, my Mom, and my Pop. My family is so proud of me, when we got the news, I had just gotten back from Arizona. When you’re out there with those guys, it’s not just me it’s a whole bunch of guys from other organizations, they hear, and everybody talks about it but you really can’t focus on it. At the end of the day, we all know this is a business, and you can’t control it. All we can control is between those white lines. And when we get out there, and we’re on the mound, it’s our job to try and perform. That’s the only thing we can control. I mean I told a couple of guys, “Hey I want to be a Met. I want to contribute to that major league team, and hopefully make it with the team that drafted me.” Give the opportunity a chance, and just keep doing what got me moving through the organization, and I just feel like hey, give me the opportunity and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. And that’s what they did, and I was very happy when they called and told me “Hey, you deserve it and we protected you and put you on the 40-man.” I was real happy man.
Petey: That is so awesome, and that’s the thing, to just keep doing what you’re doing. So, are you ready to leave for Florida?
Rob: Man, I’m pumped, I’m psyched, I’m nervous. Not scared, just a little nervous cause you know it’s big league spring training, my first big league spring training, and just going to be around those guys. I’m going to be an open book. My goal and my focus is to really try to break with the team and earn one of those bullpen spots. It’s a dream I’ve always had, is to be a major league pitcher, and it’s right here now. I’m just focused on getting out there and getting the work in and trying to make the club man. And see what happens.
Petey: Have the Mets told you if they are making you a reliever permanently at this point?
Rob: As of right now, I think I’m considered a reliever, a bullpen guy. On some websites, and blogs, on a website there was actually a piece on me, along with some other guys, notable candidates for the bullpen of the New York Mets. I was up there with Josh Stinson, and Bobby Parnell, and D.J. Carrasco, and also Pedro Beato, and myself, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be pretty much in the bullpen for now. And who knows? Later on, you know, they know I’ve started for five years, who knows? Maybe they need someone for a Saturday start, they know they got somebody in the bullpen who can eat up some innings. I’m just happy man, Pete. I’m just excited about this year, and it’s a big year for me, and you know gettin my career really started. And whatever gets me there as a starter, a reliever, a long relief guy, whatever. I’m just pumped and ready to go and take this opportunity and run with it.
Petey: Your bio lists you as 6’3″ and 220. Is that still accurate?
Rob: Now I’m probably like 6’4″ and probably like 236, 238.
Petey: Ok, thanks. You told us a little about your fastball, could you detail some of your other pitches for us?
Rob: I’ve always considered myself as a power left-hander, I’ve had a strong arm since I was young and playing, and people said, “you’ve got a live arm kid.” So, I have a 4-seam fastball, which is like 93 to, well it’s up there now……
Rob: High 90′s, mid-90′s to high 90′s. And also I’ve been throwing a two-seamer the past two seasons, I’ve thrown a two-seamer there. The 2-seamer, I don’t use it much, but I do have it and I use it sometimes, and it’s probably like 86 to probably 90. And then I have a cutter. My 4-seam actually has a natural cut. But now I’ve gotten to where I throw a cutter, and my cutter’s pretty hard probably where my 2-seamer is. And I throw a change-up which I have been working on the past few seasons. Soften it up and it’s coming along, I’ve been working on that.
Petey: How is that coming along? What sort of movement are you getting with the change?
Rob: I got the right movement to it, it was just a little hard, you know? Too hard. What we’ve been working with this off-season trying to soften it up. I got out there and found a grip that helped me improve that. And my slider, this off-season I worked on trying to add some depth to it. Get more of that slider “bite” to it, instead of across the strike zone. So I want to get that down and in to a righty, and down away from a lefty. So we’ll work on that and just trying to put my repertoire together. I’ve always had pretty decent fastball command. I’ll just keep working at it and getting better, and get everything tight and ready to go.
Petey: Let’s go back to when the Mets drafted you out of Hattiesburg High School, MS, in the 14th round of the 2007 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?
Rob: Oh man, it was kinda crazy. I had a pretty good four years in high school, put up pretty good numbers and stuff. Going into my junior year, we won a state championship. And then people started coming up to me, “Hey Carse, I’ve heard scouts talking about you.” And I started going to showcases and it was like man, you’ll probably get drafted. And I was like, “Yeah that sounds cool.” But I didn’t focus on that, it was like, finish out my high school career, and worry about college. and try to go somewhere for school. Senior year came around and it was time for baseball, and I was talked about a lot then. And I ended up signing with a school. And then the scouts came around and said, “Hey man, there are some teams I think are going to take you in the draft.” I was like, “Yeah that’s kinda crazy, you know.” And when they contacted me heading into draft week, they were telling me, “watch the draft, you’re going to be drafted.” Me and my family were watching the draft at home, and when my name got called and the phone rang, and the Mets had told me that they drafted me in the 14th. I was like screaming and excited man, it was really exciting for my family. I was at a loss for words, and kinda speechless, and it was a great day. It was a really good day.
Petey: What was the name of the Mets scout who you were dealing with?
Rob: At that time I was being scouted by Benny Latino, who was working with the Mets at the time. But he’s with the Nationals now.
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?
Rob: Yeah man, my two high school coaches, my head coach Larry Knight, and my assistant coach Chris Cooley (Hattiesburg High School). And also my Mom and my family, you know, but those two probably within the sport, were the most inspirational in getting me to chase my dream today. I was told they seen something in me, something special. Actually my coach, Larry Knight he used to play professional baseball with the Braves, back when. He was a left-handed pitcher too. He told me I had something special, and they persuaded me to chase my dream, those two guys right there.
Petey: Since joining the Mets organization, has any pitching coach in the system been particularly helpful to you?
Rob: Yeah, there’s a few man, I learned some from a lot of my pitching coaches, I’ve had some great pitching coaches in my career so far. Starting when I first came in Robert Ellis, he was my first pitching coach. Then I went to Marc Valdes, Marc has been probably on three teams, in my five years, Savannah, St. Lucie, and this year double-A. Those two guys would be the two that I’ve learned the most from, that stand out so far.
Petey: You’ve been lucky enough to get to play for Wally Backman as your manager.
Rob: Yeah man.
Petey: More than likely he will be managing you at some point, if not all this year as well. Wally is one of the most popular Mets players of all time, and since winning a World Championship in 1986, Wally will always be loved by the fans and considered a Met Hero. What do you think of Wally as a manager?
Rob: Man he’s awesome man. Wally Backman is the Man.
Rob: He’s cool, not just because, you know……Wally’s a great manager man. He knows the game. He’s very smart. He’s a manager that will talk to you. If you kinda get down, and you go out there, he’s gonna be like, “Hey kid hey. Don’t show emotion.” He’ll probably talk to you like, “here, this is what you need to do. Try to do this, do this a little better.” You know? He’s one of those guys that’s very talkative, you can go in his office whenever and talk about anything. He’s going to keep it straight with you, keep it real and let you know the truth. He’s not going to tell you a bunch of lies, he’s a guy that’s going to let you know how it is. Cause he’s been there. He’s been in the big leagues. He knows what it takes to get there. And it’s just an honor man, to play under him as a player and him as a manager, and the whole coaching staff this year man, it was great. Wally’s a great manager man. And like you said, if I start at AAA this year, he’d be my manager again, he’ll be the triple-A manager.
Petey: Yeah, he’ll be at Buffalo this year.
Rob: Yeah that is going to be pretty cool man.
Petey: It must make you want to win that Championship in New York even more, when you think about what it means to the city, and baseball history.
Rob: Yeah it does. The other side is the fans are so funny though. And the fans want to see that from him. Cause he’s kinda famous for that too. Ever since he’s been managing in pro ball, you know, blowing his top with umpires. Last year I remember a couple times him getting thrown out at third and the fans all had their camera phones out, and they actually clapped when he got thrown out, so it was pretty cool playing with Wally this year.
Petey: Never a dull moment with Wally Backman as your manager.
Rob: Nope. No there’s not.
Petey: What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
Rob: I was an Atlanta Braves fan, you know growing up in Mississippi we didn’t actually have a major league team. And you know Atlanta is pretty close to us so I was always an Atlanta Braves fan. Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, all those guys, Brian Jordan, Javier Lopez, you know those guys, when they played I was always a Braves fan man.
Petey: 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?
Rob: In the Mets organization a lot of the guys call me lil’ C.C., and I actually love C.C. Sabathia, man, he’s my favorite pitcher in the game right now, and that’s who I look up to. I don’t try to copy him, because he’s great at what he do, but I want to be there one day in his position, in his shoes, as a great left-handed pitcher. I look at a lot of pitchers, C.C. is my favorite, but like David Price, Cole Hammels, Johan Santana, I could name a bunch man. I look at a lot of guys games, C.C. Sabathia is the one I’d have to say I’m closest to, same style pitching-wise.
Petey: Yeah, I can definitely see some similarities. How bout this? Pick one teammate, position player or pitcher, that really impressed you with his play last year at Binghamton, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.
Rob: Josh Satin man. When he got called up, like that’s one of my best friends in the game, we always stay in touch when the baseball season’s over. He’s an amazing guy on and off the field. A great teammate, great person, great ballplayer, smart guy, he knows the game. And he can hit man, and that call-up he got last year, he deserved it. Ever since Josh came to the organization, he’ll just always wow you man. He’s a guy who’s gonna go out and give it his all man, do whatever he can to give the team a chance to win. So he has to be the guy that I choose from the team last year that really impressed me.
Petey: We got to see a little bit of Josh at Citifield playing for the Mets at the end of the year, that was fun. Hopefully he’ll get called up again this year.
Petey: Maybe you two can be roommates on the road?
Rob: Yeah, haha, that would be cool man, that’s my boy, that’s my friend.
Petey: And to finish up Rob, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie?
Rob: I can’t really pick my favorite movie. I’m more of a action movie, drama, comedy, I really like sci-fi stuff, those would probably be my top four categories.
Petey: Favorite musician or band?
Rob: I like all types of music, I like country, I like rock n’ roll, heavy metal, I like all types of stuff. I actually got this new group I’ve been listening to, they’re called Quaker City Nighthawks.
Petey: No kidding?
Rob: Yeah man, it’s a pretty cool band man. And then there’s this group with our pitching coach from AA last year Mark Brewer. That’s my dude too. His son’s band, called Taddy Porter man. Taddy Porter and Quaker City Nighthawks are pretty cool bands, man. You should check em out.
Petey: I will, I definitely will. Last question, what’s your favorite food?
Rob: Oh man, I like any type of spicy food, seafood.
Petey: You like Cajun?
Rob: Cajun yeah, any kind of Cajun style food, I’m with it, you know. But I’d probably have to say like boneless hot wings, that’s probably my favorite.
Petey: Hey Rob, thank you so much for doing this interview with us!
Rob: No problem man, thank you for wanting to interview me.
Petey: It’s my pleasure! As far as this year goes, best of luck. I hope you’ll be pitching at Citi, Mets fans need to get a chance to see you pitch.
Rob: Yeah that sounds good Pete man, I’ll be talking to you soon.
I was trying to figure out the last time the Mets developed their own lefty-throwing fireballer, to anchor the back of the bullpen. And then it struck me, it’s been about 30 years. Randall K. Myers was the last powerful lefty closer-type the team has developed. Let that sink in. Just kinda swirl it around, and consider that it’s been exactly 27 years since a player like Rob Carson has been on the cusp of breaking into the majors with the New York Mets. I don’t know about you, but I just got goosebumps.
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About the Author: Peter Shapiro
The first time I went to Shea was not for a Mets game, it was for the Beatles concert there in August of '66. My first Met game was '67, a guy named Salty Parker was the interim-manager then. My first pennant race was 1969. As a 12 year-old that summer and fall, I managed to get to the park for 3 games. The first was the beginning of the Miracle which actually started on Tuesday July 8, 1969 with a day game against the Cubs. I was there a lot in '73. I saw games 3 & 5 of the 1973 NL Playoffs against the "Big Red Machine", from the upper deck behind home plate. It was from there that I witnessed the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, and the mayhem that ensued. And that sweet victory in game 5! I saw a couple of WS games at Shea that year against that legendary Oakland A's club. I was there in 1985 for every single game Dr. K pitched including his two 16 strikeout performances, and the day he one-hit the Cubs on an infield single and the Mets won 1-0. I loved being a Met fan in those days. Hopefully we are once again preparing to emerge from the darkness.
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