MMO Exclusive Interview: Mets Pitching Prospect Matt Budgell
The phone rang, and it was Mets RHP Matt Budgell who was relaxing with some of the other players in their hotel room at Port St. Lucie after completing their Tuesday workouts at extended spring training. Matt was the Mets 10th round pick in last years MLB draft, and was nice enough to spend a little time answering questions for all of us here at MMO. We spoke for about twenty minutes as Matt told me how he is looking forward to beginning his first full professional season as a Mets pitcher. We discussed what it was like getting drafted by the Mets, his first impressions of professional baseball, and his continuing development as a pitcher. Keep reading to see what he had to say:
Petey: Hi Matt, thanks so much for taking the time out to do this interview for our readers and staff at MetsMerizedOnline.com.
Matt: My pleasure.
Petey: I’d like to start by asking about when the Mets drafted you out of Woodbridge High School in Irvine, CA, in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Player Draft. How did you first hear about it, and what was that feeling like?
Matt: Well, I was anticipating getting drafted, I wasn’t sure really whether it was going to be the Mets or not. I’d been in contact with my scout Chris Becerra, who’s a great guy. We’d been in contact all day and I was actually watching the draft on the computer on MLB.com, and when they called my name the moment itself was indescribable honestly, it was a dream come true. Probably the most proud moment of my life to this point. Other than that, there’s not much I can say that really describes what I was feeling. It was a moment that I’ll always remember.
Petey: Did you have an idea what round you might be taken in?
Matt: Before the season of my senior year I was thinking top ten, but then when I didn’t pitch the last four or five weeks of my senior year, I was working out of the bullpen, I didn’t really throw that many innings, I wasn’t sure if I would get drafted before 15 or 20. But once draft day got closer I started talking with my scout with the Mets, he was pretty reassuring that I’d be picked up relatively early.
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?
Matt: Yeah that would be my father Gregg, he’s been my coach from even before I started playing organized baseball. He was having me throw a ball around the house when I was three years old and swinging a bat. He was my coach up until high school, and a club coach through high school, and he’s definitely been a number one influence in getting me to want to be the best baseball player I can be. And you think I could throw in a thank you for my best friend Anneliese Droetti for helping me get through a lot of struggles to get to where I am today?
Petey: Of course.
Matt: Thank you very much, she’s a very important person in my life as well as my career. I just want to make that known.
Petey: No prob, hey I saw an interview you did last summer where you described your arsenal as a 2-seamer, curveball, and change-up, is that right?
Matt: Yeah I like to work off the two-seam mostly, ever since I got picked up by the Mets though they’ve been really, really encouraging that I command a four-seam as well as the two-seam. It’s really big in our organization. So now I mix in the four-seam quite a bit and the two-seamer is kinda shifted into more of a sinker. That’s what I like to get contact with. I’ll throw the four-seam when I got two strikes on a guy, and I’m not trying to get too much of the plate, I’ll throw the four-seamer up and out and try and get them to chase.
Petey: Do you have any idea on the speed of the two pitches?
Matt: The four-seam is about 88-91, and the two-seam’s right in the same area. My two-seam feels more comfortable coming out of my hand than the four-seam does. I have kinda small hand so it comes out just as well.
Petey: When your pitching, and your “on” do you find you get a lot of ground balls with the two-seamer?
Matt: Yeah I’m definitely a ground ball pitcher. With the two-seam it’s tough to square up, which is why I favor it so much. But I’m definitely a ground ball pitcher.
Petey: Could you detail your curveball and your change-up for us?
Matt: Sure. The curveball, is a pretty big breaker, it’s about 76-80 mph. It’s got a pretty sharp break, about a one to…it’s not quite a twelve to six, it’s more like a one to seven, so it’s not quite a slurve but it’s not quite a twelve/six either. The change-up I’ve actually been working on since I….I wasn’t actually sure how it was going to be after surgery on my hand. But it’s about 80-82 mph, got some pretty good movement, it’s got some good sink on it to my arm side. And the arm-speed on my change-up is on point with my fastball.
Petey: You referred to surgery. When was that and what needed to be done?
Matt: I had a freak accident in February, where I got my hand slammed in a car door. It wasn’t a major surgery, just a minor break in my fifth metacarpal which is your pinkie bone in your hand.
Petey: Ouch. Yeah I broke the one right next to that, the fourth one, playing goal in soccer.
Matt: Ok yeah, no fun.
Petey: Not at all. So it’s good-to-go now?
Matt: Yeah it’s feeling a hundred percent, if something hits it obviously that doesn’t feel too good, because there’s four screws and a metal plate in there.
Matt: But it was a minor surgery, just to make sure that everything healed exactly correct, and there were no skewed angles in my bones. But Dr. Weiland up in New York did a fantastic job with the surgery, and here we are two-months later gettin’ back at it.
Petey: After signing with the Mets last July, you got your feet wet making your debut in the Gulf Coast League, tossing 15 and two-thirds innings. Was pro-ball what you expected? What was the most surprising thing about professional baseball that first season coming out of high school?
Matt: As far as a pitching standpoint goes, I would say that the biggest surprise I had was the amount of free swingers that were in the Gulf Coast League. A lot of guys swinging at pitches you normally wouldn’t see guys swing at, at a high school showcase or a place like that. And I’d say the biggest surprise I had as far as a non-game performance goes would be how consistent the routines are. Every morning we’ve got our throwing program, and everything is perfectly on-point, on schedule and effective.
Petey: It’s a way of life now.
Matt: Oh yeah, now it’s a job, you know?
Petey: Yup, exactly. What is the most important thing you have learned about pitching so far in your professional career?
Matt: So far the most important thing I’ve learned in my professional career is “get strike one.” First pitch strikes are the biggest thing I’ve learned. If you don’t get strike one, and your throwing behind on a batter, you’re in a big hole right away.
Petey: That is awesome to hear. The guy who is known to all Mets fans as “The Franchise” has always said that throwing the first pitch for a strike was the most important thing in pitching also. And that is HOF Mets pitcher Tom Seaver.
Matt: I don’t know if my name belongs in the same sentence as him.
Petey: You guys do share the same pitching philosophy, and that’s not a bad thing.
Matt: Well it’s the most important pitch in the at-bat, something they are trying to emphasize out here.
Petey: What part of your game are you working the hardest on right now?
Matt: Right now I’m just working on getting my mechanics back and you know, and getting comfortable on the mound again. Today was my first bullpen since surgery.
Petey: How did it go?
Matt: It went real well, I threw 21 pitches and 16 for strikes, so that was really good for me to see coming back. I wasn’t really sure what to expect honestly, so that was definitely a positive no doubt about that.
Petey: What coach or coaches are you working with these days who have been helpful to you?
Matt: Out here in extended spring, the coaches have been bouncing around but Guy Conte has been a really big help for me, and also Marc Valdes.
Petey: Guy Conte was the bullpen coach for the Mets for many years.
Matt: Yeah exactly, he’s an amazing, amazing coach, and he’s got nothing but good instruction for you, and every time he opens his mouth I try and listen to everything he says.
Petey: Oh yeah, you know who really loved Guy, and working with him when he was with the Mets was Pedro Martinez. They are very close.
Matt: Yup, he always refers to Pedro, Pedro is his prodigy. I mean I was born in Boston so I hate to say it but I was born and raised a Red Sox fan, and I always watched Pedro and always thought he was the man everyone wants to be on the mound. He was dominant, and intimidating, and pretty much the best in the game for a while there.
Petey: Oh yeah he sure was. He sure was. Who was your favorite Red Sox player?
Matt: My favorite Red Sox player was Nomar because when he was on the Red Sox I was a young ballplayer myself, and I always aspired to be just like Nomar. I didn’t start pitching ’til my junior year, I was a shortstop up until then so I emulated everything he did and tried to be just like Nomar. I wore number 5 from tee-ball, until my first year of professional baseball.
Petey: Wow that’s great. 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?
Matt: I’d honestly have to say Tim Lincecum would be the closest thing because he’s rail thin and I’m rail thin. And not many people expect guys that are small in stature like us to be throwing with velocity and getting professional hitters out. But here we are.
Petey: That’s very interesting. As a matter of fact I was going to ask you about that your listed as 6’2″ 150 lbs. Have those numbers changed at all?
Matt: Yeah, at weigh-in this year I’m about 6’3″ and I weighed in at about 158 lbs., so if you wanna put down 155, 160, that works.
Petey: If I could, I’d like to ask you a little bit about what’s going on there with extended spring training. Any pitchers there that have really opened your eyes with their stuff? Who looks good to ya?
Matt: I’d have to say a fellow high school signee, Robert Gsellman, also a southern California native, he’s from L.A., he was our 13th rounder last year. He’s looking phenomenal, he worked his ass off in the off-season, and it’s definitely showing right now. He’s throwing the ball real well. A couple of the other guys are throwing the ball real well. Jake DeGrom, he just left extended, he got moved up to Savannah.
Petey: He pitched last night, made his first start.
Matt: Did he now?
Petey: He had a perfect game through 4.2 IP. Then he gave up a double, then got out of the fifth. He ended up going a total of 6.2 IP, he gave up just the one hit, no runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts.
Matt: Wow. Good for him!
Petey: Yeah! He made quite a splash.
Matt: That’s not a bad welcome back.
Petey: No he created a buzz on our website today. That’s funny though because I actually had a question here for you about Gsellman, and some of the other crop of high school right-handers that the Mets took in last years draft. There’s Gsellman, and you, and Christian Montgomery, John Gant, and Craig Missigman.
Matt: Yup those guys are….that exact group of people you just named, are all sitting in my hotel room right now, playing video games. Us high school guys we stick together, we push each other, we’re a support group out here. We’re the youngest guys out here so we got to stick together.
Petey: Definitely, that’s great to hear. Well when you get off the phone, I want you to tell all those guys that as soon as I finish up this interview with you, I’d like to do the same kind of Q&A’s with all of them.
Matt: Yeah sure, definitely.
Petey: Since I am assuming there are none in the room, have you gotten any impressions of the position players that are in camp? Like Joe Tuschak or Jeff Diehl?
Matt: Tuschak and Diehl have actually had some nagging injuries. Diehl has a bad lower back that has been keeping him side-lined for quite a bit of extended. He’s only played in about six or seven games out here. And then Tuschak he’s sittin’ down right now with a bad hammy. He hasn’t played much but Tuschak is doing alright, he’s been swinging the bat ok and working hard, and we’re all here for the same reason so, it’s good to see the young guys bustin’ their asses.
Petey: And I’m sure there’s been a Nimmo sighting. What do you think of last years number one?
Matt: I think Nimmo has got the most potential of any of us out here. He struggled at the beginning of camp swinging the bat, and definitely he’s taken a lot of pitches, but lately he’s been swinging more and being more aggressive, he’s starting to show people. There were some doubters there for a while, and some nay-sayers, but he’s definitely starting to shut their mouths a little bit with his bat and he’s starting to swing it real well.
Petey: I don’t suppose they’ve indicated to any of you guys where your going to be starting the season yet? I’d imagine they’ll wait ’til the last possible second for that huh?
Matt: It’s a crapshoot. I’m pretty sure we’re taking 17 arms to Brooklyn, and 17 arms to Kingsport. So we’re all trying to write tickets to Brooklyn.
Petey: I hope so cause I get to see a ton of Brooklyn games in person, but I don’t get out to Kingsport, TN very often.
Matt: I don’t blame you, it’s not a very touristy area from what I hear.
Petey: Well to finish up Matt, just a little personal info not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie?
Matt: My favorite movie? If I had to pick a favorite movie that I could just sit down and watch anytime, it would probably be either Superbad, or shoot….I’d say Shawshank Redemption, that’s a good movie.
Petey: I love that movie. If someone asked me that question, that would be my answer, followed closely by Finding Nemo.
Matt: Yeah it’s phenomenal, I love Morgan Freeman, he’s an unreal actor.
Petey: If there was ever a movie that came close to perfection, that would be the movie.
Matt: Yeah, no doubt about it, it gets ya every time.
Petey: Yeah it does, how about favorite musician, or band?
Matt: Favorite musician or band? Woooo that’s tough too. Me coming from the west coast I’m a big Hip-Hop guy. I love my Hip-Hop so right now I’d say I’m really into a group called ASAP Rocky. And I like my Drake, I like anything that gets me moving around a little bit, I’ll listen to.
Petey: Very cool. And one last question, how about your favorite food?
Matt: Favorite food? Ohhhh man, favorite food is anything mom cooks is my favorite food.
Petey: There you go! Good answer. Gotta keep mom happy.
Petey: Hey Matt, I’ve taken up enough of your time, thank you so much! I hope they punch that ticket to Brooklyn for you soon, and I’ll get to meet you in person one of these days.
Matt: Yeah of course, I look forward to it. Hopefully you can come down to Citifield. We can do a post-game interview after my major league debut.
Petey: Oh I would love that. Absolutely, you can count on it.
Matt: Awwright, right on.
Petey: Alright, say hi to the rest of the guys for me, and I’ll send you a link to the article when it posts.
Matt: Alright Peter I appreciate it.
Petey: Take care Matt.
Matt: Thank you very much. Bye bye.
I really had an interesting time talking to Matt, he’s a great guy, and I hope you enjoyed reading the interview. We’ll check back in with him once the season is underway and get a progress report. In the meantime, let’s all of us here at MetsMerizedOnline wish him the best of luck.
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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