On Saturday, June 15, 2002, I had the opportunity to talk with promising young right-handed pitching prospect Mike Jones. Coming off of a solid effort the night before, Mike Jones talked about what it's like being one of the top pitching prospects coming out of high school, the advancement of his secondary pitches, the return of his fastball & his aspirations for the future.
Brewerfan.net (BF): First of all I have to ask, have you heard of the site Brewerfan.net?
Mike Jones (MJ): Actually I have. I think you guys did an interview with Brad (Nelson) & Jason (Belcher). I read up on that article as that kind of was my introduction to the website.
BF: Do you have a computer in your apartment, and do you go online?
MJ: Yeah, I have a laptop. Every now & then, check stats, see where we're standing as a team, other organizations, other players, stuff like that.
BF: This season you started out pretty well, your first several starts in fact were rather good. You had a couple of rocky starts after that, followed by reports that your velocity was down. What were the things that you were working through at that time, and how did you pitch so well & effectively even without your best stuff?
MJ: How I did it? I don't really know. I guess it's just one of those things where it's to be expected for your velocity to drop, so there's not much you can do about it. You deal with it. You can either get frustrated & get upset or you can go out there & you can learn to pitch, without your good stuff. That's when you learn the most about yourself, when you don't have your best stuff and you still gotta get guys out, you still gotta do your job. Just dealing with it & knowing that it's gonna be there & it's going to happen from time to time, and just doing the best with what you've got. That's where I started & how I tried to get through it all.
BF: Has your velocity bounced back since then?
MJ: A little bit, yeah. I think a little bit of it had to do with the cold weather, getting used to that, the tightness, trying to stay loose, stuff like that. And then also the second season, it's my first full season in the organization and in pro ball. That takes some getting used to, it's hard on the body, and stuff like that. It's to be expected, so hopefully I'll bounce back and there shouldn't be any problems.
BF: One of the biggest questions with you last year, during your high school season, everybody knew you threw the heat, but everybody was questioning your breaking ball and your changeup. How have those pitches developed as you've matured?
MJ: So far? They're coming along. They're not where I'd like them to be, if they'll ever be where I'd like them to be. I want to be in an All-Star some day, and I gotta get All-Star stuff. Where I start, I need to start now, and that's pretty much what I've done. I'm making sacrifices as far as stats go & personal achievements, just so I can know later on that I'll have those pitches. It's like what Tiger Woods did back when he won the Masters & he revamped his whole swing. Well you know I got through the draft, and I got drafted high enough. Now I want to be an All-Star, I want to make the major leagues, I want to do everything. So I need to get the type of stuff and those types of pitches to get there.
BF: That's interesting you say you're sacrificing stats and you're basically focusing in on those pitches even if you're getting knocked around, you're not worried about that right now?
MJ: Right, it's going to happen. That's what the minor leagues are for, is development. As much as everyone likes to win, and I love to win, I hate losing, nobody likes to lose, but sometimes I'm trying to work on things, & sometimes you may get hurt & hit, and you just need to deal with it, it'll come along.
BF: What do you throw as far as a breaking ball, do you throw a curveball or slider?
MJ: Curveball. Fastball, curveball, changeup. Working on the changeup & curveball together. Trying not to lose focus on the fastball, obviously that's my power pitch, that's what has worked in the past and I'm going to continue to work on that, so I don't want to put that on the backburner. But right now my focus is on my offspeed pitches.
BF: Do you mix up your fastball at all, do you throw a 2-seam a 4-seam?
MJ: I can. I've kind of drifted away from the 2-seam because sometimes the velocity will drop down because I don't have as much leverage on the ball. But occasionally if I want just a little bit of movement, so it moves away from the heart of the barrel or something like that, I can throw a 2-seam. Also my 4-seamer can move every now & then. Sometimes I don't even have control of it, it will move out of the zone or inside. It just happens.
BF: It just depends on the day?
BF: And you were recently named to the All-Star game, you were talking about you want to be an All-Star some day. You made a good step towards that because you were just named to the Midwest League All-Star game. How does that feel?
MJ: It's cool. It's an honor, I'm glad to be a part of it. Unfortunately for one guy he got hurt, so I'm going to go ahead & take his place. I'm pretty happy, I'm sorry it had to be that way, but I'm still fortunate that I'm in that position in that I was the next guy on the list to get called up. Nevertheless, I'm going to have fun & I'm going to enjoy it.
BF: Do you know if you're going to get some work in that game?
MJ: It's kind of up to the pitching coach, I know that I'll be available. I threw yesterday, and I'll be able to throw. It's up to the pitching coach I guess what I've been told there will be 15 guys on the pitching staff, it'll be up to him to how they're gonna throw.
BF: Have the Snappers made it be known how much you're ready to go, or how you'll be able to go whether it be an inning or 20 pitches?
MJ: I don't think so. I'm sure I'll find out as soon as I'll get there. They'll try to make a rotation, and whatever happens, happens. I'm just going to enjoy it. I'm glad to be in that atmosphere with all of those type of guys, and we're all going to be exceptional athletes, and I'm just glad to be there.
BF: You're going with your teammates Matt Yeatman, Brad Nelson, Chris Saenz & Dan Boyd. How does it feel to go with all of those guys?
MJ: It's awesome. I like them all, we all get along. I think it's going to be a fun road trip, 5 hour trip down there, so that'll be cool. I've had this whole season to get to know them, I live with Brad & Chris, so it's going to be fun.
BF: Do you like watching Brad hit? Are you going to watch the Home-Run Derby?
MJ: I love watching Brad hit. He's got sheer power that's for sure. Raw. When he makes contact with it goes a long way. That's fun. It's always good to know that sometimes when you're looking for that one big hit, this guy can play. One bat on the ball can give you that 1, 2-run (home run), depending on how many guys are on base.
BF: You were also a positional prospect, obviously your fastball made you a pitching prospect. A lot of people thought that you could easily have been a high pick as a center-fielder or a shortstop. Did you ever at any point want to be that guy on the field?
MJ: Oh, definitely. I grew up as a catcher. I was always offense-minded, and I always had that chance to hit, and I think that's one of the better parts of the game. I don't want to dig myself a hole because I'm a pitcher now so I gotta work on pitching & I've got to love pitching, and I do. But I think offense is a fun thing to watch and obviously from a fan's standpoint it's fun to be around and watch guys get hits and stuff like that, especially on your team. It's tough that now that I'm a pitcher I kind of shy away from the offense. I gotta shag during BP & watch other guys take hacks, that's tough. It would have been nice to go there, but I can't complain about the position.
BF: When I was talking with Brad Nelson & Jason Belcher when I was down here about a month & a half ago, it was cool talking with those guys because they talked about how much they reciprocated so much with one another in that they're such similar hitters and they could look at each others swings & they could notice weaknesses & stuff like that. Is there anybody on the staff such as a guy like Matt Yeatman that you're able to do this with?
MJ: Oh yeah, definitely. I think as far as the rotation goes, you know we may not all be friends but we're all starters and there's a certain camaraderie that goes with that. Everyday, there's a new starter, a new guy. Especially if we're in a 4-game series and you're the first guy out there to get the game, you can come back in the next couple of days and say