Recently I was given the opportunity to interview Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Casey Erickson. Erickson was acquired by the Pirates in June 2009 in the Eric Hinske trade, which also brought catching prospect Eric Fryer. The Pirates agreed to pay the rest of Hinske’s 2009 salary to the New York Yankees to get Erickson and Fryer in the deal.
Erickson posted a 1.17 ERA after the trade in 38.1 innings, with a 32:6 K/BB ratio in West Virginia. Erickson started the 2010 season with the Bradenton Marauders in high-A. So far this season in Bradenton he has a 3.02 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched, with a 31:12 K/BB ratio.
Tim: The Pirates agreed to pay Eric Hinske’s 2009 salary in order to get you and Eric Fryer in the trade that brought you to the system. Is there any added pressure to perform knowing the Pirates paid extra to acquire you from New York?
Casey: That’s not really something that I think about. I just worry about trying to improve and some day helping the Pirates at the Major League level. I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity that I have been given and I hope to make the most of it.
Tim: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed between the approach the Pirates take with their minor league players, compared to the approach the Yankees took with their minor league players?
Casey: The Yankees minor league system is different in that they are not too worried about every single guy. They obviously are big player in free agency and don’t need as much production from their minor leaguers. The Pirates are the opposite, and that’s where the attention to detail and every guy comes in.
Tim: What pitches do you have in your arsenal? Which pitch is your “go-to” pitch?
Casey: I throw a sinker, slider, and a change up. My sinker is my best pitch, and in a jam thats what I’ll go to.
Tim: You’ve been pitching more frequently out of the bullpen in the last year. How does your approach change in this role?
Casey: Obviously it’s different, but I think the bullpen suits my style pretty well. Coming in to a game in a moment’s notice, there’s no guess work. You just go and try to get guys out anyway you can. Starting is so scripted and I would rather just come in and let it go then try to conserve pitches and go deep into a game.
Tim: The Florida State League is viewed as one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the minors, according to park factor statistics. However, McKechnie Field has been viewed as a hitter’s park. What is your opinion on the park factors? Do you agree with the notion that McKechnie is more hitter friendly, while the other parks are more pitcher friendly?
Casey: You know I don’t hit, so it’s tough to say what is or isn’t a hitters park. Our team can swing it pretty well, so maybe that’s a factor in the statistics. I think if a pitcher makes his pitches consistently down in the zone, the park doesn’t matter.
Tim: Several Bradenton hitters have struggled on the road, while seeing a lot of success at home. Most of the Bradenton pitchers haven’t seen the same drastic home/road splits. Why do you think the Bradenton pitchers have avoided the drastic home/road splits that the hitters have seen?
Casey: That’s something that I simply can’t answer. I know our hitters work as hard as anyone and any struggles they have road or otherwise are short lived. As a team we try to win every game, and it doesn’t matter who gets it done, hitters or pitchers, as long as we win.
Tim: What are some of the things you’ve been working on since being acquired by the Pirates?
Casey: Just about every minor leaguer works on the same thing, and that’s consistency. Right now I’m trying to iron out my mechanics and learn as much as I can from our great coaching staff, especially our pitching coach Wally “the Whip” Whitehurst.
Thanks to Casey for taking time to do the interview, and thanks to his agent, Michael Bonanno of Oak Sports Management for setting up the interview.