Matt Benedict was drafted in the 30th round of the 2011 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Benedict, a right handed pitcher, was a senior out of Western Carolina University, and signed quickly after the draft with the Pirates. He was placed in the State College rotation, where he made the start for the home opener. Benedict did well in his pro debut, pitching three perfect innings with two strikeouts. He followed that up with another strong start, going 4.1 innings, and allowing one unearned run on five hits, with no walks and one strikeout. I spoke with Matt a few days after his first start, talking about the draft, and about his pro career to date.
1. Did you do anything special to follow the draft?
Not really. I just sat at home all day and watched draft tracker. It was a pretty long day.
2. Did you have any idea that the Pirates were going to draft you, or have any calls from any other teams?
To be quite honest, I wasn’t really sure. I talked to Greg Shills a few times, but other than that, I really had no idea where I’d end up.
3. How did you find out? Did you get the call from them?
I had stopped watching the draft tracker, and my dad saw it come across the screen, and he came over and told me I got drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and that was pretty cool. And then Greg called me a few minutes later.
4. You signed very quickly, due to being a college senior.
I figured I was a college senior, I don’t really have any leverage (laughs). I just wanted to play baseball. That’s all I want to do. I had no trouble just going as soon as I could, and signing my name.
5. You got the first home start of the season here in State College. How did you feel it went? What was your approach?
Just go out there, and just not do anything different than what I normally do just because it’s a different level or it’s a sellout crowd, or it’s the first game or whatever. Just try to go out there and relax, and just stay on my game, and throw strikes, and let people hit ground balls.
6. Any difference that you noticed between the talent level you were facing at Western Carolina, and the talent level here?
There’s definitely some aspects of it that are pretty different. We had pretty decent talent in our conference, but people in this league are obviously very talented, and the guys on this team are very talented from top to bottom. It’s good to be around people like that.
7. Looking at the stat line, it doesn’t look like you had any trouble, but was there anything you could get away with at the college ranks that didn’t really go over as well here?
Like you said, it was a good day, so it’s kind of tough to say. I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks. If anything, I’m more comfortable here just throwing against wood bats, and not being afraid of contact at all.
8. What kind of arsenal do you have?
Predominantly I throw my sinker. I throw it a lot, and just pitch to contact. I throw a cutter and a changeup as well, and just use those off my sinker. I throw those a lot, and then I have a bigger breaking ball too that I throw every once in awhile, just as a different look, just to get a hitter off my other pitches.
9. How are you adjusting to the pro atmosphere? Is it a big change from the college atmosphere?
It’s definitely a different feeling on the team. People have different ways of going about day to day, practice, games, whatever. Everyone’s a lot more business like, and focused. I definitely like that aspect, and I like the competitive nature of professional baseball compared to…I mean, it’s competitive in college, but it’s not the same for everybody.
10. What are your personal goals going forward this year and going forward in your career?
Hopefully one day to reach the big leagues. Other than that, I just want to reach my full potential, and just be competitive. I enjoy competing, so whatever I can do to get better so I can beat hitters whenever I get the chance to go out there. That’s pretty much what I want to do.
11. Any specific adjustments you’re working on early in the process?
Not yet. I’m definitely looking forward to working with the coaching staff, and working with everyone. Seeing what they can do to help me become a better pitcher. Increase my velocity, more consistent, better off-speed. I’m pretty excited about that, getting the opportunity to make changes.