Saturday, February 9, 2013

Buried Treasure Exclusive Interview: Zack Dodson

By now, it's pretty clear what this series is about.  This is the third installment of an interview series that poses questions to members of the Pirates organization and gets answers back.  First was pitcher Michael Colla.  Outfielder Mel Rojas Jr. followed him.  Next up, pitcher Zack Dodson. Enjoy after the jump.

Buried Treasure: You were drafted by the Pirates and you sign. Let's be honest, the Pirates aren't known for having a winning reputation lately. Did you have any worries about joining the Pirates organization?

Zack Dodson: No, not at all. I didn't know much about the Pirates before I signed other than the losing streak. I figured when I signed that there would be plenty of opportunity to get to the show and have a shot to show my worth. Since I've signed, I have gained a lot of respect for the organization and the amount of work and resources they put into development.

BT: Speaking of signing with the Pirates, what were the main factors that allowed them to sign you and prevent you from attending Baylor?

ZD: Money was obviously one of the biggest factors. Apart from that, it was pretty easy decision. My dream has always been to be a good big league pitcher. I actually didn't realize that college could be bypassed until my senior year when I started receiving interest from MLB organizations. When the Pirates gave me that opportunity, I leaped at it.

BT: Can you give me a scouting report on your pitch arsenal?

ZD: I throw a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, changeup, curve, and slider. I just started got my slider back last season, so I would say it's a below-average pitch. I struggled last season with my curve for the most part. However, the last month of the season, I really started throwing it better. At it's best, I would say it's a slightly above-average pitch. My 4-seam is average for a lefty. I have my days where it's really good and other days it's really bad; you could say it's an inconsistent pitch for me. I am just now starting to throw my 2-seam fastball again. Personally, I think it's going to be a good pitch. It doesn't have a lot of sink, but it does have pretty good late tailing action. My best pitch is my changeup. I am to the point where I can throw it for strikes and throw it to both sides of the plate. On some days, it's a strikeout pitch. I can pretty much do what I want with it.

BT: What kind of velocity can you get on your 4-seam?

ZD: As I mentioned, it's a bit inconsistent. When I'm healthy, I sit in the 89-93 range and can touch 94.

BT: You mentioned your changeup was, in you opinion, your best pitch. Do you have a favorite pitch or one you just enjoy throwing the most?

ZD: My favorite pitch is a fastball inside. I have always loved going in on guys since I was 13 or 14 years old. It doesn't matter if your fastball is 84 mph or 94 mph when you pitch inside. It's more of a statement pitch, showing the hitter that you are not scared to put one in there at anytime.

BT: In 2011, you pitched well for the West Virginia Power. Unfortunately you broke your hand, costing you over a month. Describe the frustration, if there was any, over the injury.

ZD: Yeah. Before I got hurt I had my best stuff. I was throwing the hardest I had been since high school and everything was going well. The injury was extremely frustrating, because it was a self-inflicted injury. The break wasn't bad. The hardest part was going from not throwing for three weeks to getting it going again. At the time, you don't think about the strength you lose in a short amount of time, but it adds up. There is nothing fun about being on the DL.

BT: Can you elaborate on “self-inflicted?”

ZD: Yeah. I punched a wall after and argument with a roommate. It was a stupid and immature.

BT: For the 2012 season, why do you think the Pirates sent you back to West Virginia after a fairly successful 2011 season. Did the broken hand and loss of development time factor in to the decision?

ZD: I think it was a combination of things. I think I showed on the field that I was ready for the next step in my career. I didn't have quite the same stuff that I had prior to the injury, although I was still pitching well. Ultimately, I think I went back to West Virginia due to my immaturity. Not only did I break my hand, but I had also failed my first drug test. I also didn't really show any sense of urgency during my rehab in Florida and during my rehab assignment at State College.

BT: Piggybacking on your answer, can you just tell me your side of the story on your 2012 season and your suspension

ZD: 2012 was a disaster of year for me both on the field and personally. That said, and this may sound crazy, but being suspended was a blessing in disguise. I was disappointed with having to go back to West Virginia and I let that dictate my emotions and work ethic. Early in the year I had good stuff, but I just seemed like I couldn't catch a break. As the season progressed, I started to lose sight of the big picture and I also started to lose hope. When I would put together a few good starts, I would get excited and try to do too much in the hope of receiving a call up. As a result, I would just fall on my face again. By the All-Star break, I had given up, which was a first. I quit working hard and I didn't care about taking care of my business and it showed. My stuff started getting worse and my arm ached all the time due to not taking care of it properly. Then we got drug tested in early July and I knew that I had failed the test. I checked a calender and figured that I had five or six starts till the suspension kicked in.

The day after I took the test, I started playing like I had nothing to lose. I started long tossing like I should have been the whole season. I worked out harder. I started taking care of my business. As a result, my stuff began slowly coming back, start by start. Each start, my stuff was a little better and a little sharper. By my last start, I was right on the cusp of being where I wanted to be. Then I got the call telling me what I already knew.

After I was sent home, I spent August working and it sucked. It really hit me when I had to see my family and tell them about the bad choices I had made. At the moment I realized I had become someone I wasn't raised to be. I was ashamed of what I'd done. I had let so many people down. I began working out again with my trainers, starting on October 1st. It's been the most productive offseason of my life. I am in the best shape of my life. I no longer do the negative things I used to do. I've been dieting. I've been taking care of my body and working my tail off. My motto has been, “How bad do you want it?”

Recently, my bullpen sessions have been going really well. My arm has never felt better. I've seriously never been so excited for the season. I have realized so much in the past seven months about myself and what I want. I can truly say that I feel that I've made significant strides in becoming a man.

BT: Can you tell me what drug you were suspended for?

ZD: I was suspended for K2/Spice. Synthetic Marijuana.

BT: What are your goals for this upcoming season?

ZD: My goal is to prove to myself that I'm a good pitcher. To prove that the mistakes I made last season are not who I really am. This season is about taking life as it comes at me and just working my tail off. I am confident that if I take care of the little things, then the other things will take care of themselves.

BT: Changing subjects a bit, of the home parks you've played in during your time in the Pirates organization, which was your favorite?

ZD: State College was awesome. They have the best field in the league and it's a great community. I really enjoyed my time there.

BT: The big and potentially overblown story of the past season outside of the major league collapse has been the Hoka Hey “circus.” Can you and will you comment on that?

ZD: I don't feel like those things were meant to be taken as literally as they were. I wasn't at instructs this past season, but the general philosophy has been in place for a couple years now. Hoka Hey is more about the man who said it and the situation in which he said. I can't recall the whole story correctly, but the point was to go into battle without fear.

BT: Do you feel the like the Pirates have ever put you in a situation where the risk of injury was unnecessarily high?

ZD: No

BT: Back to the 2012 season. Alen Hanson, Gregory Polanco, and Nick Kingham all had pretty solid seasons. Do you have insight on your teammates?

ZD: All three have tremendous potential. I have never seen someone as skinny as Hanson generate as much pop as he does. His hands are incredibly quick. Polanco is a great player as well. Both guys will do great things. I enjoyed getting to watch Kingham work this season. I learned by watching how he dealt with failure as well as success. He grew a lot this past season as a man and as a pitcher. I think he'll have a true breakout year this coming season.

BT: Do you have any information or stories you can tell me about any of your teammates? Here's your chance to poke fun at someone.

ZD: I do, but I can't share any of my good stories. They are really good, but I just can't share them. I'm going to have to pass on the poking fun part. I'm not really in a good position to be poking fun at any one.

BT: Will you be watching the Superbowl and do you have a prediction?

ZD: Yeah, I'll probably watch some of it. I want the Ravens to win because they beat the Pats, who beat the Texans. I'm a Texans fan.

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