Friday, February 15, 2013

Buried Treasure Exclusive Interview: Mike Jefferson

By now, it's pretty clear what this series is about.  This is the fourth 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.  Third was pitcher Zack Dodson. Next up, pitcher Mike Jefferson. Enjoy after the jump.

Buried Treasure: Before signing with the Pirates, the New York Mets drafted you. Why did you choose not sign with them and return to school?

Mike Jefferson: At the time, it wasn't the right path for me. It's nice to be drafted period, but I needed to go back to college one more year to not only get closer to finishing my degree, but to become a more rounded pitcher and baseball player as well.

BT: So you returned and finished your degree before being drafted by the Pirates?

MJ: Correct.

BT: The Pirates have the unfortunate reputation of being a franchise mired in losing recently. Did you have any worries about signing with the Pirates?

MJ: No worries at all. For me it was an opportunity to be part of something great. Hopefully I'll be able to make my way up to Pittsburgh in the next couple of years so that I can continue contributing to what the organization believes in.

BT: Talking about you as a player, can you describe to me your pitch arsenal?

MJ: I have a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a curveball, and a change up. I like to establish my fastball early on and work to my off speed from there.

BT: What type of velocity do you get on your four-seam fastball?

MJ: I believe I've been clocked anywhere in the range of 92-94 at the highest. I tend to be more consistently around 86-89 occasionally hitting the low 90's

BT: You mentioned establishing your fastball first then going to your offspeed stuff. Do you have a favorite pitch or a best pitch?

MJ: Well my favorite pitch is for sure my change up and you could say it's my best pitch. To me, there's nothing better than getting into the perfect situation to throw a changeup and executing it to perfection, while watching the batter swing-and-miss.

BT: Looking at your stats, you've given up a pretty high amount of homeruns. Has that just been bad luck? Is it something you can try and improve or is it just the type of pitcher you are?

MJ: I wouldn't chalk it up to bad luck. A lot of it has just been the type of pitcher I was earlier in my career. I've implemented some changes to my mechanics and hopefully that will produce more ground balls instead of pop flies.

BT: Are those changes you've made specifically offseason? Or just in your pro career thus far?

MJ: The changes all started back when I began my pro career at State College. I then got a complete overhaul this past season. The organization has been great with helping me to be more consistent. As you can probably see with the numbers I put up last year, the first half wasn't the best one for me. After having a few things click for me in my delivery, the results seemed to get much better.

BT: Back to your stats, you pitched very well against right-handed batters last year as a southpaw pitcher. What lead to that unusual success, if you can identify anything? 

MJ: It would more likely than not be my changeup. I know the traditional thing is for left handers to get other left handers out. For me that hasn't been the case and I owe it all to my ability to throw a change up whenever I want. Of course, I'm striving to get left handers out just as effectively but that's part of the chess match. 

BT: In your career so far, you've been shifted from the bullpen to the rotation and vice-versa multiple times. Have the Pirates informed you about their long term plans for you? Do you have a preference?

MJ: I haven't heard anything of their long term plans but to me, it hasn't really ever mattered. I'm comfortable starting or relieving and I'm sure the organization knows that. I really don't have a preference either. Just give me the ball when it's my turn and let me do my job.

BT: Have the Pirates indicated to you where you will start the 2013 season? If so, where? If not, where do you expect to start.

MJ: I haven't gotten any indication on where I'll be this upcoming season but I hope to start in Bradenton and have a chance to keep moving up. It ultimately isn't my decision on where the organization sees me at so all I can do is just work hard and perform.

BT: What have you been doing this offseason to prepare for the season? What are your goals for this season?

MJ: I've been working out, throwing, and running a lot. I don't get the luxury of a personal trainer so I have to rely on the program the organization has laid out for me and my experience to get ready for the season. My main goal for this season is to start fast. My second halves have been pretty good and If I could only make my first halves of the season as good then I would be very happy

BT: Of the home parks you've played in during your time in the Pirates organization, do you have a favorite one?

MJ: I really enjoyed playing at State College. The locker room was really big and the stadium was nice. However, I did like the home like feel to Appalachian Power Park in West Virginia as well.

BT: Speaking of the West Virginia Power, that team had a plethora of prospects with big seasons, notably Alen Hanson and Gregory Polanco. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on those two?

MJ: Gregory and Alen are two players with some unbelievable baseball skills. It's was a lot of fun to watch them both grow as players, and as men through out the season. Even though the language barrier made it tough to talk to each other sometimes, I feel like they both mean well and have very bright futures ahead of them.

BT: Any other guy that played for the Power that stood out to you? Maybe an under-the-radar guy.

MJ: Kirk Singer comes to mind when I think about that. He works hard everyday to get better and I think he's a guy that could be a big help in Pittsburgh.

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?

MJ: All I can say is that the organization has gone above and beyond for the benefit of the players in the organization. Not just as ball players, but as men too. The Hoka Hey experience was another case of the organization going above and beyond for their players for what they believed would benefit them the best.

BT: Okay, do you feel like the Pirates ever put you in a situation that had a unnecessarily high risk of injury.

MJ: Never

BT: Do you have any stories about your teammates? Here's your chance to poke fun at someone.

MJ: Well it's kind of an unwritten rule in baseball about the sanctity of the clubhouse. All I can say is that the guys I get a chance to play ball with are incredibly entertaining.

BT: Off the topic of baseball, you attended and played baseball for Louisana Tech. The football had a great season and finished the season with a record of 9-3.  They also managed to beat two BCS schools. Any comments on that?

MJ: They had an incredible year. I was very happy to see them have such a good season. I was very disappointed that they couldn't find a Bowl game to attend.

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