March 24, 2003
Spring Training Q&A
Brooks KieschnickContinuing his series of articles from Spring Training in Arizona, BP correspondent Craig Elsten sat down recently with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Brooks Kieschnick. There they discussed the frustration of being sent down to the minors, the transition from college, and what it takes to be successful on both sides of the ball.
Baseball Prospectus: Are you surprised by the coverage you have received in your bid to make the Milwaukee Brewers as both a pitcher and a pinch-hitter?
Brooks Kieschnick: Actually, I am. It's great, and I appreciate it, but it's one of those deals where I'm lucky enough to do what I love to do, and that's play baseball, and also lucky enough for Milwaukee to let me both pitch and hit. The coverage is nice, but I just feel lucky in that aspect.
BP: You've been a part of a number of Spring Training camps, and had a number of different chances to break camp with a team, but you've often wound up starting a season in the minors. How frustrating is it to gear up all winter to make a team, only to find out you're being sent back down?
BK: It's pretty heartbreaking, and it never gets any easier. You come into Spring Training with high hopes every year, and I've only wound up breaking camp (with the major league team) one year, and that was my first big league camp. Every camp since, it's been tough. (You hear) 'hey, we want you to go down and work on this, hey, we want you to get a little better at doing that." It's a tough thing.
BP: Back at the University of Texas, you were a three-time College All-American, both as a pitcher and as a hitter. Back then, did you ever harbor the hope of doing both on the major-league level?
BK: I never thought it would be possible, and I never thought a team would...if you look at the past 20 or 30 years, nobody's ever been allowed to even try it. That's why I thank the Milwaukee Brewers for even giving me a chance to give it a whirl, and hopefully things will work out.
BP: Sitting in the dugout over the years, how many times have you wanted to get into a game and pitch?
BK: There were times even when I first signed where I would come up to the manager and say: "Hey, if you get a blowout game, would you let me pitch?" Of course, they wouldn't let me do it. Then, later on, as I got a little older and played a little longer, there were some blowout games in the minors where I did get to pitch. It was fun, but I never remember being so sore pitching in a college game as I was after pitching in a blowout game!
BP: This winter, did the decision to try and make a team as a pitcher change the way you prepared physically?
BK: Oh, absolutely. This is the first off-season where I actually had to prepare as a pitcher. Yes, I still did some swinging and did things to get ready as a hitter also, but mainly, I had to prepare my body to pitch every day.
BP: What has (Brewers manager) Ned Yost said to you so far this spring?
BK: Just good job, keep up the work, and that's basically it. That's kind of I want to hear. I don't want to hear: 'Hey, we're going to send you down,' or 'Hey, we're going to keep you here.' I'm just going to keep going out and doing my business the right way.
BP: Mentally, is there a difficult adjustment switching back and forth from the mindset of being a pitcher or a hitter?
BK: I don't think so. Actually, I think it might help me. When you go out there as a pitcher, you're focusing and really concentrating on spots. You're thinking, "I need to throw the ball in this spot," or "I need to throw this particular pitch in this count", so when you go up there at the plate, it helps your mind think about (those strategies) also.
BP: You know, Brooks, you might be setting a dangerous trend. Covering the Padres, I know Mark Kotsay was a pretty good pitcher during his Cal State Fullerton days. Will other guys be following in your footsteps?
BK: (Laughing) I don't know...it would be nice to see. I've known a lot of guys who were able to pitch and hit in college and be successful at it, so maybe some teams will start looking at it, I don't know.
BP: Realistically, though, you're fighting for a roster spot as the 24th or 25th man on this ballclub. You've been down that road a number of times before. If you're able to succeed as a pitcher and a hitter, you become both the 24th and 25th man, and you give the manager some real versatility.
BK: I hope so. That's what I'm going for. Not only does it give me a chance to play, but it gives the manager some flexibility with players.
Craig Elsten works for KOGO Radio in San Diego as the pregame/postgame co-host for the Padres. He has also served as the Cactus League play-by-play voice of MLB Radio, and regularly beats Joe Sheehan in Strat-O-Matic baseball. He's filing a series of articles from spring training in Arizona over the next few days. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.