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November 11, 2007

Prospectus Q&A

Scott Radinsky

by David Laurila

Scott Radinsky knows all about rocking back and throwing. Not only did the left=hander have an 11-year big league career--mostly as a situational reliever for the White Sox and Dodgers--he is also a veteran of the punk rock scene. A native of Southern California, Radinsky has balanced baseball and music since being taken in the 1986 draft, pitching in over 500 games while fronting Scared Straight, Ten Foot Pole, and now his current band, Pulley. Radinsky also missed the 1994 season while battling Hodgkin's Disease. He joined the coaching ranks in 2005, and is currently the pitching coach for the Indians' Triple-A affiliate.

David Laurila: Along with sports, you grew up taking music pretty seriously. What kind of environment were you in?

Scott Radinsky: I had a regular family. My dad was always supportive; he even bought me some drums when I was in the seventh grade, and while he didn't really know how to play, he kind of taught me a little bit. I got into the punk thing when I was in high school. When I was in the tenth grade my father got diagnosed with lung cancer, and that kind of brought out a little rebellion and a little anger in me. It just seemed like that particular music scene was a good fit for me, and I got attracted to it and locked in. Part of it was because it was so non-commercial and do-it-yourself, that you actually felt like you had some say in what was going on. It was fun, and I was with a bunch of really good guys. Baseball took off for me around the same time. In eleventh grade I started pitching, and I had some success, so I started thinking, "Wow, this might be worth something someday."

DL: You were drafted out of high school in 1986. Where was your head at that time, and how did you view your future?

SR: I was 18 years old and had lost my father the year before--someone who had been supportive for pretty much my whole life, coaching teams and all that. It was a real blow, man. I was angry. And I was able to channel that anger--that fight--on the field with my arm. Then, musically, with the stuff we were playing, and the songs--it was just a natural fit. I was in kind of a maturing state, waking up to the fact that there was life after school. It was like reality for me, that I had to do something, and baseball could be a real opportunity. I didn't want to do anything else.

DL: Which players did you idolize growing up?

SR: Being on the West Coast, I was a big fan of Fernando Valenzuela. Dwight Gooden was pretty big at the time, too. You know, it was a little different back then, because we didn't have as much access to everything like we do now with the internet and ESPN. We didn't even have cable when I was growing up. But I followed the Dodgers, and I saw the teams that came through town to play the Dodgers.

DL: How about music?

SR: I liked everything that was fast, angry, loud, mean.

DL: Did you mostly listen to American bands?

SR: Yeah, mostly American bands, but a few English ones too. Bands like GBH, the Exploited, Discharge--some of the early- to mid-80s bands. I saw the ones that toured here, like the Toy Dolls and the Addicts, and once you see a band, sometimes that turns you on to them a little more.

DL: What does the term "LOOGY" mean to you?

SR: LOOGY?

DL: The acronym: Lefthander One Out GuY. Pitchers like Mike Myers.

SR: I've never heard that before. Seriously. But I was a LOOGY! I was a LOOGY for awhile.

DL: Are LOOGYs good things?

SR: I think they're the best things in baseball, man. I've said this--although I didn't really want to admit it while I was doing it--but if you take a look at most major league teams and tell me who the best hitter is, 90 percent of the time it's going to be a left-handed hitter. And if you're a LOOGY--as you would say--and you come in and get that one big out, more often than not it's a game-changer. It's a lot bigger situation than you sometimes realize when you're out there.

DL: Do you feel that pitchers who come in to face only one or two batters are a valuable use of a roster spot?

SR: Oh, yeah--if you've got the right guy. As a coach, I've sometimes wondered if you should label a 22-year-old a one-batter kind of guy, but I have a fondness for that role, and it's for a reason. The reality is that they never ask a right-handed pitcher how he got a right-handed hitter out, but they ask lefties how they got lefties out. It may only be one batter, but it might be the most important one of the game.

DL: You pitched one-third of an inning in your big league debut.

SR: I came in to face Greg Brock, who was with the Brewers, on Opening Day of 1990. He flew out to short, and then they asked me to get out of there before I got hurt. Jeff Torborg was my manager, and he and his staff did a great job of bringing me along. I was still pretty young, and they protected me and didn't overexpose me.

DL: You were a situational reliever for much of your career. Was there anything about you that screamed, "LOOGY"?

SR: I got to the point where I was facing righties as well, but I think it mostly came down to the fact that I could put lefties away. I was also on teams that had a right-handed guy in the bullpen who was getting paid to put games away. I did get to finish some games though, and got saves every year. There were actually a few years where I left spring training as the closer, although it was just temporary until they could find a right-hander to take the job; there just aren't a whole lot of left-handed closers in the game for some reason. I can't explain why, but it just seems like more of a right-handed role.

DL: How did you get guys out?

SR: I just threw strikes, trying to get ahead throwing fastballs. If I could expand the zone and throw a breaking ball, I'd do it, but for the most part I challenged hitters with something hard. Once I got into my eighth, ninth, tenth year I started pitching a little more, but I still used the same approach: here it is, try to hit it. You have to be aggressive in that situation, because if you fall behind you're setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be a strike-thrower; you have to get ahead in the count.

DL: You threw from a somewhat lower arm-angle. Was that part of the reason behind your success?

SR: Probably a little bit. I was around three-quarters, so I was a little deceptive. Deception is good.

DL: Is being mentally tough even more important for situational relievers, given that they're facing only one or two hitters, usually in a key situation?

SR: I think it can be a tough role, but personally I always wanted to face the next guy. I never got too caught up in how important the moment was--how important the individual hitter was--because I was thinking beyond just the lefty. In a selfish way, that was my goal. I wanted to prove that I could face righties too, so I never put pressure on myself, thinking, "Uh oh, this is a big out, and there are runners on first and third, and I have to face John Olerud, or Mo Vaughn, or whoever." But which relieving roles with guys on base aren't pressure?

DL: If the organization asks if one of the pitchers you're working with might be well-suited to that role, would his makeup play a role in your opinion?

SR: Absolutely. I'm a guy who believes that makeup often overshadows stuff. There are pitchers whose stuff is maybe a little short, but they have more makeup and can make things happen--they can handle those situations. And I think you have to exhaust every avenue when you develop players, and find out if they can handle things. You're never going to know unless you give them a chance. Sometimes a guy will reel off twenty straight outs, and his confidence will go way up. He'll make himself into a better pitcher.

DL: What do you see as your primary responsibilities as a Triple-A pitching coach?

SR: To prepare guys to stay in the big leagues, not just to get there. I think that a lot of guys have the ability and the talent--they just need a little guidance. There's not a whole lot of actual coaching. For me, it's a lot of conversation, guidance, and working on the mental approach. A lot of guys on this staff have been to the big leagues, and they've come back for a reason, and most of the time it's because of what's above the shoulders, not below them. I think it's a strong suit of mine to help them get back there, and for them to be ready to stay this time.

DL: Going back to your playing career, I read a quote from Jack McDowell regarding the first game ever played at new Comiskey Park, a 16-0 loss to the Tigers. McDowell said that afterwards a bunch of guys burned your uniforms at second base as an exorcism. Is that true?

SR: Was it my uniform? We burned something, and I guess it could have been mine. It's all a blur, but I do remember that we threw it down and had kind of a ritual--I don't remember if it was second base, or down the left field line. But Jack had his lighter fluid out and we burned somebody's jersey. If he said it was mine, it probably was.

DL: The following day you gave up a run in the 12th inning to take the loss. Was another of your jerseys burned after that happened?

SR: Shit, we'd have ended up burning the whole team's at that point!

DL: What was your best season in the big leagues?

SR: I'm not sure numbers-wise, but probably 1996. I spent 10 years with the White Sox, and in 1995 they non-tendered me. I had missed the '94 season due to cancer, and came back in '95, but it was kind of a rough year. I maybe wasn't quite as healthy as I'd end up being, and I didn't pitch all that well. So I ended up with the Dodgers, the team I had grown up with, and just getting a chance to put on a Dodgers uniform, and to be 100 percent...you know, when you go to a new team you always want to do well and show them that you've still got it. So I had a little extra incentive, and I put together three pretty good years there, starting in '96. Maybe playing at home was part of it. I definitely wanted to be there, and it showed.

DL: You had a somewhat unique warm-up routine. Can you talk about that?

SR: In the bullpen, I never threw with the catcher down, which used to shock people in a way. And I never threw off the mound--I'd just sort of crow-hop and get loose. I also didn't need much time. They'd call down on the phone and say, "Get Radinsky up," and by the time they hung up I could tell them I was ready. That was a reputation I had, that I could get ready in about three pitches.

DL: I understand that Jeff Torborg used to fire you up before you came into a game.

SR: Jeff used to give me a lot of confidence. He'd tell me to just throw the ball down the middle and let the ball do the work, and then he'd smack me hard in the chest! Now I find myself doing it on the mound. I always make sure to give guys a good smack, and I think that comes from him. I mean he would thump me in the chest, kind of as a wake-up, like, "Let's go!" Jeff was an emotional, adrenaline guy.

DL: Were you an adrenaline guy when you pitched?

SR: I'm definitely an adrenaline guy. And not to use it as an excuse, but later on, as time went on, I needed situations to bring it on. You know how closers sometimes relax when it's not a save situation? I thrived on situations where the tying run was on second, or a runner was on third so you couldn't let a ball out of the infield. Those situations just bring the absolute best out in you.

DL: Is walking onto the stage a similar feeling to walking onto the mound?

SR: Walking onto the stage is a little more nerve-wracking for me. With baseball, I noticed everything at first, but after that I was just kind of out there and it was just me, the hitter, the catcher and the umpire. With music it's tough, because you have a microphone in your hand and everybody is staring at you. The guys behind you all have guitars, or a drum set, to kind of hide behind, and all I have is this little microphone. I'm the guy who is kind of responsible to entertain, and sometimes I wonder if I have that in me. Fortunately, I've been in a band where we sort of just play a wall of music for an hour and we're all done. There's not a lot of rambling.

DL: Dave LaRoche told me that you once rode your bike from Seattle to Los Angeles after the season.

SR: Yeah, I'm still into riding my mountain bike. I don't know how many miles that trip was, but it took 44 days. I had a buddy with me, and we just pedaled down the coast. That's the type of thing you do when you're 20 and you're not married with a bunch of responsibilities.

DL: Where did you sleep?

SR: State parks, the beach. It was fun, man. It was an experience. We met a lot of people who were doing the same thing. It's a pretty popular ride.

DL: Did you bike much during the season?

SR: I'd bike to the field. Some days I'd put in 10 miles before I even got there, especially in Chicago, because it's such a great place to ride, out by the lake or downtown. I started to keep up with all the messenger guys, and that's how I learned all the streets down there. I didn't have a car my first two years in Chicago, so that's how I got everywhere. I enjoyed doing it, so I just kept it up.

DL: Going back to music, who are the best live bands you're ever seen?

SR: Minor Threat, the Descendents, and Lagwagon. I saw Minor Threat in LA in 1982. The Descendents--any time I saw them. Lagwagon are a bunch of friends of mine from Santa Barbara that we've done a lot of touring with. I really enjoy watching them play.

DL: Did you ever see the Minutemen?

SR: I saw the Minutemen. They were entertaining, but I don't think I ever got it when I was younger. I was looking for fast, rebellious music, and they were a little different. I mean, I've always liked the Minutemen--I love the Minutemen now--but I think I can appreciate them a lot more now than I did back then. We were actually on tour in '85 when D. Boone died--we were in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and we tried playing a Minutemen song. We played "Party with Me Punker, In a Winnebago," but it didn't go over very well.

DL: If you had to pick five CDs that you couldn't do without, what would they be?

SR: Just five? You know what, I've got over three thousand CDs, so there's no way I can narrow it down to five. I've got an iPod with so much stuff on it that I just play it on random, because I can listen to any of it. I can't pick a couple of songs, man. That's like asking, "Who's your favorite band?" How do you answer that? Or "Who's your favorite baseball player?" You can't do that. There are just too many.

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