Wes Littleton is bringing his sidearm delivery, and his downbeat, to Boston. Acquired from the Rangers in a November trade, the 26-year-old Littleton brings more than just a sinkerballer’s pedigree with him to the Red Sox bullpen: he also brings a love of music. A deejay in his spare time, the Cal State Fullerton product has a record of 5-3, with a 3.69 ERA and three saves in 80 big-league appearances, and he has one of the best GB/FB ratios in the game. Littleton talked about his two passions while he was in Boston for the team’s recently completed rookie development program.
David Laurila: What is the baseball-life story of Wes Littleton?
Wes Littleton: I think I started a little late; I was probably seven or eight years old when I first started. Basically, I’ve been playing baseball ever since. I played basketball in junior high, but I didn’t make the team, so I dropped that and stuck to baseball. I lived in Oceanside [California], although I went to Vista High, and it was very important to me, even though my dad didn’t play baseball. I wasn’t the lone African-American kid playing, but there were only about four or five of us. But at that point, I was just a kid and it was fun; I liked playing baseball. That was pretty much it. I just liked getting outside and meeting new people, and being able to go out there and play my heart out.
DL: How about college and getting drafted into pro ball?
WL: I went to Cal State Fullerton from 2001-2003, and then got drafted in 2003 in the fourth round. Actually, I got drafted out of high school, in the seventh round, by the Expos-now the Nationals-but I didn’t sign; I went to college. So, I got drafted by the Texas Rangers in ’03, and played for them for the past, I guess it was five years. I got some big-league time with them, and more recently I got traded, about three days after Thanksgiving, over here to Boston.
DL: What is the story behind your arm angle?
WL: Two and a half, maybe three years ago, I was having a little trouble with my low arm-angle slot; I was walking a lot of people, so they said, ‘let’s try dropping you down.’ At first they tried me with a submarine delivery, and it worked out for a little bit, but I couldn’t quite feel the right release point for it so they moved to like a traditional side-arm guy. Basically, it was just another arm slot from my normal arm slot; I’m like a low three-quarter guy, and now I’m like a little below side-arm. That gives me more sink and more effectiveness against right-handers; I usually get a lot of ground balls. That’s how it all happened. It was just a suggestion from the pitching coordinator in Texas, Rick Adair, who I think just went to Seattle. He’s the one who made my career what it is right now. Working with him was a pleasure.
DL: You came to the Red Sox in exchange for a young reliever named Beau Vaughan. Are you at all familiar with him?
WL: Just from talking to the guys, I’ve heard that he’s basically the same as me; he has the same arm angle, the same motion, his velocity is the same. He’s basically the same person.
DL: Vaughan is known for having a somewhat off-the-wall personality. Are you similar in that respect?
WL: That’s what they told me, so I’ve heard that, too. I’ve never met him, though. My own personality is pretty outgoing. I get along with the guys pretty well and just try to work my butt off and make some good friends, not burning any bridges or anything like that.
DL: I understand that you’re big into music.
WL: I love music. My odd job in the offseason is deejaying. I do parties. I did one for my mother-in-law and her friends for New Years. I did an after-school party at a school. I do hip-hop to rock to techno; I do old-school funk. You know, it’s just different kinds of genres of music that I mess with. It’s a fun thing to do to keep my mind off of baseball. But sometimes I do it during the season too, to loosen people up. I’ll do some batting intros for people. Maybe I’ll mix something. Last year I did a Boondock Saints-I did the theme song for the movie into a rap song; I did the beginning of that into a rap song with a different kind of beat in the background for one of my buddies, Ryan Roberts, who is with the Arizona Diamondbacks right now. I did it for him in Triple-A last year when we were in Oklahoma.
DL: Do you have your own intro music when you come in from the bullpen?
WL: I’ve actually been trying to figure out what I want to do, but I haven’t really done anything with myself. I usually just do it for other people.
DL: How about music in the clubhouse? Is controlling what is on the sound system important to many guys?
WL: Oh yeah, to a lot of guys, but not me, because I’m young. It’s all up to the veterans; they control the radio. I stay away from it as far as I can and just stick my ipod in. All the older guys are in charge, pretty much. Milton Bradley is pretty big-time on the radio and with the CDs and stuff.
DL: You came to the Red Sox from the team you broke into pro ball with. What has it been like coming to a new organization?
WL: It’s different, because I don’t really know anybody. The only two people that I’ve played with are Dustin Pedroia, which was on the USA team, and Manny Delcarmen, who I played with one year on a fall-league team. It’s hard getting used to new people and a new front office. You have to meet them and make sure that you represent yourself well. But now thanks to rookie development camp, coming into spring training I’ll know 11 or 12 other guys that I can relate to. I’m looking forward to meeting everybody in the organization, putting my face out there, and showing people that I’m a good guy.
DL: How much opportunity have you had to talk to the coaches in the Red Sox organization, including John Farrell, thus far?
WL: Oh, a tremendous amount. We had meetings with all of us in a group meeting. I got to meet the pitching coordinator, the manager, the hitting and pitching coaches, and all the people in the front office, like Theo Epstein and those guys.
DL: From the conversations you’ve had, do you see any notable differences in pitching philosophy between here and Texas?
WL: I think it’s basically the same. Both philosophies run together pretty much. Out of the bullpen you throw two pitches for strikes, and you trust yourself. In the big leagues, you have to be a pitcher with a lot of confidence in yourself that you can get anybody out with any pitch. Basically, the whole pitching philosophy on both sides is good. They’re about the same.
DL: Nolan Ryan is espousing more of an old-school pitching approach with your old team, the Rangers. How do you view that?
WL: I think it’s great. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. Once again, I go back to being a big-league pitcher; pretty much all this stuff runs together.
DL: What is it like pitching in Texas?
WL: It’s good. The fans get into it. But it’s hard too, because you have that right-center gap that blows out. I think the heat takes a big toll out there once you’re into the summer. At five o’clock it’s like 105 or 103, and at game time it’s maybe 95 or 96. So it’s a little different, but at the same time it’s a good place where you can get warm quick. Overall, it’s a good place, because I love their fans and I’ll miss them, but coming to Boston it seems like it’s crazy, so I’ll love it. I’m looking forward to starting a whole new career here and turning another leaf.
DL: To this point, what would you list as your three biggest moments in pro ball?
WL: In pro ball so far, I’d say my first win and first save; that’s two of them. Those were in front of my family and friends in Anaheim. My third one would be my 27-run save, which I got in Baltimore.
DL: How often do you get asked about that save, which came in a game that ended 30-3?
WL: A lot. At the time, I didn’t really even know that I got a save. I was just happy that I got three scoreless innings, and someone said, “can I get that ball?’ I was like, “yeah,” and it turns out it was a guy getting ready to take it to the Hall of Fame because it was the most run support ever for getting a save. So I wasn’t really thinking of it as a save. I had gotten three innings, and I was just happy about that. Still, it was fun.
DL: How about your big-league debut, which came on July 4, 2006?
WL: Oh, it was hectic. I mean, I couldn’t find my glove, first of all. It was sitting on the bench, but for 30 seconds I couldn’t find it. It felt like it was seven or 10 minutes. I was like, ‘don’t panic, don’t panic.’ Then I finally found it and got to face Troy Glaus and Vernon Wells, and I actually did really well. I was happy about that.