A supplemental opening round pick in the 2012 draft (54th overall), righty pitcher Mitch Gueller has taken a considerable amount of time to reach a full-season level of pro ball. This year he made that jump and opened the season with Class A Lakewood.
The six-foot-three 220-pounder has struggled somewhat in the early going, posting a 0-1 record with a 9.58 ERA through three starts. He entered 2016 fresh off a strong campaign last year with short-season A level Williamsport, where he helped lead the team to the playoffs with his 10-1 record, 2.23 ERA and .229 batting average against in 12 starts.
Last week I spoke with the 22-year-old about his time table for reaching Lakewood, his pitch repertoire, his BlueClaws team, New Jersey and more. Read ahead for that full interview.
-Some people would feel that after you were drafted you took a long time to reach Lakewood. How would you reply to that type of assertion?
That’s true, I guess. I would have liked to have been here sooner, but I didn’t pitch well enough. I had a lot of development to do and I took it as part of the process and grinded through it. I was in Williamsport for three years, so I think I’m ready to go now.
-I got to see you pitch for Williamsport last year in Staten Island, good outing. Just talk about your season there last year, which was successful and included a postseason run.
I mean we had a good team. It was fun to go out and pitch for the guys and, you know, just knowing that we were going to put up runs and win ball games was a great feeling going out there, being able to throw in front of them.
-My key memory of you from that day, other than the good outing, was your mustache. Does that make a comeback this year?
I’m thinking it’s got to come back this year. Yeah, definitely. You can expect to see that.
-I have spoken with the coaches here. There’s a new pitching coach here this year leading the way, Brian Sweeney. How do you feel about the coaching staff and how they’re helping you along this year?
They’re great. They get after it. They get to work and they’re positive and they’re good to be around. Brian Sweeney the pitching coach is a great influence for all the pitchers. He’s just working with us on all parts of the game and we focus on pitching and I really like his stuff so far.
-You mentioned the word “stuff” there. In regards to your stuff, with your offerings, is there anything new with the grips or pitches you’ve added, things like that?
My slider’s been improving. It’s only a pitch that I’ve thrown for two years now, but it’s getting better and better. I’m really comfortable throwing it, so I’m excited to see that. I haven’t really changed anything aside from that, but like I said the slider’s coming along for me.
-What’s the full repertoire aside from that?
Fastball, change up, sinker and that’s about it.
-Do you have a lot of confidence in each pitch at this stage?
Yeah, I feel like I could throw any of them in any count to any hitter too, so I’m excited to just throw ’em.
-What players did you look up to as a young guy? A lot of guys come through here and say “Randy Johnson!” And I think, “Everybody says Randy Johnson.” (both laugh) If that’s your answer, that’s great, but is there anybody else that you looked up to or really wanted to emulate?
Well, I mean I did like Randy Johnson, because I was a Mariners fan, but I would say Roy Halladay. I really liked how he went out and pitched and just how he did it for so many years and did a great job too. I just kind of liked his game and how he threw. Just crafty. I mean he had good stuff, but he really knew how to pitch and I liked that about it.
-I guess I neglected to recall that you’re a Washington state guy, so maybe I shouldn’t have joked about Randy Johnson. (both laugh) But, do you have early memories of baseball, whether it’s going to a game and falling in love with the sport or playing the game and having that bond with the game?
Yeah, I mean, just playing the game and my dad coaching me when I was five or six years old. But also there was some pretty good Mariners teams int he late-90’s and even early-2000’s that I really enjoyed watching, so I was pretty lucky as a baseball fan in Seattle at that time.
-When you come to New Jersey and have to stay here for the first time, do you come in with any impressions of New Jersey from things you’ve seen on TV or in the media?
I didn’t know a lot about New Jersey before I came. I guess it’s weird that you can’t pump your own gas and you can’t really turn left sometimes, but other than that, the state’s great and I’ve been enjoying it so far.
-Who are you rooming with?
-What do you guys do to kill time whether at home or on the long bus trips? Any video gaming?
I like to play the video games and other than that I like to sleep quite a bit. Usually, that takes up most of my off time.
-What’s your game of choice and who do you dominate at it?
I guess the game of choice is NHL and it’s more Joel Fisher dominates me, but I might be able to sneak out a win every now and then.
-Speaking about Joel, he’s a backstop, is there any catcher that you’ve developed a better rapport with thus far? Not to single out someone who isn’t that guy, but is there somebody that helps you get along better?
I don’t really know if there’s catcher (like that) on the team. I mean, I like all the guys. They all do a great job, so I enjoy throwing to anybody. It’s awesome to see any of those guys in the lineup any day. Last year, Austin Bossart was in Williamsport with me, so I guess we have a little bit better relationship and Wilson Garcia was there as well. But, other than that, I’m happy with any catcher that’s in the lineup. Definitely.