Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Joe Bircher Interview

Today's interview on the Duel is with Joe Bircher, a left-handed pitcher in the Houston Astros organization.  A native of Omaha, Nebraska and former standout at Bradley University, Joe was drafted in the 10th round of the 2012 Draft.  He is Bradley's all-time leader in career strikeouts and thus far is off to a hot start for the Quad Cities River Bandits of the MidWest League.  Here is a link to his MiLB player page:

And now the interview...

You were un-drafted following a great junior season.  After going to the Cape Cod League, you made a real name for yourself and eventually became a 10th-round selection by the Houston Astros.  What happened during the summer that caught scouts eyes?

I think that the biggest thing I showed that summer was my ability to mix pitches for strikes early in the count and get the ball below the zone late to finish off hitters.  It was a great summer and my success was in no small part due to the players around me as much as it was about my own pitching.  I was able to increase my velocity as well, but the biggest thing that I think they noticed was the consistent improvement from year-to-year.  

What sort of adjustments did you have to make during your first pro season?

The biggest adjustment was probably having to focus and bear down on all 9 batters in the opposing lineup.  Usually in college on any given team there are 2-3 guys that a superior pitcher will get out on pure stuff even if the pitches aren't great.  At almost any level in pro ball the hitters are strong from 1-9.  After this realization, it was difficult for me to trust the same things I did in college to get outs.

What are your goals for the 2013 season?  What has the club told you to work on during the offseason?

The team mostly told me to work on general strength and finishing pitches in the offseason.  My goal for this season is to earn a chance to start in the Low A Quad Cities team and at some point in the season work my way up to high A in Lancaster, CA.  I'd also like to get deeper in games this time around and eat some more innings for the team

Describe the days leading up to the draft and the day you heard your name called.  What sort of interaction did you have with teams during the season?

During my senior season I had the first interactions with professional teams looking to the draft.  I mostly only filled out questionnaires, but as the draft got closer there was more phone conversations, email correspondence, and even some preliminary negotiations.  

In the days leading up to the draft, I was talking with my advisor and some scouts every day and getting a different feel from pretty much everyone.  It was a lot of "if we draft you here, would you take this amount of money?" and I heard everything from no signing bonus to 50k and rounds 5-25 so I never got a chance to get my hopes up too high.  Draft day was a strange experience for me, I wasn't watching the draft too closely because of the uncertainty.  I had a thought process that basically said there was nothing I could do now so why would I pull my hair out worrying about it?  I ended up getting a call at the outset of the 10th round by the Astros and I essentially said yes right away without thinking about it too hard.

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