Jul 22nd, 2006
Into the Vault: Adam Russell
FutureSox.com Sits Down With Recently Promoted Barons RHP Adam Russell
Interview Conducted by Evan SolonRecently promoted righthander Adam Russell sat down with FutureSox.com on July 22nd. The 23 year old righty has gone 1-1 in 4 starts with the Barons with a 4.74 ERA. Prior to his promotion to AA, Russell had dominated the Carolina league, posting a 2.66 ERA in 17 starts. With the recent trade of Tyler Lumsden, Adam Russell is beginning to emerge as one of the top pitching prospects in the organization.
The Following is a transcript of an interview conducted on July 22nd 2006:
First off, how does it feel to be called up to Birmingham?
It’s a lot hotter (laughs). But, no, I’m really glad to be up here, and I’ve been pitching well enough to get moved up, so I’ll try to help these guys out.
Was it disappointing having your 1st AA start shortened?
Yeah, I went out there three innings, and I was kind of mad because I was throwing pretty good. I threw three scoreless and then the rains came, and by the time they started again, I had to shut it down because I had waited to long to go back out there.
So, how are you handling the heat?
Oh man, my first start at home in Birmingham, in that first inning there wasn’t a dry part on my body. It was ridiculous. I had to change clothes between innings, and it was pretty crazy out there. I wasn’t expecting that as much.
What would you say is the biggest difference between High A and AA?
I definitely saw that when I threw a bad pitch, there was a guy that made me pay for it. You can get away with a little more in High A, a few more mistakes because I threw a curveball that came back into a guy, and he pulled it out of the park. And I was pretty impressed by that. The discipline up here by hitters is much, much tighter.
You’re a pretty big guy (6′8″, 250); do you think your size gives you an advantage when you’re pitching? If so, why?
Oh, most definitely. There’s the intimidation factor, and there’s the angle; it’s harder to hit guys that come with better angle. It’s harder to hit it up when you’ve got a come coming in from over top. I definitely like to use that to my advantage.
What’s your plan on the mound? How do you go about attacking a hitter?
Well, before a series starts, we have a pitchers meeting, and we go over what we think we can throw to each hitter, their weaknesses and their strengths. But, before you get on the mound, you’ve got to warm up, and you find out what you have that day. So, if I don’t have my curveball, I’m not going to go out there and throw curveballs, obviously. I’m going to pitch to my strengths, so I’m going to go out there with the mentality to pitch to your strengths first, and then if you’re able to, exploit their weaknesses second. You’ve going to trust your stuff more than you trust their stuff. So, if you say that this one guy can’t hit a curveball, but you don’t have your curveball, you’re not going to go out there and throw it to him because it’s going to be a bad pitch.
Where do you see yourself command-wise, and how much more can you improve?
Well, I always believe that there’s always room for improvement. I’m happy with where I’m at physically, with where my pitch selection is at, but you always need to get tighter, you always need to get better, and I’m going to keep working on that.
How would you best describe your arm angle during your delivery? Overhand, Sidearm?
Actually, I have two now (laughs). I come from overhand, but then sometimes I’ll drop down on my fastball and my slider. That’s something I worked on with J.R. Perdew, the pitching coach for Winston-Salem, and that’s who I pretty much contribute my success to so far this season for changing my arm angles. Hitting is extremely hard, and if you’ve got a guy coming from over top and then dropping down to the side, it’s really going to screw with your eye level. It’s going to be a lot harder to hit.
Tell us about your arsenal. What pitches do you throw and how confident are you in each of them?
Well, first of all, I have an overhand fastball, an overhand curveball, an overhand changeup, and then I drop down, and I have a drop-down fastball and a drop-down slider. I’m definitely most confident with my fastball. It’s my best pitch, and the drop-down fastball, I’m able to spot up with it; it’s a pretty natural throwing motion for me. My weakness would probably be my curveball. It’s something I’ve really got to work on.
So, would you consider your fastball your strikeout pitch?
Yeah, that or the drop-down slider; that’s what I’ve been working on a bit. That’s kind of what my problem was in previous years, and ever since I’ve been dropping down, my drop-down fastball keeps guys off my overhand fastball, and my overhand fastball keeps guys off my drop-down fastball.
Also, are you working on anything new?
I’m mostly just working on improving right now, and trying to fine tune some of those pitches. My curveball I’m starting to get used to, and with the humidity out here, it’s a little easier to throw a curveball. You get a little more depth. I need to get changeup over for more strikes. There are a lot of things I can get better at. I’m definitely not complacent right now.
Do you think pitching with other top pitching prospects has helped you in your development?
Definitely. There’s always a little friendly competition going on. If a guy goes out and throws seven scoreless (innings), you’re going to want to go out there the next day and do better than them just because you don’t want to look bad in front of the organization. It’s nothing like they’re my enemies or anything like that; it’s always just friendly competition. But, you can definitely use it to pitch better. It’s something you can use to motivate yourself, and go out there and have a good start.
How have you been so consistent at the minor league level so far? There has really never been an extended period of time for you when you’ve had bad outings. Is there anyone, such as a pitching coach, that may have helped you become so consistent, or have you just been doing your thing?
I’d definitely have to attribute my success to J.R. Perdew. He has this uncanny ability to find everyone’s potential and bringing it out in them. He just knows what each pitcher’s style is and just knows the game so well. He’s incredible. I mean, the past two years, we’ve gone through so many changes with my delivery and pitch selection. I used to throw overhand sliders, splitters; (chuckles) I’ve tried a whole lot of things, but this year, he’s the one who came up with the drop-down fastball, and I think we got pretty happy with what we saw. So, we’re just going to work off that for a while to see if it still sticks. But, definitely, J.R. Perdew has been a big part of my success so far. I just want people to realize how amazing of a pitching coach that he is, and what he’s done for some guys careers is incredible. He’s well-liked by the players; you want to work with J.R. He’s great.
Considering the White Sox are so loaded with starting pitching at the big league level, have you ever been approached about switching to the relief role?
Yeah, I’ve talked to a few people in the organization about it, since we are so loaded. I may have a future as a long reliever, and that’s completely fine with me. Whatever I can do to help out the team if I ever get to the big leagues, I’m willing to do it. That is something I’ve been approached about doing. But, my first love is starting, so I really want to keep doing that, but I guess I can’t have everything, right?
What teammate of yours has impressed you the most this year?
That would have to be my roommate in Winston-Salem, Don Lucy. He was also my catcher. He just knows the game. He’s a student of the game. He plays the game right; he plays it hard. And, he calls an unbelievable game. His pitch selection is great. I have no complaints. I couldn’t be happier with what he does out there for you. You really get the sense that he’s out there to win. You can expect big things from him. He’s going to go places.
What are some things you need to improve on to make it to the majors?
The main thing is throwing strikes down in the zone. You’ve got to pound the zone down, and get ahead of batters. I mean, the best pitch in baseball is strike one. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to have much success at any level. I think being able to throw a breaking ball pitch at any time I want, when, let’s say, the count is 3-0, is huge. I think once you get to that point, that’s what makes big league pitchers have the ability to pitch whenever situations come up like that.
If you had to chose, who is the one person that has helped you the most throughout your baseball career? Why?
My dad. He turned me on to the game, and he’s been my coach ever since. All growing up, he was my baseball coach and basketball coach. He’d taught me the game,maybe not so much in later days with mechanics and stuff like that, but he definitely taught me the fundamentals and how to hit. So, yeah, my father would have to be my biggest influence.
Do you have a nickname? If so, how did it come about?
Oh, Jeez (laughs). I’ve had so many nicknames over the years. It changes from season to season. I’ve had just Big. All the Latin players call me Grande. A guy in college called me Tree. God, I can’t stand nicknames. Big and Grande I really don’t care about, but when it gets stupid with something like Tree, I get mad (laughs).
Who’s the toughest minor league hitter you’ve had to face this season?
I’d have to say Brian Bixler with the Lynchburg Hillcats in Pittsburgh organization. Actually, I think he’s in AA, now. He’s just a really balanced hitter, and I have a lot of trouble finding where to pitch him, how to pitch him. He’s had some success off me. So, the most balanced hitters are the toughest you have to face. You can go after the free swingers or guys like that because you can see those weaknesses. But, with guys that are balanced and have a quick bat, guys on my team like Chris Getz, they’re really tough to get out and their averages show it.
What’s your pre-game routine like on start days? Do you get yourself really pumped up before you pitch, or do you like to chill and stay calm until game time?
Well, the day that I start, I try to keep relaxed. I’m actually kind of a nervous person. I get jittery, but I use it in a good sense. I get nervous, but I like that. But when I’m warming up, I definitely just flip on a switch where it’s time to go, and I get pretty ready, pretty amped up to go. I get crazy in that sense, but before I get out there I’m pretty nervous.
Talk about why you chose to go the college route rather than signing with the Marlins after the 2001 draft.
I feel like my body hadn’t matured enough, and I hadn’t really gotten to a point where I would have been successful. I didn’t know how to pitch that well; I hadn’t had that much instruction in my life. I was just the guy that could throw hard and had a tall body. Plus, I wanted to go to college to see what that was like. I felt like I could get better in college and get drafted a little higher. It was a risky move, but it paid off.
Favorite Baseball team growing up: I loved the Indians growing up. I know people don’t want to hear that, but I’m with Chicago now, so no more Indians (laughs).
Favorite Movie: The Usual Suspects and classic horror movies
Favorite Food: Ice Cream
Lastly, what’s the best prank you’ve pulled or seen pulled on a teammate?
Oh, man. I just used to terrorize this guy in Winston-Salem, Josh Hansen. He put a bunch of soap in my shoes, and I got really mad. So, when he was in BP (batting practice), I came into the locker room and filled like every shoe of his with shaving cream, and I completely caked off his locker. He was pretty mad at me, but you’ve got to do stuff to make you laugh once in a while, or you’ll go crazy in those clubhouses.
Future Sox.com would like to thank Adam tremendously for taking part in the interview and we wish him the best of luck on the rest of the season and in the future.