Kyle Weatherly was 1-1 with a 2.05 earned run average over four starts with Vancouver in 2017.
It may be spring training but pitch counts mean nothing to Kyle Weatherly as he puts in a complete-game effort on this edition of C’s Chat.
A native of Sasche, Texas, Weatherly was considered one of the top junior college prospects heading into the 2016 draft out of Grayson Community College. The 6-foot-4 right-hander had a verbal commitment to attend Louisiana State University but he elected to turn pro after the Toronto Blue Jays gave him a $250,000 signing bonus after selecting him in the eighth round.
Weatherly got his pro introduction with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2016 where he made five starts and five relief appearances. Things did not start well for him as his earned run average was at 45.00 after his first pro appearance. He would shave off more than 40 runs of that figure as he finished the year with a 4.06 ERA. Weatherly won all four of his decisions. He struck out 33 batters and walked nine over 37 innings.
The 2017 season started late for Weatherly as he spent time on the disabled list. He began the year with Vancouver and four starts later, he earned him a call-up to Lansing where he had some highs and lows. A tough debut against the Beloit Snappers resulted in an ERA of 67.50 but that was chopped down to 6.75 before he would up on the disabled list again.
Weatherly had another obstacle to deal with recently as he suffered a bout of food poisoning during a February mini-camp at the Blue Jays Dominican Republic minor league complex in Boca Chica.
Despite that setback, Weatherly said his first visit to the Dominican was a good one.
“We were there for 14 days. It was just a little camp for us American guys that kind of go down there and get a little leg up on some of the other guys, just kind of getting us ready for spring training. They also kind of had it as a cultural experience for us so that we can experience what the Latin players go through. I think we have five pitchers there and probably nine position players. It was an experience for sure. We were out there, 9:00 to 12:00 every day just throwing, doing some sides and PFP, a little bit of lifting and conditioning to get us ready for spring training. I think it was a good idea. You kind of experience what those guys (in Latin America) go through so it was pretty neat experience.
“I just kind of realized that they (Latin American players) have a little bit of a tougher time because there’s no hot water. You can’t really go out of the facility there to go do anything. You just kind of have to make do with what you have. The WiFI isn’t great and so there’s a lot of guys playing dominoes and stuff and going out on the field and playing soccer. They just find a little different way to keep themselves occupied. The baseball is still the same though. They love it just as much as we do. They have to work maybe just a little bit harder than some of us ever do. We kind of take the stuff we have for granted sometimes, I think.”
On his off-season preparation.
“It was a good off-season. I spent most of it trying to get healthy. I had a back injury and a shoulder injury during the season so (the Blue Jays) sent me to physical therapy to try to get that all healed up. I feel like I got a lot healthier, a lot stronger.
On the baseball side, I’m kind of fine-tuning some of the pitches and working on top of the baseball a little better and I feel like I nailed those down pretty well and I’m ready to go to spring training.”
On refining his four-pitch mix.
“I actually threw a splitter. I guess technically it’s kind of being a changeup. I turned it more into like a split-change to kind of give it a little more of a changeup feel and it has a little more control.
I also added a curveball in the off-season. It’s not quite a 12-6 but a downward breaking curveball. I’m going to go fastball, changeup, slider and the curveball.
It’s been going well. I’ve feel like I’ve come a long way with the changeup for sure. Right now, I would probably say the curveball is my third-best pitch ahead of the slider and then the slider is a pretty good fourth that I can throw for a strike. I’m still looking to add a little more depth on it right now but the control is there and it’s a good fourth pitch to throw for a strike and so I feel pretty confident in those four pitches going forward.”
On his injury woes in 2017.
“I think (the Jays) said I was slotted to go to Lansing and then about the second or third week of spring training, I ended up hurting my back when I was playing catch during one of the practices. I didn’t think it was a big thing at the time but I went into the training room and took a look and then got an MRI. I found out I actually had a minor bulging disk in my back.
I took a month off, no baseball, to rehab that and then they decided to keep me there in extended spring training to get back on a throwing program and worked up to five innings. I started off in Vancouver to get me some work and then I was ready to go up to Lansing.”
On making his Northwest League debut in Eugene June 17.
“I just remember it was a really cool experience getting to play in the University of Oregon. Playing in a junior college, you don’t get to play at places like that a lot.
We were really hammered down about kind of knowing the other hitters and stuff and getting to pitch third (in the starting rotation), I got to see the lineup and how it turns over, what guys did. For that first start, I felt like I kind of already pitched against them. I wasn’t really as nervous as I maybe would have been in the past. That’s a kind of credit to our pitching coach and our other staff right there.
I don’t remember a ton but I just remember it felt great to get out there and be healthy and compete again with my teammates. It was an amazing feeling.”
On returning home to Vancouver for the home opener.
“It was surreal. You can’t really describe to someone what it’s like pitching there and playing there. We had heard from the guys in extended that have been there before. You know, that sounds pretty cool but then you get on to the mound and there’s 5,000, 6,000 people screaming as loud as they can. You can barely hear the guy sitting next to you and it’s just wild. It pumps you up as a pitcher, it makes you feel like you’re throwing harder and it’s just awesome knowing that you got a whole crowd behind you no matter what. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Kyle Weatherly earned his first Northwest League victory in Spokane in what turned out to be his final appearance with the C’s in 2017.
On his career-best seven-inning effort in Spokane July 5.
“The one thing that stuck out to me was actually what happened before the game. Roger Clemens actually came out and talked to us that day. He was talking about getting fired up. That dude, he knows a lot about baseball and he’s passionate. I think I kind of fed off that energy of him talking to us that day. I took it out to the mound and just had an extra little focus that day and a little more motivation, knowing he was in the stands watching.
I didn’t know it was going to be my last start there or anything but I just remembered trying to work both sides of the plate with the fastball, really tried to work on the splitter and the slider and throw them for strikes. It was just kind of one of those days where all three pitches were there and I was able to have success.”
On his memories of Roger Clemens.
“I definitely watched him. I’m from Dallas and so I grew up a Texas Rangers fan. For me, it was more watching Nolan Ryan pitch but I definitely had a love for Roger Clemens too playing with Houston and then kind of an unbelievable career with the Yankees too. It was fun to watch that guy pitch and his splitter was unbelievable. Kind of getting to talk to him about that, that was pretty neat. As a kid, you don’t really appreciate it as much as you do now and have the same knowledge for the game. It was kind of cool to go back and see him pitch when I know what I do now to really, really appreciate what he did. Nolan Ryan was still my man but Roger was pretty good too.”
On how he learned about his promotion to Lansing.
“We were all just kind of hanging out in the locker room and we always have a little team meeting after. (Manager) Rich Miller stood up and kind of talked about the game a little bit and he said, ‘By the way, Weatherly. You’re going up to Lansing tomorrow. Pack your bags.’
I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s awesome!’ All my teammates came up and gave me a big hug and tapped me on the back and saying, ‘Go get ’em!’ It was pretty cool. It was a weird feeling because obviously, I kind of wanted to because I knew that team had something special but any time you get a chance to go up a level, you have to take that and be appreciative and go do what you have to do.”
On whether he sensed something special about the 2017 Canadians.
“You could tell early on in extended spring training. We had a pretty good chemistry and then when we got there on the first day, Rich Miller told us our one goal was to win a championship. I think everybody kind of knew that we had the team to do it so we took it to heart.
When we get all the new draft guys, I saw how awesome as people they were and how talented they were too. Everything just kind of fell into place. Guys did what they were supposed to and you could tell it was a really fun clubhouse to be a part of. Everybody’s relaxed, always in a good mood. Winning helps for sure. I’m glad they were able to continue that after I left and brought the trophy home.”
On whether he continued to follow the progress of his C’s teammates after being promoted to Lansing.
“It’s kind of a little bit of a balance. You don’t want to get stuck on a team that you were with or a team that’s ahead of you. You need to focus on what you have to do with your current team. Of course, I was doing some scoreboard checking at the end of the year for sure and rooting the boys on in the playoffs and stuff.
You kind of learn as a pro to be able to do both. Take care of what you need to do but do a little bit of scoreboard watching for your home team, for the boys. It was good to see them get it. I know all of them were really excited and stuff. It was cool to be a part of it. I wish I could have gotten to pitch with them in the playoffs but at the same time, I was very thankful to get to pitch in Lansing too which was another great place to play.
Sometimes I was able to kind of check out a recap and see how they were doing but most of the time, I just kind of had to check the final score at the end of the game and see how they did. I think every game was 2-1 or something crazy like that. Most of the time, I decided to check after. We were either playing or on the field doing something so it was a little tough.”
All of Kyle Weatherly‘s appearances in 2017 with Vancouver and Lansing were as a starter.
On experiencing some ups and downs with the Lugnuts.
“Believe it or not, I think personally that first game was the one I pitched the best in as far as the way my pitches were moving and the spots I was hitting. I just think you have to tip your hat to the team I was facing that day. They were crushing everything I threw up there. I think it kind of summed up my season there. I just didn’t quite have the command that I wanted to.
I don’t know exactly what it was. I think I started to work on too many things instead of kind of getting back to what I was doing in Vancouver that was giving me success. By the end of the season, I was starting to figure it out a little bit the last few starts and then unfortunately, I kind of had the shoulder issue that shut me down for the year. It was a little tough pill to swallow because I thought I was starting to figure it out, making the adjustments I needed to.
Working with (Lugnuts pitching coach) Willie Collazo, watching all the other guys throw like Patrick Murphy, getting to see those guys every day was pretty neat too. I learned a lot from just watching there and just being around a high level of competition and I can use that going forward.”
On the difference between the Pioneer League, the Northwest League and the Midwest League.
“The way I put it to some of the guys that asked me that too, I don’t think there’s much difference between Bluefield and Vancouver but I do think there’s a bigger gap between Vancouver and Lansing. I think it’s just the game is a little faster and guys have a better approach.
The talent isn’t as big of a difference but it’s just the maturity of the players and I think a lot of guys that are in Lansing, they’ve been through a full spring training. They’ve had a year of rookie ball, they know what to expect. They’ve seen these guys before. I just think from that kind of sense, it is a little bit bigger of an adjustment but definitely one that you can make quick. I thought one or two more games, I’d have been right there.
There is definitely a learning curve, I think, going from Vancouver to Lansing but it’s not impossible to make that adjustment fast.”
On his rookie season with Bluefield.
“You want to talk about a learning curve and a backward start, I remember (my first) game like it was yesterday. I think I gave up five runs in my very first inning of pro ball. I remember calling my Mom and was like, ‘Man, I think I made a mistake. I should have gone to college one more year, (laughs).’ It was kind of funny but then you get your second start, third start and you just kind of get more comfortable with it. I remember feeling out of place a little bit at the beginning but the more you work with Tony Caceras, who’s a fantastic pitch coach and you’re in the environment a little bit longer, you feel more comfortable, you feel more in place.
That first year was just a lot of learning about myself and being away from home for so long and so far. It’s a pretty big adjustment. I just remember having a lot of fun. That was another winning team and we almost made the playoffs. I remember we kind of crumbled at the end but just kind of seeing the transition from the beginning of the year to the end and just struggling a little bit at first and having a lot of success in the second half of the year with a lot of confidence in myself and kind of using that going forward too. It was a very fun year for baseball. It was completely different from any college season I ever had. It was really neat.”
On the Bluefield Blue Jays-Princeton Rays rivalry and the Mercer Cup.
“It’s pretty big. I think sometimes it’s the players, we might not feel it as much until you kind of get there. Especially in Princeton, those fans are a little wild. They’re kind of crazy. There’s a lot of yelling back and forth between the two sides but the fans definitely get into it. The players, you know, they kind of want to go out there and win it for them and stuff. It was pretty cool, It was the first kind of rivalry you face in pro ball.
I think the Jays have the same thing, either the Phillies in spring training—the Pinellas Cup—and that was the first time we got to do something like that and it was pretty neat. I can’t remember if we lost that series or not (editor’s note-Princeton did win the Mercer Cup in 2016) but I do remember I beat them one time so that was my first pro win against Princeton. I was feeling the pressure from Dennis (manager Dennis Holmberg) but I stepped up to the challenge so that was a fun day.”
Grayson Huffman joined forces with Kyle Weatherly again after both of them attended Grayson Community College.
Going to Grayson College with fellow C’s teammate Grayson Huffman.
“Believe it or not, Grayson was my roommate at Grayson so I knew him really well. He was one of the most talented pitchers I’ve ever seen in college. It was really cool to see him get drafted. I think he’s a big reason that I was drafted later on because I saw how hard he worked and what he did to be that successful. A lot of what I did and what I still do is pretty much a blueprint of what he did. It was really fun to experience that one year at Grayson and then to get drafted and play on the same team, it was really cool to do it again.”
On starting versus relieving.
“You know, I think I like starting because I like the mental approach to it as you have your four days to prep, recover, you have your routine, you can really scout a team, make a game plan whereas closing, you just kind of come in and you just throw as hard as you can and try to nail it down but that part’s really fun too. I really enjoyed it in college, you kind of feel like the game is on the line, it’s on your hands and that’s what I like too but I think going forward, starting would be a better road for me and I like it a little bit more.”
On dealing with draft expectations after being recognized as a top junior college prospect by Baseball America and Perfect Game.
“It was honestly something I didn’t really care much about. To me, the most important thing that season was winning a championship. I absolutely loved my teammates and that meant more to me than getting drafted at whatever round. It wasn’t really as big of a distraction as I thought it might have been. I just enjoyed going out there and competing with my teammates. It was kind of nice to have a little bit of extra pressure. I thought it kind of made me better. When you see all the radar guns in the background, it’s kind of hard to ignore. It kind of makes you focus a little bit more but it was a fun process going through the draft. I would never want to do the actual draft day again. That was way too stressful but I was kind of feeling like you appreciate it a little bit. It’s a good feeling but I didn’t think too much of the ranking. I just wanted to go out there and have fun.”
On being drafted by the Blue Jays.
“It’s a pretty funny story. I was talking to my agent before the draft. We kind of had a thing where I wanted to go top five rounds or get money kind of close to top five or I was going to go to LSU to play. It was going to be a tough choice either way. I was sitting in my house with my Mom, some friends and my grandfather. We were watching the draft, I talked to my agent and the fourth round comes, the fifth round comes, the sixth round comes and he said, ‘Hey bud. It doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen this year for you. You know, I’m still going to work for you. We’ll see what happens.’ I was like, ‘Alright.’
I watched the seventh round go by and I was like, ‘Oh man, I can’t watch this anymore.’ So I turned the TV off and everybody kind of leaves and it’s just me and my Mom. We’re just sitting there like, ‘Well, you know, LSU is going to be a great place.’ And I was like, ‘You know what, the draft will happen next year. I’m just going to go enjoy LSU.’
And then, about 30-45 minutes later, my agent calls me and says, ‘Turn the TV on. You’re getting drafted by the Blue Jays in a few picks.’ And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And so I had to like scramble and try to turn my TV on. I called my Mom, she’s out there crying and so we all finally get to the TV and we see my name get selected and it was a pretty crazy feeling. It was (laughs) something I would never want to do again but it was really cool at the same time.”
Kyle Weatherly is looking to easily surpass his pro innings total of 82-2/3 innings in 2018.
On who helped him develop as a pitcher.
“I would probably say my college coach Dusty Hart. We had a very interesting relationship. He pushed me probably harder than anybody who has ever pushed me. You know, I didn’t always like him during my first year and it was new to me being just kind of, ‘Hey man, it’s on you. You’re either going to perform or not.’ He was really hard-nosed but he was really fair and really honest.
It took me a little while. I was a freshman coming in, not quite mature to have a coach like that but he really did make me better the next two years having that mentality. He taught me a lot about the game, just about winning and I think the environment that he has at our college has been very successful. To see guys like Grayson (Huffman) and a lot of other players come out of there.
I credit a lot to what I do because of him. He’s the one that decided to have me throw sidearm and turn me into a closer my sophomore year there and that’s eventually kind of what got me on the radar as a draft prospect and then he made the decision to kind of bring me up taller, or bring me up higher and make me a starter again. That’s kind of when my career really took off. I have to thank him for a lot of what happened.”
On his style of pitching.
“I don’t know if I have any comparisons of a major league pitcher honestly but my mentality when I go out there is just throw it by the guy. Sometimes I start thinking a little too much. I try to be too perfect but if I just see a glove and hit a glove, I think I pitch a lot better like that. Sometimes I get a little bit too emotional, a little bit too hyped up and too amped and start overthrowing so I tell myself to relax a little bit. I just enjoy every time I go out there. I just pitch like it’s my last game because you never know. Especially being hurt last year, it kind of gives me a new feeling, a new love for the game and respect it a little bit more. I can use that going forward as motivation too and just kind of lay it out there on the line every time I pitch.”
On what he hopes to accomplish in 2018.
“I think my goal is just try to make 26 starts, try to get 125 innings and be able to eat up innings every game for my team. I don’t care about ERA or strikeouts or anything like that. I just want to give my team a chance to win every single game I pitch in. That’s really my goal for 2018 and hopefully it’s for 125 innings-plus.”
My thanks again to Kyle Weatherly for being more than generous with his time in this instalment of C’s Chat. You can follow him on Twitter @KyleWeatherly12.