Our interview with P.J. Walters

First I want to say thanks to P.J. Walters for coming on and being a great guest.  I also want to thank Josh Gilliam, Daniel Shoptaw and Bill Ivie for letting me host the interview with P.J.  I had a little bit of jitter and noise on my phone line, so thank you to Charter Communications for that.  Here is the link to the audio stream of the interview that Josh and I had with P.J. last night.  Just go to the right hand corner of the page, and click on where it says UCB Host, UCB Radio Hour Special Edition.   P.J. came on after Josh and I talked about some general Cardinal topics for about 5 minutes.  Here are the questions I asked, and the answers we received from P.J.

JD:  P.J., are you with us?

P.J.: Yeah, how are you all doing tonight?

JD:  Good, how are you?

P.J.:  I’m good.

JD:  You’re speaking to JD Norton from Bleed Cardinal Red With Me and Josh Gilliam from Pitchers Hit Eighth.  We’re excited to have you on tonight, anything you’d like to start off talking about?

P.J.:  Nothing specific, just thanks for having me.

JD:  How has your offseason been?

P.J.:  It’s been good so far.  It’s been good so far, no major news, which is a good.  Just trying to work out, get in shape and get ready for the year.

JD:  What were your offseason workouts like P.J.?  Do you do a lot of throwing, or mainly just working out with weights and running, how does that go for you?

P.J.:  I got home in early October, start lifting in November, and try to start throwing in December and get my arm in better shape.

JD:  How many pitches will you be up to a day when you get to spring training?

P.J.:  Not too many, our first bullpen is generally about 35 pitches, so I try to be at about 50 when I get there.  I’m actually heading down on the first, which is Tuesday, so I’ll be there a little early this year.  I know Lilly (Derek Lilliquist)  will be there and kind of monitor where we’re at and not let us get to ahead of ourselves I’m sure.

JD:  What is it like to be in the presence of Dave Duncan?  Can you talk about how he has helped you and does he have you working on anything in particular, any new pitches?

P.J.:  Being around him is pretty unbelievable.  He doesn’t say a whole lot and kind of expects us to know what we’re trying to do when we get there.  He’s helped me tremendously with preparation, making sure I know the hitters before I try and get to the mound and get them out.  He helps me know whatever weakness they have, and reminds me of what my strengths are, and to try and stick with those strengths.  He helps keep it simple.  We get out there and make things more complicated than they are sometimes.

JD:  I heard Jeff Weaver describe Dave Duncan as a “Quiet Assassin” back in 2006.  Would you say that’s an accurate description of him?

P.J.:  Yeah, he’s the best and there’s no getting around it, and there’s a reason for it.

JD:  P.J., what do you feel your greatest strengths are as a pitcher?

P.J.:  I would say my command of my pitches.  I’m able to throw all my pitches for strikes, pretty much anytime during the count.  I know that’s something, since I’ve been up, I’ve kind of struggled with at times, I’ll fall behind hitters, and walk them or give up a home run, where as if I get ahead of them I tend to get them out better.  It’s something that Dunc always preaches; get ahead of guys, and get strike one.  You can go back and look at anybody’s numbers and that’s a major determination of how they’re doing.

JD:  Looking back at your stats in the minors, you’ve always had a strikeout rate of around 9 per 9 innings.  Is that something you’ll be able to keep up at the major league level?

P.J.:  Yeah and no.  It’s never really something I’ve tried to do; it’s always just kind of worked out that way.  There’s times in a game when you need a strikeout, and it’s good to be able to get it, but for the most part if I can get them out on the first pitch I’m happy with that.  As long as I can get them out, it really doesn’t matter when.

JD:  Is that a lot of what Dave Duncan preaches, to try and maximize your pitch count and get as many ground balls as possible?  That seems to be the way he goes about it.

P.J.:  Yeah, you go back and look at the outings I’ve had, and one of the biggest downfalls is pitch count.  You know, I’ll throw 100 pitches and go 5 innings and that’s not good for the team and to be wearing out the bullpen like that.  Running counts deep is not good, and he (Duncan) says the same thing.  If I can get them out on one pitch, then that’s even better.

JD:  What role do you feel you will have with the team in 2011 P.J.?  Do you think you’ll be coming out of the bullpen, and have the Cardinals talked to you about the role you’ll be playing in 2011?

P.J.:  They haven’t really said much to me specifically about anything, but as everybody knows, the 5 starters are pretty much set, and Hawksworth being traded opened up the one spot in the bullpen.  So I imagine there will be competition in spring training for that, and we’ll see how it goes from there?  Even Hawksworth last year, he started in the bullpen and then he ended up starting a few games. So you never really know what spot you’re going to end up in, I just gotta be ready.

JD:  Do you feel comfortable coming out of the bullpen as the long man if you were to take Hawksworth’s spot?

P.J.:  Yeah, I learned a lot the last 2 years about it.  You know I haven’t really thrown out of the bullpen much before, and being around Frankie and Trever Miller and those guys down there, I’ve learned a lot about how to get ready and how to stay ready each day rather than just be ready one day kind of relax the other few days and do more mind work than anything.  I feel like I’m a lot better prepared this year than I have been in the past.

JD:  Do you pick the mind of Wainwright and Carpenter?  Are you able to spend much time with them, and if so, what have they said to you that has stuck and maybe helped out a bit?

P.J.:  I’ve spent some time with both of them and mainly it’s prepare yourself, get ready and know once you get out there that what you’re doing is right.  You can’t be out there second guessing, thinking maybe I should throw this or that; you want to get a game plan and stick to it and execute it.

JD:  I noticed that you and David Freese were teammates at Univ. of South Alabama in 2005 and 2006.  Did you see him as being a major league player when you played with him?

P.J.:  Yeah, I also played with Adam Lind a year before Freese got there, and watching those 2 guys hit for 3 years in college was pretty impressive.  You can kind of tell they were better than most of the people they were playing against at the time.

JD:  Is it nice to be reunited with David Freese on the Cardinals?  Is there a comfort level with having someone from your past?

P.J.:  Yeah, it’s that way with anybody though.  There’s guys I’ve played with in the organization for years now and you get a little bit more comfortable knowing how they play and where they’re going to be and just knowing that a bunt play down gets to a certain point where he’s going to get there and it’s not my ball anymore and you know where each person is going to be and where their limits are.

JD:  P.J., I have one more question for you before I turn it over to Josh.  Can you explain to us a little bit of what it’s like to get called up and get sent back down, with who all you talk to and what that’s like?

P.J.:  Getting called up is awesome.  You go in the manager’s office and they basically send you out when you’re going up and that’s easy.  When going down, you have to talk to everybody, you have to worry about my stuff and where it going.  Tony (LaRussa) obviously tells me that I’m going down, and it’s a little bit of everybody, and it’s a lot going on at one time to try and get everything together.  I’m married, so making sure my wife gets to where she needs to be, and all that gets a little hectic.  But it’s part of the job, and we know the territory going in.

JD:  Well P.J., I appreciate you taking the time to answer the questions today.  You certainly put up a solid season at Memphis last year with an 8-5 record, a 3.81 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 108 IP.  I’m going to turn you over to Josh Gilliam from Pitchers Hit Eighth, so Josh if you’re on, go ahead with P.J.

….You can find the rest of the interview here.  Josh asked some great questions as well.  Just go to the right hand corner of the page on Blog Talk Radio, and click on the UCB Host, UCB Radio Hour Special Edition.  Again, thank you P.J. Walters for taking time out of your evening to spend with us.  I hope to see you with the big club when the year starts.  It was great talking with you and hopefully we can do it again in the future.

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