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August 14, 2008 at 11:03 AM

Q&A with Richie Lentz

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sea Dog relief pitcher and Sox prospect Richie Lentz at Hadlock Field to talk about his career as a professional to date. Drafted by the Red Sox in 2006, he began this season in Lancaster where he compiled a 2.87 ERA and struck out 77 in 53.1 innings. He held opposing hitters to a .174 BA. He was also selected Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month for June. Since his promotion to Portland, he has compiled an ERA of 2.81, with 22 Ks in 16 innings at the time of this interview.

Don Hyslop: Before you signed as a professional, who were the most influential people in your development as a baseball player?
Richie Lentz
: I would say that the most influential person would most definitely be my Dad. I became a pitcher in college and I began to put my energy and focus into that. He was the person who gave me the most knowledge about pitching. Two others would be my brothers. I grew up idolizing my older brother and my younger brother is just a year younger. It all started with wiffle ball in the backyard and had led me to where I am at today.

DH: Coming out of high school you were a highly regarded player, did you consider other options or was the University of Washington always your first choice?
RL: It was always my first choice. I had set up recruiting trips to other schools and had a lot of offers for both pitching and outfield. My older brother had played for the University of Washington. I grew up being a bat boy for the Huskies. I really liked and respected the head coach, Ken Knutson and the offer wasn't one to turn down. I was happy to play close to home and I love the city of Seattle. It was a great opportunity to play for a great program and network in the place I want to live.

DH: Did the injury you suffered in 05 have much psychological impact on you?
: A little bit, coming off the surgery I didn't have friends that had gone through the procedure. I didn't have many people to talk to about what I had gone through. There were several times I thought that my ulna nerve was torn close to my surgery time. After, it was hard to let go. Being a power pitcher it was hard for me to throw hard for the first ten months. It was definitely difficult. I love talking to people that have just had the surgery and tell them you can really let go after the surgery and not fear reinjury. Pyschologically it was difficult throwing sliders again as well.

DH: What was your reaction to being drafted by the Red Sox? Did you have an idea that they might be interested in you?
RL: Yeah, there were a few teams that had told me I would be going in the later rounds of the first day. When the first day had passed and I hadn't heard my name called, I was pretty bummed. The Sox Seattle scout told me that they were going to take me with their first pick on the second day. I didn't know what to expect but I was really happy to be taken by them. I love the local scout there. I know John Otness, he went to school with me and I had played with Jon Lester in high school. I was thrilled to be taken by the Red Sox.

DH: Was there a particular reason you delayed your signing until you had played a few games in the New England Collegiate Baseball League with Newport that summer?
RL: The Sox asked me to do that. I had only thrown a few innings in college after my surgery. I went back to the New England League to throw in front of them. The local Sox scout came and saw me a few times and then Jason MacLeod had kind of the final say and I signed after he saw me throw.

DH: Reading your website, it is apparent that family is very important to you. Have they had a chance to see you play on the East Coast yet?
RL: No, not yet. They saw me play in Lancaster, both of my parents and my grandmother. I am not sure there is going to be a trip in August but hopefully next season I will be back somewhere on the East Coast and I can get them out here. They have only seen me pitch professionally once.

DH: In a scouting report I read it mentioned that your slider and change up needed some refinement. Is that a fair comment or are you happy with them now?
RL: I am not sure who writes those reports or when they were written but I would say that at the end of last season that would have been a very fair assessment. After this season, I would hope to get a much better evaluation. I have worked a lot this year on my slider. It has been an organizational goal for me both to improve that pitch and to throw it more often. I almost feel paying less attention to my change up has made it a better pitch for me. So right now, I am very comfortable with all three pitches. Not saying that all three are top notch every day but I am very comfortable with all three right now.

DH: Is your fastball still your out pitch?
RL: That is the pitch I go to most often for a strikeout.

DH: Do you throw a 2 seam, 4 seam or both?
RL: I throw a 4 seam but because of my arm angle, a 3/4 delivery, sometimes I get a 2 seam run on it.

DH: Are you comfortable at this point in your career with giving your catcher a lot of say in your pitch selection?
RL: Every catcher that I have worked with professionally has impressed me greatly with their game calling abilities. Somewhere along the line, someone mentioned that the catcher is just the suggestor and the pitcher is the one with the control. It is always the pitcher's final say with what gets thrown but I have really been impressed with the catchers, especially here. They keep detailed notebooks on hitters which I have the opportunity to look at prior to games. I give them considerable control as I don't really know the hitters here that well yet.

DH: Some have suggested that the jump from A to AA is the toughest one in the minor leagues. Have you found that to be true?
RL: I think that the basic approach stays the same. The biggest thing I notice here is that if I fall behind in the count and I throw a fastball down the middle for a strike, in A ball that will dodge the bat where here that is a lot more dangerous. The hitters here have an incredible ability to square up the fastball no matter what side of the plate it is on. As long as your ahead in the count you'll be in the drivers seat but once you fall behind AA is a lot more dangerous.

DH: What were your impressions of pitching in Lancaster? Was it really difficult with the conditions there?
RL: I would say it's more difficult. The surface in Lancaster is really hard as well. If your a ground ball pitcher I think a lot more ground balls get through there that in other parks don't. The wind does often blow out to right with a force of between 35-55 mph so I would say the more ground balls you induce the better. I am a strikeout- flyball pitcher and I gave up three home runs while there but only one of those could I claim was aided by the wind. With the other two, one reached the highway and the other was over the scoreboard. Personally I did not notice a difference but if you look at the statistics there is a dramatic difference. When I left, I think our road ERA was about 2.30 while at home it was around 6.00.

DH: When the Sox move their affiliation to Salem next season do you think that will be a plus for the pitchers or will they lose something in not having to battle in more severe conditions.
DL: I feel Lancaster made me a better pitcher. I am glad I had the opportunity to pitch there this year. That being said there will be an advantage for high A pitchers next year. It will be much easier to move up to AA for spot starts. I don't think the organization wants to fly someone across the country for one outing. For the high A guys this will now be a big advantage.

DH: Do you still keep in touch with Nick Hagadone? [Editor's Note: Lentz and Hagadone attended the University of Washington together]
RL: I haven't done a good job in keeping in touch with him since his surgery. I will see him a lot this off season and might throw with him a little bit. I am excited to see where he is at. He is as mentally tough and as hard a worker as they come.

DH: So you have no worries about him battling through this?
RL: No, I would bet 100% that with the attention that you get at Ft. Myers, the job of rehab there with Jim Young and the amount of work that Nick will put in there is no doubt in my mind that he will be back next year throwing as good as ever.

DH: Which teammate(s) have impressed you the most this year either at Lancaster or Portland?
RL: I am going to have to give this award to Josh Reddick. His great year last year opened a lot of eyes and he has had a great season this year as well. I would say that he has been really impressive saving a home run from being hit off me as well as several other outstanding catches to get me out of tight situations.

DH: If you had the chance to critique yourself, what would you say?
RL: I would say that my attributes are that I pitch aggressively. I am not afraid to throw my fastball whether ahead or behind in the count. My drawback would be my lack of consistency which I am working on, ie the ability to command the strike zone rather than to control it. If I could throw to quarters of the plate rather that to halves of it, I think that would be of great benefit to me.

DH: Final question Richie, how would you compare Lancaster and Portland as far as off the field activities go?
RL: To be honest, there is not much to do in Lancaster. I think we found a bowling alley, a driving range and a golf course. Here, I haven't had the chance to do too much due to the amount of time we spend at the field but scenic wise it is a beautiful place. It was great being able to take drives out to the Mojave Desert but you do feel that you have moved up a notch being here in Portland.

DH: Plus you are just a ferry ride from Nova Scotia.
RL: Yeah, there you go. It is a blessing to come here. I am really happy here.

DH: Thanks Richie!