Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at email@example.com.
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Although Marco Estrada did not compile dazzling numbers in his first taste of professional baseball, there are dozens of reasons to believe he could rapidly become one of the Nationals best and most polished pitching prospects as early as this spring. We sat down with the former Long Beach State standout for a Q&A session.
CapitolDugout.com: Marco, how do you feel about your first taste of professional baseball and do you feel that you were at your best with Vermont after a long college season?
Marco Estrada: I think I did pretty well. The numbers might not look that great, but after my first few starts, I think I did fine. I think the only reason I struggled initially was because I had basically a whole month of down time between college and pitching in Vermont. I went straight into pitching games without too much time to get ready to go again. And, yeah, I was probably a little tired, but I think it was just because I hadn't really pitched in a while. But, I think I settled in pretty well.
CapitolDugout.com: You mentioned the layoff before starting professional baseball creating some possible problems for you. What other aspects of professional baseball do you think gave you some trouble?
Marco Estrada: The smaller seams on the baseball were definitely something different for me. In college, the seams are bigger and I had to adjust once I got to the pros. But, it was nothing that I couldn't really handle once I got used to it. Also, I had to learn how to work lower in the zone and around the knees. You could get away with pitching high in college sometimes, but hitters take advantage of it now. If I'm getting the ball down, then I'll be getting more ground balls. And, as a pitcher, you have to love those ground balls.
CapitolDugout.com: Obviously, you have learned quite a bit from your 2005 campaign. What do you feel is going to be the key for you in 2006?
Marco Estrada: More than anything else, I just want to stay healthy and do the best I can. I feel that I can succeed in professional baseball and that I am definitely good enough. As long as I'm healthy, I should do just fine.
CapitolDugout.com: Marco, if you would, please walk us through your repertoire.
Marco Estrada: Well, I throw a fastball and that usually is in the low 90's. I think I have very good command of it and I can usually locate it on the corners of the zone pretty well. I also throw a nice, sharp curveball in the low-80's. That is a really good pitch for me. I get a lot of strikeouts with it. I also throw a changeup that is very effective and I tend to get hitters way out in front of it. I'm probably going to start using it more now too.
CapitolDugout.com: You've mentioned some of the different things about professional baseball that you had to adjust to in your first season. In any ways, have you had to change from the way you pitched in college?
Marco Estrada: Yeah, actually. In college, I was throwing a lot more curveballs. But, I notice in professional baseball, they want you to throw more fastballs and attack the strike zone. A lot of times when I expected to throw a curveball, they'd call a fastball. So that was pretty new. But, as far as the hitters are concerned, I didn't think they were way better than what I saw in college. Yeah, they're a little bit better for sure, but it isn't a huge difference. These guys just make you pay for your mistakes more.
CapitolDugout.com: Heading into spring training this year, what are some of your goals regarding personal achievements or where you'd like to pitch?
Marco Estrada: Well, I would really like to be in High A ball. But, I still pretty sure that I'll probably end of up in Savannah to start the season. I still have my goals to get to High A ball or AA ball by the end of the season. I truly have confidence that I can move that quickly up the ladder. Also, I'd like to get more ground balls. Of course, I love to get the strikeouts, but I should get a lot of balls on the ground also.
CapitolDugout.com: Marco, you mention that you like the strikeouts. Would you call yourself a strikeout pitcher or someone who pitches to contact?
Marco Estrada: I'm definitely a strikeout pitcher. I like to really attack the hitter and go for the strikeout. I think my stuff is good enough for me to be a strikeout pitcher too. But, I have a good two seam fastball that I get a lot of grounders with too. My two seamer has good movement. My four seamer sometimes has some movement too, but I'd rather keep the movement just with the two seamer. (laughing)
CapitolDugout.com: Often times, pitchers speak of how much pitching in a big college environment helped them with the professional transition. How much of a benefit do you think it was for you to pitch for Long Beach State?
Marco Estrada: I think that was a huge advantage for me, definitely. I faced some outstanding hitters in college so it wasn't such a big jump in talent when I got to the pros. I pitched against some good team in college that wouldn't let you get away with a lot of bad mistakes. So, it helped in the transition for sure...