Again, the time between interviews was long, but we're back with another Rainier interview. This time it was Clint Nageotte. I must say, Nageotte came off as one of the most confident people I've ever spoken with, not to mention a real nice guy. He was relatively candid about what's going on right now with his career and how he feels about his future.
Like always, we encourage you to listen to the session, which you can do right here.
Otherwise, the complete transcript is below. Enjoy.
Lookout Landing: Okay, we're here again as part of Lookout Landing's continuing series of Rainier interviews. Today on the hot seat we have Clint Nageotte. First of all Clint, we just want to say thanks for taking some time out of your busy schedule to sit down and answer a few questions.
So, judging by your performance so far, your forearm is feeling better?
Clint Nageotte: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I'm 100% right now and I'm just happy to be on this team right now and pitching. We're winning some games too, and I feel good.
LL: If you could, tell us a little bit about your rehab in Arizona. How were you able to keep your arm strength up while you were sidelined?
CN: Basically, my forearm was pretty tender, so I had to give it about four weeks off and then start over on a throwing program. So, it took a good two months to get back to where I thought I should be. And then that last month of June, I was basically just throwing and building my arm strength up for that whole month so I'd be ready now, and I feel like I am.
LL: Did you find the environment in Arizona kind of fun to go down to? Being an instructional league, were things pretty...instructional? Were the coaches pretty helpful with getting back to where you are now?
CN: It was an injury, so I was mostly working with a physical trainer and things like that. So basically, I was kind of on my own regimen like a lot of the other guys who are injured. It was kind of like you're on your own different program. That's the last place you want to be during the season, is in Arizona when all my buddies are up here playing. You know, I just wanted to do everything I could to get out of there as fast as I can and get back playing up here.
LL: Did you ever find yourself pressing too hard to get through your rehab? I mean, here you are getting hurt in Spring Training, and then all of a sudden you look up and it's July and you haven't pitched. You must have felt a little bit of pressure to get back on the mound before the year ended.
CN: Yeah, I was getting real antsy. But at the same time, it's kind of what made me really work even harder and try to get back as quick as I could and as healthy as possible. Right now, I feel real good about how things are going and I'm just going to keep looking forward.
LL: You hurt your arm this spring after tweaking your back last summer. How frustrating has it been for you to get through these injuries right when it seems you have a chance to leave a lasting impression with the big club?
CN: It's been frustrating, but it's just part of it. Everyone is going to have setbacks, very few guys get up there and just take off. Things always happen, you have your ups and your downs, and I just want to take the punches as they come and just keep rolling. Things are going to happen, injuries are going to happen, but if I keep myself in the best shape I can, then everything else will take care of itself.
LL: Tell us a little bit about your experience last year in Seattle. Any memories you want to keep with you as long as you live? And anything you want to forget?
CN: Well, I'll remember everything. Of course, I'll remember a lot of stuff I'd like to forget. I learned a lot up there and it's something that only happens once. You know, getting called up to the big leagues and playing there, your first outing, your first start. You know, things you definitely remember and cherish. But then, there's also those bumps in the road, you know, I'm really looking forward to get up there and re-establish why people though of me being able to pitch there. I know I can pitch up there, and that's where I belong.
LL: Where were you and what were you doing when you heard you were getting called up, anyway?
CN: Actually, I was packing for a Vegas trip with the AAA team. But instead of going to Las Vegas, I was going to Boston.
LL: Now, the Clint Nageotte we saw in Seattle last year was not the same Clint Nageotte we saw throughout the minors. Understanding that you fought lower back pain for your entire career, to what extent do you think it hurt your performance with the Mariners?
CN: It really didn't up until that one game. Like you said, I've fought it but I'm 100%. I've never made excuses in the past and I'm not going to. I was up there, I felt I could pitch, so obviously I didn't say anything or I didn't think anything was wrong then nothing was wrong. I definitely didn't have the same stuff, it was kind of weird going out there and not throwing the ball like I know I can throw the ball. I feel right now like I'm back to the point where I have as good stuff as I've had.
LL: Despite those few rough games, then sent you right back out to the hill a few times to soak up some innings late in the season. At any point did you feel like your self-confidence was waning, or was everything just a learning experience to build on for next time?
CN: You know, I want to pitch as much as I can. No matter what, I want to be out there because that's where I'm most happy in the world, when I'm standing out there on the mound with a ball. As many times as they put me out there, I appreciated it and I wanted to do well and make a statement for myself because I wasn't performing the way I know I can.
LL: You've actually come back this year throwing a sinker more often, where you've used it pretty rarely in the past. What caused you to make the change and how's it working out so far?
CN: Well, coming out of the bullpen is a little different. I like to get guys out early in the count and it's a little bit easier for me to control. You know, the sinking fastball, I don't really have to worry about locating it as well as four-seam straight fastball. Throwing a two-seamer, it's got natural sink on it, so I've been sticking with that and the slider.
LL: When did that idea come into your head? You strike out a lot of guys, which actually makes your pitch count a little bit higher. Was that like kind of a recent idea that you wanted to keep your pitch count being in the bullpen, so you wanted to start throwing that sinker a little bit more often?
CN: The sinker was mostly a pitch I threw a lot in the minor leagues. But early in the count, to maybe get early outs and stuff like that. So, it's something I've kind of become accustomed to doing. Strike one is the most important pitch for me, so if I can throw that sinker over the plate for strike one, if it's a quality pitch then I can either get a guy out or be right where I want to be.
LL: Of course, a question I think a lot of people want to ask is 'what is the status of your change-up?' It seems like that's the pitch that could determine your eventual long-term role on a pitching staff, so everyone wants to know how that's coming along.
CN: I feel real comfortable throwing the change-up. I've been throwing it with a split-grip, you know, I've kind of changed it up a little bit. I've had a real hard time during my career throwing a circle change and I've kind of just put that out the window and stuck with what's been working. Coming out in relief, it's a pitch I really haven't had to use that much, but if I do have to use it, I feel confident using it.
LL: Given that you're still working on the change-up, still working on the sinker, how have you handled being labeled by some as a two-pitch pitcher?
CN: Well, that because I use two pitches a lot. So, I understand if that's the way it's going to be. You know, those are the two pitches I use a lot so people think, "Yeah, he's a two-pitch pitcher," but I do have that third pitch. There's been some reluctance in throwing it in certain counts, but it's a pitch that, if I'm throwing five or six innings, I'd be throwing it more than if I was just throwing one or two innings.
LL: Do you feel that the lack of a consistent third pitch was the reasons you were moved to the bullpen after being a starter for the first four years of your career?
CN: It could be, I don't know. I feel I have a pretty good change-up, so you know, it could be any reason.
LL: What do you consider to be the main differences between pitching out of the rotation and pitching out of the bullpen?
CN: Just getting prepared to pitch maybe one or two innings. Not having to feel things out the first couple innings and get going. You know, you can walk a few guys and not be in trouble, but if you're in the bullpen, it's here and now. You want to throw as little [amount of] pitches as possible and you got to get everybody out. That's the mindset.
LL: Is it more nerve-racking coming out of the bullpen knowing that you're not scheduled to start? It could be anytime you're called in, bases loaded, one out, tie game. Is it a little bit more nerve-racking coming out of the bullpen?
CN: No, I wouldn't say nerve-racking. I'd say it's a little more exciting, knowing it's the later innings of the game. It's a good time to be on the mound because it's an important time in the game. You know, I like being out there when it really counts, that's fun to me.
LL: Given a choice, which role would you prefer?
CN: I think if you ask, 99% of pitchers would probably say they would like to start. And you know, that's not the case. On good teams you got to have guys who are willing to do whatever it is to win and that's what I'm doing. I'll do whatever the ballclub feels necessary. Right now, they feel I can help the team best in the bullpen, and that's what I'm going to do.
LL: If you could, tell us a bit about how you had to adjust pitching at a higher level. What strikes you as most different between say, hitters in the PCL and hitters in the Texas League or hitters in the PCL and hitters in the Majors?
CN: Well, I think it's just that if you make quality pitches you're going to get anybody out. If you consistently make good pitches, you're going to be good. If you get wild, hitters see that, they're looking for everything. If the guy is not throwing a lot of strikes, then they aren't going to swing [at pitches] that are just kind of close. They are going to look for their pitch, because they know the pitcher is going to have to come with something. At every level, getting ahead and making quality pitches, you're going to get guys out.
LL: What environment did you enjoy pitching in more? In San Antonio, where it's pretty hot and the air is kind of dry (Devin's note: I totally spaced on knowing it's humid in the south) or more up here in the Northwest, where it's more mild during the summer but the air is quite a bit heavier?
CN: I liked pitching in the heat. I really like pitching in the humid heat, I felt like I got looser. This is beautiful up here right now, I'm not going to complain one bit. But I really enjoyed pitching when it was hot and humid. I had a problem sweating, but for some reason down there it made me feel good.
LL: How much was Bryan Price able to help you get comfortable after your promotion? Did he help you get any idea of what to expect from Major League hitters, or did you just have to get that from experience?
CN: I think it's something that just comes with experience, and that's what he told me, too. He said, "Every time out, you're going to get more comfortable". And I did, I started to feel a lot more comfortable the more times I was out there. It's pitching; once you're out there it doesn't matter where you're at. If you're in Safeco Field or if you're in Cheney Stadium, it's sixty feet, six inches. You know, it's pitching...so...
LL: Last year, a lot of guys you played with in Tacoma ended up playing with you in Seattle later in the summer. Did having guys like Blackley, Leone, Jacobsen, Madritsch around help you stay comfortable in an otherwise unfamiliar clubhouse?
CN: Yeah, it was nice. It was real nice having all your buddies that you played with in the minor leagues being up there. It makes things a little bit more comfortable. You have your buddies there to hang with and enjoy it as much as you do, because you know they are just as happy as you are. It was exciting.
LL: Quick true or false question: Clint Nageotte will pitch for the Seattle Mariners in 2005.
LL. All right, confidence. Well Clint, I just want to say thanks again for taking the time, good luck on the rest of the season, we're all pulling for you.
CN: Thank you very much, Devin.