This will be the last Rainier interview until next spring, and we feel it's a good one. Foppert, while not as talkative as some of the other Rainiers (I'm looking at you, Justin Leone), shed some perspective on his injuries and current status as a pitcher. He's a confident guy, and that's something that's usually more of a plus than a negative.
I originally did this piece with Foppert last Friday. I apologize about the delay even though it was out of my control.
Like always, we encourage you to listen to the session right here.
For people who'd like to read, you can view the whole transcript by clicking the "Read More" link below.
Lookout Landing: Okay, we're here again as part of Lookout Landing's continuing series of Rainier interviews. Today we're in the Tacoma dugout with Jesse Foppert, new acquisition. First of all, Jesse, just want to say thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk to us. We know you're busy, so we really appreciate it.
Before we touch on anything else, how is your neck feeling these days?
Jesse Foppert: Feels a lot better, it's getting better. Everyday, I've been doing a lot of treatment and everything I can.
LL: Do you feel like your getting closer to being able to throw six or seven innings a game?
JF: Yeah, I'd say I'm only a couple outings from that. No more than two weeks (Ed's note: this interview was conducted about five days ago.)
LL: How frustrating has it been for you to get an injury like this when you're trying to get as many innings under your belt as possible after missing out on most of 2004?
JF: It's frustrating, you know. Especially with these little nagging injuries I've had this year. You know, I had a good reason to miss last year, but this year has just been real frustrating.
LL: Quickly going back to your career in the Giants organization, how were you able to deal with the pressure of other people's high expectations of you?
JF: You know, I just try and go out and work hard and do what I can. You can't really worry about what other people think. At the end of the day, if you can be satisfied with what you did and how hard you worked, then that's all that matters.
LL: Back in 2003 you earned yourself a slot in a Major League rotation. But for much of the summer your stuff and your velocity weren't quite what they were in the minors. At what point did you know that something was wrong?
JF: Probably that Spring Training of '03. I felt a pop in my elbow, and from then on my velocity slowly dropped and it [elbow] was pretty sore after a game.
LL: How worried about that were you in Spring Training? Did you feel like you could pitch the whole season? You say you felt a little bit of a pop in Spring Training, did you tell anyone about that with the organization?
JF: No, I didn't. I felt that in the middle of an outing I continued to throw the ball real well for the rest of the spring and it felt pretty normal until mid-summer and then it started to really get sore.
LL: How did you try and work around the decreased velocity? Were you and Dave Righetti working together to try and figure out how to succeed while having worse stuff than usual?
JF: Yeah, we tried to make everything a little better, make the slider better and the split better -- mixing it up a little more.
LL: Eventually later in the summer you got the bad news about your arm and you went under the knife. Are you pleased with how your arm has recovered so far post-op?
JF: Yeah, I feel great, I can't complain. It bounces back good from start to start and I'm feeling like I am on my way.
LL: Do you feel you like you're getting closer to finding the stuff that made you one of the brightest young pitchers in baseball just a few years ago?
JF: Yeah, I feel it, it's just getting the consistency back. There's been games this year where I've felt I've been back to my normal self but then the next day I feel like I've never thrown a baseball before. So, it's just a part of it and hopefully by next Spring Training I'll be feeling real good.
LL: Given that your velocity is still coming back, do you ever feel like reaching back and putting everything you have into a pitch just to see how far you have come?
JF: Yeah, that comes into my mind. But by doing that it's not going to help my arm, it's going to risk another injury and that's just not worth it.
LL: As far as the injury is concerned, is that the kind of thing that is always in the back of your mind? Like you might tweak your elbow again throwing the next pitch?
JF: No, I really don't think about it to tell you the truth. Right now, it's just my neck. My elbow hasn't given my any problems since the surgery.
LL: Well, with your neck, do you feel like that could be tweaked? If you make the wrong motion on the mound or move incorrectly off the mound do you feel like you could tweak that?
JF: Yeah, it's definitely in the back of my mind. It's been a real pain the neck, no pun intended. It's no fun when you're just walking around and it bothers you, so it's something that probably affects me whether I think about it or not.
LL: So, let's fast forward a bit to this past July, how did you take the news that you'd been traded to Seattle?
JF: I was surprised, but really not too surprised just because of the way the game goes. I've seen a lot of my friends in my short career get traded when I never thought they would. It's just part of the game.
LL: With an entirely new coaching staff and group of teammates, how has your adjustment gone so far?
JF: I think it's going great. This is a great group of guys and it didn't take to long to get comfortable. This organization and coaches seem real professional.
LL: Have you noticed any differences with the coaching here and the coaching back with the Giants or with the Grizzlies?
JF: It's pretty similar, you know - a pretty laid-back approach. They're willing to do anything for you, all you have to do is ask.
LL: What about Dan Rohn?
JF: He's great. Keeps everyone in the game, keeps you on your toes and keeps you fired up.
LL: And Rafael Chaves, same thing?
JF: Same thing. He's great, the little I've worked with him, the things he's said to me really click.
LL: At this point in time, what specific part of your pitching do you think you could stand to improve the most?
JF: Consistency with all my pitches is the biggest thing.
LL: As a guy with a plus fastball and slider, do you feel like your stuff is good enough to start despite lacking a true, consistent third pitch?
JF: I do. I really feel like my split is coming around and that was the toughest pitch to get a feel for after surgery. I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm working on a two-seamer, and it's feeling pretty good.
LL: How confident are you in your changeup? Is it something you serve up there just to keep hitters honest, or do you feel comfortable throwing it in any count?
JF: It's getting more comfortable. It's a pitch I never threw before surgery. Before this neck injury, probably five starts prior to that it was feeling real good and I felt like I could throw it for strikes and behind in the count. Taking two months off really didn't help.
LL: Quick fill in the blank. "My preferred out pitch of choice is ___"
LL: Two part question now. One, what's your ideal role in a pitching staff?
LL: Starter? You'd rather not be in the bullpen, or...
JF: I'd rather start.
LL: Two, do you see yourself getting the opportunity to fulfill that role with the Mariners in the not-too-distant future?
JF: We'll see what happens. If I keep working here and get better, I don't see why not.
LL: Since obviously you haven't been able to throw as many innings as you'd like this year, are you looking ahead to winter ball this season or is the plan to pretty much shut it down during the offseason and keep up a basic long-toss regimen?
JF: We'll see what happens the next two weeks and in September. I haven't had much time off in the last two years, last two offseasons especially. It would be nice to take a little break, let the body heal.
LL: Has the experience of going through rehab changed the way you plan to keep in shape during the winter?
JF: Yeah, I had a pretty good routine before surgery. You know, going through the rehab process I learned a couple of little exercises for all the little muscles in the shoulder and forearm, bicep - all that to help keep the arm in better shape. But for the most part, it's the same routine.
LL: Last question, what's your primary goal for the rest of 2005?
JF: Finish it healthy and finish it with a positive ending.
LL: All right, that was Jesse Foppert. We appreciate the time and good luck with the rest of the season.
JF: Thank you.