"The tough times are the ones that truly show you who you are. "
-- Barry Enright
It's been a difficult season for Diamondbacks fans. The team many expected to compete in the NL West this year is, instead, destined for a second straight year in the cellar. But there have been some bright spots, probably none more so than the arrival of some young pitchers, who have burst onto the Arizona scene with an array of stellar performances. Leading the way is Barry Enright, who only got his call-up after the failed Dontrelle Willis experiment, but has put together a sparkling 2.45 ERA over his first dozen appearances in the majors. That's one of the best numbers posted in the past twenty years, and he may be the best "unknown" pitcher in the NL.
After the jump, Barry tells up about getting the call, his approach to pitching, and what he likes to do when he's not frustrating opposing hitters.
How did you get the news of your call-up to the majors, and what was your reaction?
I was in the weight room the day before I was supposed to start in Mobile against the Montgomery Biscuits. My pitching coach, Dan Carlson, came to tell me our manager wanted to speak wth me. When I stepped in the office all the coaching staff plus our farm director were there. I was a little confused, but kind of thought I might be heading to AAA. Dan turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, "It's the call that you want!"
He told me I was pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals in two days. It was such a surreal feeling, there was really no words. Every coach hugged me and said their congradulations. I wasn't allowed to tell anyone until after the game because the Diamondbacks wanted it to be released through them first. Keeping that secret made the three-hour game the longest one I have ever sat through!
You went from pitching in front of 3,100 fans in Mississippi, to 37,000 fans in St. Louis for your debut five days later. How was that experience?
The only word for that is AMAZING. Once again, it was so surreal. I'm not sure that it has even hit me yet, that I am in the big leagues. I was able to fy my mom and two brothers out to the game. - my dad's two close friends also made the trip - It was an unforgettable day.
Despite presumably facing better hitters in the majors, your ERA is actually better here than in Double-A. To what do you credit your early success and what are the main lessons you've learned since coming up?
Well, I have always tried to learn and get better each year. As a baseball player you tend to think you know it all at times, but that is far from the case. There is always something to learn, through success - and especially through failure. The tough times are the ones that truly show you who you are.
One big lesson I have learned this year was with preparation. My pitching coach in Double-A, Dan Carlson, always tried to create the mind-set in me, that I was going to pitch in the Big Leagues the next day. He wanted me to throw my bullpens and do everything on and off the field in preparation for geting that call. He is a very special person to me and my time in Mobile this year was a big step in my career.
In your recent start against Colorado at Chase, you seemed to throw more change-ups than usual. Is that something you are working on, with an eye to increasing its use?
The changeup is a essential pitch in baseball, especially as a starter. Mel Stottlemyre Jr. always preached using it, when he used to be our pitching coordinator in the minor leagues. Now we joke about it because he always says, "I told you so". It's a pitch that will help hitters stay off all of my other offerrings, especially my fastball [although] it is a work in progress.
What are the tools you like to use when preparing for a start, e.g. video, statistics, and which do you tend to put most faith in?
I use video some, but I try not to get too caught up in it. I trust my catchers and like to adjust on the fly to what I see while I'm on the mound. I just like to know who is hot and cold on the opposing team that we are playing.
You've already faced some of the biggest names in the league: Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, Stephen Strasburg. Do you anticipate challenges like that, or does it make little difference to you who is pitching for the opposition?
I find it fun pitching and being the underdog. People don't expect much out of the underdog, but what they don't know are the expectations that I have of myself. To be the best, you have to beat the best.
How much are you aware of your own stats? If, say, the numbers suggest you're a fly-ball pitcher, does that make you change your approach when playing in hitter-friendly parks like Chase?
I try not to look or get caught up in my stats at all. I always found that unless I have a zero ERA or or strike every batter out I won't be truly satisfied! I let others get caught up in the numbers. My job is to go pitch and give my team a chance to win, in any park, or against any team.
Dan Hudson and you are both having very impressive seasons. In what ways does it help to have another starter also going through the rookie experience?
Having Huddy and Kennedy being there with me, going through the same things, is a big help. We became immediate friends, and all push each other every day. Hopefully, we will be able to all stay together and make this special for years to come.
What have been the biggest surprises to you about life in the big-leagues?
Being a Big Leaguer is pretty cool, but I try not to get caught up to much in all the perks. In the minor leagues we have to carry our bags. That's not the case it the big leagues!
Finally, what do you like to do to relax, when you're not at the park?
I like to golf on my off time. There are some really cool courses in Phoenix and places we travel. Other than that I enjoy my down time and I am pretty low key.
[Thanks to Paul of BHSC for his help in arranging this]