You've been a starter and reliever, both in college and the minors. Do you now consider yourself set as a bullpen arm?
The starting thing... I don't know if it wasn't for me. I didn't see as much success and I don't know if I was younger or what it was. I definitely think when I moved to the bullpen, something clicked. It's been a mindset that works for me, and I've had success with it the last couple of years. I think that's something I stick to for the time being.
I read in another interview that you "decided to blossom" in that role. How important is that positive mental approach?
It's everything. The game can be so taxing. When the Diamondbacks decided to move me to the bullpen two years ago, I could either go out, compete and have fun with it, or I could whine and, who knows, maybe end up not playing baseball any more. I've always been a guy that's been confident in my abilities, and it worked for me. It's been fun being a part of the bullpen the last couple of years.
As a reliever, are you now more a two-pitch fastball/slider guy, or do you still use your curveball?
I try not to fall in love withmy slider/cutter, whatever you want to call it too much. My curveball has been an effective pitch for me, so using that is something I try to be more cognizant of. Especially towards the middle of last year, it worked almost as a change of speeds for me. So not forgetting about the curveball is something I've been more on top of lately.
You had a breakout campaign in the 2016 Arizona Fall League, with 18.1 scoreless innings, and 30 strikeouts. Was there something which "clicked"?
I think it was a couple of things. I was in a good spot, coming off a really good year, so I was confident and I was excited to compete against some of the best prospects in the minor leagues, and guys that are on the verge of the big leagues. That league kinda played to my strengths, because it's a lot of guys trying to put up big numbers, and I think I'm the kind of pitcher that benefits from hitters trying to do too much and trying to drive the ball, hit home-runs.
You were then at spring training before this season. What did you get out of that experience?
It was great for me to get around the guys, get familiar with the faces. Get that experience to play in a handful of games, I think it gave me a taste of what I ultimately want to be - which is a big-leaguer. I was very grateful for the opportunity, and felt like I learned a lot.
Were there pitchers at camp who you found especially helpful?
Honestly, all the guys were great. I was grouped with the relievers, and they were all willing to give little things that helped them, in the everyday life of getting ready for a game and being a big-leaguer. Those were the things that I noted.
I've seen comparisons to Andrew Miller, another 6'7" left-handed reliever. But is there a particular pitcher you model yourself after?
I love watching him, obviously. He's a very unique guy, and one of the best pitchers in the game. Any time I can be mentioned in the same breath as him, it's something I'll definitely take. I think that being a taller guy gives me an advantage. The ball comes from a little different slot, it's something the hitters don't see every day. I definitely think that guys of our stature have a bit of an advantage, just as a smaller guy has a bit of an advantage.
I was just reminded of another tall left-hander the Diamondbacks had, who owned a particularly effective slider. Have you had a chance to talk with Randy Johnson?
I've gotten to have a couple of conversations with him over the years. Obviously, any time Randy talks, you listen! Anyone around my age grew up watching him dominate, for as long as he did. So any tidbits of information you can get from a guy like that, you're going to take.
Moving on to this year, it looks like you had your first professional at-bat. It didn't seem to go so well - it was a strikeout - but do you consider yourself a hitter, in the Archie Bradley mode?
[Laughs] I used to be able to hack it pretty good, and I was very excited for that at-bat. I was talking a pretty good game about my high-school hitting days. It didn't go so well, but I did not get cheated - I took some pretty big swings, We'll see if I can knock some rust off before my next at-bat!
What position in the field do you think you would be able to play best?
I would probably have to stay at first base. I like to run down some balls in the outfield, but it seems like there's a lot more space on a big-league field than there were in the high-school fields that I was roaming around.
In July, you moved to Reno and the Pacific Coast League, a notoriously hitter-friendly environment. Did you adjust your approach there?
Not really. April last year, I kind of struggled, then May 1st on, I got in a groove. I was very confident and I tried to attack guys all year - that was my thing. I got to the PCL and I told myself I wasn't going to treat it any different than any other league and it worked for me. I think in the PCL, and in the big-leagues too, it's so important to get ahead of hitters. Especially with the way I pitch, getting ahead is a night-and-day difference to being behind in the count.
As we end 2017, what do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
I think my biggest strength is that: I'm a guy that gets on the mound and I'm going to go after hitters. I've never really been intimidated to attack a hitter. I think a weakness is when I've struggled in the past, I've got a little out of sync and losing my command. But I think from May on. I was really proud of how I commanded the zone and had very few outings after April that I faltered with command. I know how effective I can be when I'm ahead of hitters, and how hard it is to get hits off me.
How much of that "getting out of sync" is physical, and how much is mental?
To me, pitching is so much about being in sync, and I think throughout a season, you're going to go through spurts where you're not necessarily comfortable. It's just finding a way to still be effective, even on those days when you're not really feeling your best. It's something I've learned to adapt to, over the last couple of years especially.
You're coming out to Arizona in January - that seems quite early.
I just want to get out there and get re-adjusted, work out with the guys. Really just get comfortable again. I've talked about doing it in years past, and figured this was a good time to get out early. It's an advantage to get out there and throw to the catchers that are out there. A lot of guys get out there about that time, and a lot of the big-league guys live out there, so it'll be good to get around them.
Is there a particular park or team you'd like your major-league debut to be against?
I'd like to face all of them! I just want to be in the big leagues. It has been a goal of mine for so long. I feel I was ready last year - obviously, it didn't happen for me. But I think this year is a really good opportunity for me to come into camp and get to work. I think the only thing I need to do is continue what I've done the past couple of year, and the rest will take care of itself.
One final question. What's your favorite baseball movie, and why?
Oh, wow - we were just talking about this over Thanksgiving with my family. I like The Natural a lot, but I think my favorite has to be The Rookie. I like the whole story-line with him being a high-school teacher, and going to the tryout with the little boy. You feel for people that have been in that sort of situation, some team-mates that you've played with in Triple-A, who might be a little bit older. It's just a cool movie and I like all the feels that are associated with it. And you can't beat Rookie of the Year. That's an all-time kid movie for sure!