To give you some context regarding my interview with Jordan Lyles, Lyles had completed his second Triple-A start three days earlier. The start was in Tacoma, and Lyles was roughed up by a Raniers’ lineup that included a number of notable hitters such as Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak. In this continuation of part one of my August 19, 2010 interview with Jordan Lyles we move from discussing general information about the Astros prospect into discussing pitching with him. I trust y’all will enjoy!
Q: [What are the primary] differences between pitching in Double-A and pitching in Triple-A?
Lyles: [At] each level your mistakes get hit a little more often than at the previous level. A lot of guys are older here [and some] have had time [in the majors]. They have a pretty good mindset of what they are trying to do at the plate, so I just have to be more consistent. For me, I think, it comes down to just fastball command. [My first Triple-A] start wasn’t too bad, but [in my Tacoma start] I didn’t really feel comfortable out there throwing strikes and throwing quality pitches with my fastball. But besides that, I feel like if I make my pitches I’ll be fine.
Q: …We talked a little about what went wrong for you in [the Tacoma] start, but what [do you feel] went right for you in the last couple [of starts]? Where are the progressions that you’re feeling good about?
Lyles: The first two starts I just wanted to come out here and not try to change anything about me myself. [I wanted to] continue to put up starts like I did in Double-A. Not try to go outside of myself and act like a different person. First start, I left a couple of balls over the plate and I gave up a couple of home runs. A fastball over the middle and then a first-pitch change-up that I left up over [the plate] to an experienced hitter, and he made me pay... But my last start I just … wasn’t comfortable out there, I didn’t throw good strikes. They made me pay for it. They made me attack them, which I wasn’t able to do that night.
Q: What changes are you going to need to make to step up to the next level? I mean, you’re at the penultimate level in professional baseball, Triple-A, and the goal is obviously to get to the majors. I know you want to, and you are focused currently working on Triple-A, but what are the things you really want to see yourself do differently to hopefully go to the next level?
Lyles: The first thing that comes to mind is just to make all of my pitches more consistent. I don’t need to go out and change anything, try put any more pitches into my repertoire or anything like that, just refine the pitches that I have and try to make them better, more consistent, attack the lower half of the zone and I think I’ll be fine.
Q: You throw a fastball, curveball, cutter, and change-up. What do you consider your strong and your weak [pitches]?
Lyles: It starts off with my fastball. With any pitcher, I believe that fastball command is the most important thing. You can pitch with a fastball and not have your other offspeed [pitches], but it is really hard to pitch with the offspeed [pitches] and not have your fastball. So I believe the fastball is first. That is my strong point most nights. Behind that, my change-up is usually there. Then I’d probably go to my cutter and then my curveball. The curveball has been inconsistent, but my last couple of starts I’ve decided to establish that more often. I’ve really made a couple of strides these last couple of starts with the curveball. Hopefully in the next couple of starts I can put all my pitches together and help our team try to get a win. [Hopefully] I can be more consistent and start getting off to another good start. Had a little bump right here, but I’ll put it back home.
Q: [U]nlike a lot of minor league pitchers, and even some major league pitchers, you work high-low, in-out, with your fastball and don’t seem to have any hesitancy to throw inside. Have you always been able to throw inside or is that just something you’d been working at in Lexington and [at the other minor league teams that you’ve played on].
Lyles: In high school and in my first year of rookie ball in Greeneville, Tennessee in the Appalachian League I mainly just stayed away. But maybe half way through the season last year in Low-A me and [pitching coach] Travis Driskill, we kind of sat down and talked about it and it made me realize that I need to go inside [to keep] hitters from diving over the plate and getting their arms extended. So I went inside last year, and this year I’ve done a pretty good job of establishing both parts of the plate. It just makes all of the other pitches better if you can establish both sides of the plate.
Again many thanks to Jordan Lyles for taking the opportunity to speak with me for this interview. I know Farmstros readers are excited about the prospect of Lyles taking the mound at Minute Maid Park (sooner, rather than later). –Lee Street