Posted by Mack Ade at 10:00 AM
We continue our series of ‘award winning’ Q and A’s with various future Mets stars.
This one’s an easy one.
Ben Griset fell into our laps when the Tampa Bay Rays released him on October 27, 2014. The Mets signed him the following January. Last year, for A+ - St.Lucie, he pitched in 32 games and posted a stat line (as a 24-year old) of: 4-2, 1.80, 1.03, 9.90/K-9.
(Mack) Welcome Ben to Mack’s Mets.
(Ben) Thank you for having me!
(Mack) First thing first, as best as I can determine, no baseball player that played for your alma mater, St. Mary’s, has made it to the AA level, no less the majors. How’s that going to feel sometime this season?
(Ben) Surprisingly, Saint Mary's has had quite a few big leaguers, I believe it's 60 to be exact. I did not know this until I attended the school, but apparently Saint Mary's was pretty good back in the day. They even have someone in the hall of fame named Harry Hooper who played in the 1930's. More recently, and more well-known Saint Mary's players who have reached the big leagues is knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti, and 3rd baseman Mark Teahen. Saint Mary's has one player currently in the bigs and that's Miami Marlin's relief pitcher, Kyle Barraclough. He had a great year last year and I'm so happy for him! He was the Marlins Rookie of the Year and the 1st relief pitcher for the Marlins to record 100 strikeouts in a season, and it only took him 66 innings to do so. Kyle Jensen made it to the big leagues last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he will be playing in Japan this year. We also have a 1st rounder named Patrick Wisdom playing in AAA for the Cardinals, and I hope he'll make his debut this year. He's having a great Spring Training and has already hit 3 home runs, including 1 off Met's pitcher Jerry Blevins. Even though Saint Mary's has had quite a few big leaguers, the last 50 years there haven't been too many to speak of.
Double A is going to be a big challenge and I'm very excited to have the opportunity to compete at that level this year. I've always thought that if someone can make it to Double A they're a heck of a ballplayer. Obviously my goal is to become a big leaguer, but knowing the reputation and the amount of respect that goes along with playing Double A ball, it is still a very cool feeling and something I'm really looking forward to.
Here's the link to all the MLB players from Saint Mary's if you're curious. http://www.baseball-
almanac.com/college/saint_ marys_college_of_california_ baseball_players.shtml
It is missing Kyle Jensen and Kyle Barraclough though.
(Mack) Good start Mack... anyway... your departure from Tampa Bay makes no sense to me. You get drafted, you put up good numbers in 2013, post a respectable 3.86-ERA in A-ball in 2014, and an outstanding short stint (0.71-ERA) at A+ - Charlotte). Then, BOOM, you’re released. What’s with that?
(Ben) I think the biggest reason why I was released was my velocity, or lack thereof. When the Rays drafted me I would sit 88-90, touching 91 and 92, with a sharp curveball and a decent change up. I went straight from college where I threw every 7 days and didn't even throw a pen in between starts, to pro ball where I was put in a 5 man rotation and threw a mandatory bullpen in between starts. Between college and pro ball that year I made 27 starts and threw around 150 innings. Before that year I had only thrown 70 innings max. My arm was toast. I remember one start where I was so fatigued that my arm was physically shaking before I even started playing catch. At one point they registered a fastball I threw at 82mph; I could do that when I was 14. I went out there and competed, but needless to say, I needed to adjust to pro ball. The next year was a lot better, but still slightly down from where I was in college. The Rays wanted starters to pitch heavily off their fastballs and I wasn't what they were looking for, and I ran out of time. Thankfully the Mets gave me another opportunity and my fastball has been the best it has ever been in my life and I've continued to get better every year.
(Thomas Brennan) Ben, you had a very successful year out of the bullpen in 2016. To build upon that, would you hope to be the closer for Binghamton in 2017 or be Corey Taylor's set up man?
(Ben) Thank you! I would be fine with any role that the coaching staff wants to put me in. I feel like no matter when I'm pitching I'm still just trying to get hitters out so nothing changes for me whether it's in the first inning or the ninth. But that being said, I pitched mostly as the set up guy for Corey Taylor last year and that was a blast. I thought we were a good one-two punch and it would be a lot of fun to do that again this year. But like I said, wherever the coaching staff wants to put me is fine by me. I just want to help the team win.
(Brennan) What do you see yourself as needing to accomplish or improve upon to be ready to step in as a successful major league reliever?
(Ben) I'm not entirely sure what I'd need to accomplish before I'd be considered big league ready. Maybe the front office has something in mind, but if they do I don't know what that is. I just try to focus on one pitch a time and be completely locked in mentally and be extremely competitive and hope the rest will take care of itself.
There's a couple things I'd like to improve upon though. Right now the pitching coaches and coordinators are stressing to all pitcher to be quicker to the plate to eliminate runners stealing on us. They told us that if someone is slow to the plate that it could be the reason you don't get called up to the big leagues. I'm not super slow to the plate, but I would hate that to be the reason I don't get the call. So I think that's a huge aspect of my game that I need to make sure is always in check. I'm also trying to work on a better pick off move. If runners know my move is pretty good that could also be a valuable tool to keep runners from stealing or an easy way to get a quick out.
(Reese Kaplan) Ben, I would imagine like most Little League and high school players you began your organized baseball career as a starting pitcher. Some like the planned preparation of starting whereas others like the adrenaline rush of being brought into a game to stop the bleeding. Who first approached you about switching to the pen and which role do you prefer?
(Ben) I love the adrenaline rush of coming out of the pen. When they call down and tell you to get hot you're heart starts pounding and you get super focused. I love coming in the game with runners on in a big situation. When you come through for your team in a situation like that, it's a great feeling. I also love coming to the field every day and putting on my uniform and knowing there's a chance I could play that day. I'm excited for every day and every game.
When I start there's so much downtime. You know when you're going to start and before the game is awful. I hate waiting around to pitch. I'm alway high strung when I'm pitching. Some of my teammates even joked around and nicknamed me Psycho last year, but I can't help it, that's how I have to pitch. I started 3 games last year and I tried to take the same approach starting as I did when I was relieving. I would try to chill out as much as possible and then right before I'd go out to the field I would get pumped up and get ready to go. I didn't even long toss, I would just go straight to the mound like I did as a reliever. That helped a ton and I felt really comfortable out there after following that routine. If I start again this year I think I'm going to stick to that approach.
When the Mets signed me they called me and told me I would be in the pen so I didn't have much say in that. I definitely prefer the pen but if the coaches think I can help the team more by starting then I'm all for it!
(David Rubin) Ben- congrats on a really great season in 2016! As a starter your repertoire consisted of 5 pitches, and as a reliever you've continued to utilize all 5 of them. Have you had any pressure, in your transition to being a full-time reliever, to abandon any of the 5 in favor of focusing on your best 3? If you had to pick only 3, which would you most want to keep throwing?
(Ben) Thank you! I don't feel like I've had any added pressure to abandon some of my pitches. The Mets have allowed me to go out there and pitch to the best of my ability and that involves mixing my 5 pitches to keep hitters off balance. Most of the time my curveball is my best pitch but sometimes my changeup is working really well and is more effective than my curveball. It's nice to have multiple pitches to have options and certain days some pitches are working better than others. If I had to limit my pitch mix to three pitches I would continue to throw my two seam fastball, changeup, and my curveball. My two seam sinks and runs more than my four seam and gets more ground balls while my change up and curveball are more of an out pitch than my cutter. I think I could still be effective using only these three but by adding the four seam and cutter it allows me to keep the hitters guessing more.
(Rubin) Also, as a reliever, your WHIP has come down quite a bit - to what do you most attribute that to?
(Ben) I think there's a couple reasons for my WHIP coming down. When I started with the Rays they wanted me to pitch off my fastball more and at the time I had a below average fastball so I was giving up a lot of hits. As a reliever, I've been allowed to mix my pitches how I see fit. I've been able to lower my WHIP a lot even though I've even walked a few more guys per nine than I did when I was a starter. Another reason I've been able to lower my WHIP is because my fastball has been a lot better as a reliever. It has increased by an average of 4 MPH. I have also developed a more consistent two seam fastball that has some sinking action and that has allowed me to get quick ground ball outs which has been a huge key in lowering my WHIP.
(Rubin) Finally, as someone who can sit in the low-mid 90's but also throws a classic 12-6 curve, do you think you'd best be used as a closer, or due to your length of time as a starter, might you be more effective in a long relief role with the potential to be a 6th starter as needed?
(Ben) As of right now I don't exactly know where I would be best used if I were to try and fit into a major league club. Right now the Mets are having me get my innings up to become a starter this season but they said that could change depending on how things pan out by the end of Spring Training. I did everything last year, from closing, to starting, to getting a lefty out. I know I like coming out of the pen more, but I also know that if I can be a successful starter in the big leagues then I can be more valuable to teams. If I start I could always go to the pen later if starting isn't where the Mets see me fitting in best. Either way, I'm comfortable pitching in any situation and I hope I can continue that trend this year.
(Mack) I want to thank you Ben for your time during your spring training to answer our questions. Good luck in your budding career and, remember… one pitch at a time Ben… one pitch at a time.
Thank you so much for having me!