With the offseason lull upon us and Walt not making much noise in the hot stove league, we here at RR have been reaching out to look for fresh ideas. I'm pretty sure we haven't had a player interview here, at least since I've been around, so I figured the offseason would be a good time to do one. I recently reached out to lefty reliever Danny Ray Herrera, and asked him about the offseason, the organization, and his pitch repertoire. For those of you not familiar with him, he pitched 7 1/3 innings out of the Reds bullpen last year, and allowed no runs in 5 of his 7 appearances after starting the season in Chattanooga. You may also remember his major league debut, where he struck out Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell with the bases loaded to hold the Philles scoreless in an inning started by Aaron Harang. He pitched 55 innings for Louisville last season, going 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA. He also had an impressive 50/10 K/BB ratio in AAA last year, and saved 6 games for the Bats. My Q&A with the giant killer himself is after the jump...
RR: What are you doing in the offseason (baseball related or otherwise)?
DRH: This offseason I decided to give my arm a rest and not play any winter ball. I've been in the gym for a month already and I'm working on getting my arm stronger in preparation for next year. So far I've spent my time in Austin, golfing and doing some traveling.
RR: Is there a player you looked up to growing up?
DRH: I grew up playing center field so I had wall to wall Griffey posters, it was great getting to play with him a few times last year. I was a huge Rangers fan growing up so Nolan Ryan was my other favorite. I used to mimic his high leg kick when i started pitching.
RR: How did you feel when you got traded to the Reds?
DRH: At first I was a little hurt that I couldn't have played at home in Texas but I knew it was going to be a fresh start in a new organization. Especially coming over to a long established organization like the Reds was exciting.
RR: You got called up at the beginning of June for a short stint in the bullpen. What did you think about that experience, and how nervous were you to come into a game?
DRH: The experience was unreal but very short lived. My nerves were definitely there when I got called in, especially for it being my first game. Running in to a close game and a huge crowd was unforgettable.
RR: What was it like striking out Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell in your major league debut?
DRH: It couldn't have happened any better. I had seen some reports on them before getting in the game and made some good pitches to both of them. Hearing a silent crowd when I walked off the field was intense. More then anything I gained some respect from my teammates with that outing and it was the ideal way to break through.
RR: What's the biggest difference between the big leagues and the minors?
DRH: The instincts and mental aspects it takes to play the game is the biggest separating factor. Having the mental toughness to to dig yourself out of a hole or being able to keep a consistent mental approach throughout the year is crucial to the success of any player.
RR: How helpful have pitching coaches Ted Power and Dick Pole been in your development this past year?
DRH: Teddy was great to have in Louisville, he kept my focus where it needed to be and kept our pitching staff loose.
RR: You have the reputation of being somewhat of a junk baller. What do you throw?
DRH: I throw a 4-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, slurve, change-up, and screwball. I will obviously carry the junk-ball tag because I don't throw hard and I'm effective with my offspeed pitches, but my approach to hitters is different from your typical pitcher. I find value in movement and deception so I like to incorporate different speeds and arm angles to get outs.
RR: What is it about your screwball that makes it an effective pitch for you?
DRH: No one throws the thing anymore and being a lefty throwing a screwball lets me work with new angles and velocities. My arm speed is the real sell though, nothing slows down and it looks like a fastball.
RR: Who's the best hitter you've faced in the minors?
DRH: Chase Headley. In 2007, when I played against him in the Texas league, I couldn't get him out. I'll be looking forward to facing him next year.
RR: What player in the Reds organization impresses you the most?
DRH: I enjoyed throwing to Hanigan this past year. Pitchers can always appreciate a catcher who can handle the staff and call a solid game. He swings the bat really well and I like his chances to be our everyday catcher.
RR: What are your expectations for the Reds in 2009, and how do you anticipate fitting into the overall picture of the team?
DRH: I expect us to be a young hungry team. We have a great core of young guys and I can't wait to see us mix up the central division. I see myself fitting into the bullpen to go into any situation, whether it be long relief, lefty-lefty match-up, or with runners on. Honestly, I'll fit into any role to help our club win ballgames. My focus has been towards camp and winning a job.
I want to thank Danny Ray again for doing this interview. I thought he did a great job, and I'm really impressed at how down-to-earth the guy is, as well as how much he knows about his pitching. He's got the right mindset to use his unique talent to get guys out, and I don't think you can ask for anything more from a pitcher. I think I speak for most of the RR contingent by wishing him good luck for the season, and hoping he can come in and be a solid contributor in the bullpen.