Thursday, April 12, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Fightins RHP Luke Leftwich talks Spring Training, Analytics & Reading's park

Luke Leftwich, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed reliever Luke Leftwich had a big season out of the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers bullpen last year and has opened the 2018 season with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils, hoping to have another remarkable campaign.

In his first full season out of the bullpen last year, the Wofford College product posted a 1-6 record, an outstanding 2.70 ERA, a .232 batting average against and an impressive 11.02 K/9 mark in 42 appearances.

To date this year, Leftwich was appeared in three games, notching one save, striking out six and walking one in four hitless innings.

The 23-year-old, who was the Phillies' 7th round draft pick in 2015, is striving to become Major League Baseball's second third-generation pitcher.

Recently, I talked with the California native, about his experience in spring training, moving up to the Double-A level, exposure to the Phillies' new focus on analytics and more.  Read ahead for that full interview.


-How did spring training go for you?

I actually had a really good spring.  It was good to be with pretty much the same group of guys all throughout the whole spring and it was good to gel together as a team.  And I threw pretty well and it was good throwing for (pitching coach Steve) Schrenk. So, it went well.

-Were there any moments in spring training that stand out to you as a noteworthy moment or are there any standout experiences you had in the spring?

Not too much.  I know with the whole new regime coming in with the Phillies, trying to stress analytics and all that, they talked to a bunch of us about what works well for us and how we can use our talents and our skills on the field to, basically, keep making us better, so we worked a lot on making what we're already good at even better.

-Did you have any opponents or at bats during the spring that helped you build confidence or that were memorable for you?

The last hitter I faced in spring training was Bo Bichette and I got to strike him out, so that's a good way to end camp because he's the talk of the town these days.

-All smiles there!  I like that.  There's a guy, Sam Fuld, with the Phils that is in place to help translate unique statistical information that you spoke of into more player-friendly speak.  Is this going to trickle down to the minor league levels a lot?

Yeah, we actually did meet with him in spring training and it was pretty cool, because there's all these stats that a lot of us have never seen before and don't know what they mean and he kind of put them in more baseball terms for us, rather than statistical terms.  And it was pretty cool to kind of see that stuff, what it means and how it can help us.

-Any examples you can think of?

No, not specifically.  It's just a lot of the new statistical terms that all the smart people are saying that we haven't necessarily seen yet.  

-Your impressions of that...do you think the focus on analytics will benefit you guys a lot?

Absolutely!  I think it's one of those things that can't hurt and I think it's only going to help us.  And it's one of those things that it is what you make of it, and if you go in and try and learn from it and use it to your advantage, then it's going to help you.

-Is there anybody in the bullpen that you've bonded with considerably or are very close with?

Me and (Tyler) Gilbert have been together since day one in Williamsport.  We've been throwing partners since literally our first day of mini camp in Clearwater, a week after the draft.  We've kind of gone through this whole journey together.

-So, you guys are rooming together, video game rivals, all of that...?

Well, pretty much all of the above.  We're not rooming together this season.  We definitely do a lot of stuff.  We hang out.  We make music together sometimes.   Do all that kind of stuff, so it's been cool.

-Is there anybody on the roster that's experiencing this terrible wintery spring weather in PA for the first time?

I think there's a few guys that have never quite experienced this before.  I know my roommate, Seth McGarry, he's from Florida, grew up in Bradenton, and he's come up here and playing in snow would be the first time for him.

-You talked about Schrenk.  What are your impressions of him in the early going?

I love him.  He's been great.  He's really good with mentality wise, just how to pitch to people and how we should be on the mound, rather than maybe early on in your careers when maybe you need to work on mechanics and fixing things.  He kind of knows that now that we've made it to this level, we know what we're doing and we need to better our mentality on the mound.

-Coming up to Reading and playing here for the first time, what are your thoughts on that?

I'm excited.  I mean, I've been trying to get here for years and now that I'm here, I'm excited for the challenge and I'm ready to get going.

-Is there anything you've heard about the fans, the town, the facility?

I've heard nothing but great things.  I heard it's a great atmosphere here, the fans love the team, it's a fun nice field to play on.  I'm just really excited to get going.

-You mentioned the field here and it can plan as an offensive park.  What have you heard from guys that have played here before?

It's definitely one of those things that the people that pitched here last year passed down to the guys coming in this year.  Like, "Don't be afraid to attack!  There's going to be some balls that shouldn't get out that end up getting out.  And don't let that discourage you because it's going to happen.  It's part of the game.  Just keep trucking forward."
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