Friday, August 24, 2018

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood RHP Connor Brogdon

Connor Brogdon, image- MiLB.com
Right-handed pitcher Connor Brogdon has been a key part of the Class A Lakewood pitching staff all year long.  After opening the 2018 campaign in the starting rotation, and posting a 1-2 record with a 3.73 ERA over seven starts, the 23-year-old was moved into a relief role, where he has been excellent.  In 21 relief appearances, Brogdon has tallied a 4-1 record with four saves, a 1.64 ERA, a .190 batting average against and a 12.0 K/9 mark.

A 10th round draft pick last year out of Lewis-Clark State (the same school that produced former Phillies farm hand Tyler Knigge) by the Phillies, Brogdon, a California native, is listed at 6-feet-6-inches tall and 192 pounds.

I spoke with Brogdon recently about his team's excitement level for the upcoming South Atlantic League playoffs, his refined pitch repertoire, the role changes he's undergone this season and plenty more.  Read ahead for that full interview.

-I just wanted to get some thoughts on your spot right now...as you've changed roles throughout the season.

So, obviously I was a starter at the beginning of the year.  I switched roles and went to the bullpen when Kyle Young came up.  And then I was kind of a long relief guy because I was fresh out of starting.  And then most of the second half I've been a late inning guy to bridge the gap to get to Zach Warren (the closer) and hold the lead in tight situations.  It's been a lot of fun coming into situations like that.

-Is this something you feel has made you more versatile or valuable?

Yeah, definitely.  I think I've pretty much proved that I can do both.  I can start and come into tight ball games and even get a save here and there when Zach has pitched the previous night.  So, yeah, I think I've shown that I can be versatile in the 'pen for sure.

-What's the pitch menu for you?  What's the full repertoire and what do you consider your go-to pitch?

I've got a fastball, I've got a slider, change up and then I'm working on a new curve ball.  I had one, kind of lost the feel for it, so now I'm working with Zach on his, 'cause his is really good.  So, I'm trying to kind of almost mimic it.  And it's coming along.  But my go-to is my fastball and my change up.  And I'll show the slider here and there to mostly righties and very seldomly to lefties.

-With the update to the curve ball, is that a refined grip?

Yeah, I changed my grip.  Zach throws a spike curve, so I basically just completely copied his grip and I'm just toying around with it, seeing if it'll play.  I've only busted it out twice, two different pitches in a game and they were both in the dirt, so it's got a ways to go.

-The big story with the team this season has been its outstanding pitching that has led the league in staff ERA for a huge majority of the year.  What is it like to be a big part of that?

It's a lot of fun.  I think we've got a good thing going here.  Every single starter on this squad has been extremely solid and you know you can count on getting five to seven strong innings out of them.  And then coming out of the bullpen, it's just our job to pick up where they left off and hold the lead for them and keep the offense in the game.

-I've talked to a lot of the pitchers on this team and some guys will talk about the unity and the support that each member of the staff supports and helps one another.  Do you find that same thing, where nobody is the selfish type and everyone's looking out for the next guy?

Yeah, definitely.  I think we're all looking out for each other and in my personal case when I go to Zach and I ask him, "What can I do to make my curve ball better?"  He doesn't hesitate to help and give me queues to help develop the pitch and I think it's like that with a lot  of guys.  You can ask anybody for anything as far as improving a certain pitch or their approach or their mindset and they'll be willing to help out.

-The feedback I've heard on your pitching coach Brad Bergesen is that sometimes he'll lay off and allow you guys to independently work and sort of coach yourselves.  Is that freedom part of what allows you to go work on a new offering or is he hands-on with that?

Yeah, he lets us go on our own, but he's always there.  I've gone over film several times with him.  He stands in on my flat-grounds when I need him to, 'cause I've been working on throwing the breaking ball at the back foot of a lefty, so he'll stand in left-handed and let me have a visual.  He's always there.  But there is a certain sense of free reign kinda like "explore yourself", but he's always there when you need him and he's a very knowledgeable guy.

-What's the vibe of late?  Is the grind of the long season a big factor right now?

Yeah, you know, it's August.  It's been a long stretch.  You can tell it's getting toward the end of the year.  But, we know that playoffs are coming up and only as of late have we been on a little bit of a skid, with losing four straight to Lexington. But I mean, we've kept it rolling all season till now, so I'm sure we'll turn it around when we go on the road to Hickory and Greensboro.

-It's been a while since the team clinched the playoff spot with the first half title.  Is the excitement for the postseason still there?

Yeah, definitely.  We keep it pretty fun all the time in the clubhouse and on the field.  You know, we're having a lot of fun.  Especially when we're winning.  Like I said, this is the first series we've been swept- I could be wrong (about that), but we're having a lot of fun.  Coming in the clubhouse everyday is exciting.  A lot of music being played after games most times, 'cause we're winning and only as of late has it been quiet.  But I'm sure on the road, we'll turn it around pretty quick.

-When there are these lulls with the long season or following a series sweep, who is the guy on this team that's going to pick everybody up?

I think we've got a few guys.  I think Quincy Nieporte, he's a pretty vocal guy.  Colby Fitch also pretty vocal.  You know, they're always talking.  They're always keeping everybody's heads up.  Zach Warren out of the bullpen.  He's another vocal guy.  He's one of those guys that keeps it light.  He's really funny.  He cracks a lot of jokes.  It's hard to be extremely serious and it's a good thing.  I mean even (manager) Marty (Malloy) and coach Bergesen, they talk a lot.  They're on us.  You know, stern when they need to be, but they'll also keep it light.

-What had it been like for you here this season?  What do you like about New Jersey?

Definitely different.  I kind of like the Wawas.  Big Wawa guy.  Weather's different.  Where I'm from, the west coast, it's pretty dry.  Here it's humid.  I've seen a lot of rain this year.  Don't get to see that a lot where I'm from.  It's been fun.  I've enjoyed it.  Especially the Wawa, the pork roll, egg and cheese.  It's all good.

-Now the pork roll, egg and cheese is a big thing here with the mascot races each game.  Which one are you partial to, with the races that go on?

I usually root for whoever is last in the standings, 'cause I figure they have the best chance of winning.  But, I've been a big cheese guy this year I think.

-I also wanted to ask you if there were any players or pitchers that you admired while growing up.  Was there anyone that you wanted to emulate?

Jose Fernandez.  I really tried to model my game after him as I was coming up through junior college and then in college.  And he recently passed, but I really tried to model myself after him.  He probably wasn't as tall as me, but he still had an electric slider and I tried to adopt that as much as I could.  It'll probably never look like that, but that's one guy that I really watching a lot, coming up.

-Did you collect baseball cards growing up?

No, not really.

-Is there any early baseball memory that sticks out for you?  Or was there a point when you realized that this could be a possibility to play pro ball?

I just know I came from a small town and I was always one of the better players on the team and I was actually a catcher and third baseman and I wasn't a pitch until later.  And I just remember I always hit for power.  Hit a lot of home runs.  I really enjoyed hitting home runs and being the feared hitter on the team when I was coming up through little league and stuff.

-Do you ever take batting practice out here to show off that power a little bit?

Nope.  23 shutouts and zero pitchers batting practices. Shout out to Brad Bergesen for that one.

-(Laughs) Awesome!  At what point is it that you turn to pitching and realize that you're pretty good at it?

I started to notice that I was pretty good about 7th grade or so and then got into high school.  Still played a position.  Migrated to the outfield, played center field for my entire high school career.  But  I think it was as a sophomore in high school when I realized maybe I could really go somewhere, pitching.

-With your loved ones so far away, have you started converting people into Phillies fans?

No, not really.  Everybody back home's pretty much a Minnesota Twins fan, 'cause my dad's from Minnesota.  So, they're all Twins fans.  My cousin, he'll follow the Phillies.  He's been a Giants fan his whole life, but ever since I got drafted by the Phillies, he's got a Phillies hat and he's kind of getting into the whole Phillies thing.

-Anybody in your family with other athletic prowess?  Anybody else an athlete in the family? 

No.  I'm an only child, so no siblings.  I was the youngest in my family, so everybody's been older than me till recently.  I've got a few young cousins. Nobody yet.  Maybe the cousins will come along.

-You could groom them and teach them the slugging pitcher ways...show them how to pitch.  Show them the new curve!

(Laughs) Yeah.  I'll do my best.
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