|Tyler Gilbert with Reading in 2018, image- Jay Floyd|
Last season, the 24-year-old tallied a 7-2 record with five saves, a 3.25 ERA, a .211 batting average against and a 9.0 K/ mark in 48 combined games with Double-A Reading the Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
This off-season, Gilbert spent time pitching in the Dominican Republic, notching a 2.45 ERA and a .214 BAA in 13 appearances. In 7 1/3 innings for Licey, the six-foot-three 190-pound USC product struck out nine batters and walked three.
On Thursday, I talked with Gilbert about his time pitching in the DR, the Rule 5 draft, his goals for next year and plenty more. Read ahead for that full interview.
-Thanks for taking some time. I know you pitched internationally this off-season. What can you share about that experience?
Yeah, I played in the Dominican Republic for a team called Licey. I was down there for a little over a month and I had a good time. They really take care of their players down there. We got put up at a nice hotel. Very nice. A good experience. It was cool seeing where a lot of the guys that I played with come from and grew up. You know, it was an interesting experience and something that I'll never forget and I had a good time.
The level of baseball down there is incredibly good and so it was kind of cool to pitch against some old big leaguers, ex-big leaguers, current big leaguers and everything. It was an all around good experience and I speak highly about guys now going down there and I had a good time, so I want to promote, for anyone that wants to go down there to do it, you know, 'cause it's a tough decision to go down there, but it's definitely worth it.
-Were there any memorable opposing encounters that you had against some of those names down there?
No, nothing stood out, 'cause I was a lefty specialist and I would come in for one guy. But what did stand out to me and what was a cool experience was having Hanley Ramirez be our four-hole hitter and getting to meet him. And he's a really nice guy so it was cool rubbing elbows with him and being in the same clubhouse with him.
-What do you think are some of the differences between the game there and the game here?
The thing that I noticed down there is that the whole stadium is so incredibly into the game, from the first pitch to the last pitch. You notice when we play our rival down there, the Aguilas, whether it was a ground ball out or a fly ball out, when we were on defense, the whole stadium would erupt like it's game seven of the World Series. And everybody was just so involved down there with baseball. It was pretty cool to play in that kind of environment. So, that was a bit different than the States. It was a crazy amount of energy down there.
-You talked about playing in an area where some of your teammates grew up, was there anyone on your team that kind of helped you adjust to the different culture or surroundings when you got down there?
Yeah, I had a bunch of good teammates, but the guy that was my locker neighbor, Emmanuel Burriss, he's got a ring with the San Francisco Giants, and he's a guy that I grew up watching him, so it was pretty cool to play on the same field with a guy that I grew up watching.
He gave me a lot of good tips. He said have fun down there, it's an experience of a lifetime. You'll see how into it all the fans are and how the whole island itself revolves around baseball. He said try to take as much as you can in and don't get scared by the rice and beans down there.
-(Laughing) How was the food down there? Did you enjoy it or was it hard to adjust to?
It was good, I guess it's notorious that every import, or "gringo" is what we're called, gets sick at some point down there. I thought it was inevitable, I was eating rice and beans and all kinds of meat down there, but I went down for about a week with pretty bad food sickness, but other than that it was great but, I think after that I kind of have a stronger stomach, you know? Every white guy on my team, every gringo, we all went down at some point.
-What is it? Do they cook with different meat?
I think the bacteria down there is different. They cook their meats in different types of grease and I don't know exactly what it is, but it was something that my stomach was not used to, so yeah, I don't know but every guy got it, so it wasn't just me.
-I guess the company provides some sort of comfort. How's the off-season going for you know? How long do you put down the baseball for before you'll pick it back up again?
Yeah, so obviously my off-season's a little shorter now than it usually is, but I'll start throwing in the beginning of January, so it's coming up here. And then yeah, it's going good. Just trying to stay in shape like any other off-season.
-Sounds good. I know the Rule 5 draft takes place today and it doesn't sound like there's any news related to your name, but is that something that you give any thought to as it approaches at the Winter Meetings?
Yeah, absolutely I mean I definitely think about it, 'cause I didn't get put on the 40-man (roster) this year, so the Rule 5 Draft could potentially could mean good things if I get picked up and get thrown in the big leagues next year, so I mean I'm just trying to focus on what I can control and that's working out and staying in shape.
-Yeah, that's understandable. What's the workout routine like for you right now? Do you have a facility you're using? Are you working with any other players at this stage?
I'm going back and forth between like L.A. and Santa Cruz. I have a little gym up here that I work at up here in Santa Cruz and then down in L.A., I'll go work out with some of the USC guys that I used to play with. I'm up and down, I'm just trying to enjoy as much as I can.
-Excellent. Do you have any big takeaways from your regular season last year that could help you in the long run?
Yeah, I was really happy with how it went. I had never been promoted during a season before. I has gone level to level each year, so I never had the chance to go through getting promoted, so that was exciting. I was really happy with how to season went with the addition of my couple new pitches that I learned and it's been helping me complete my arsenal, so yeah I'm really happy with how this year went and I'm really hoping to have big things happen next year.
-Speaking of that, any thoughts about getting a big league spring training invitation?
Yeah, I talked to some of the Triple-A guys and they say it usually happens around New Year's, in the beginning of January. I mean, that's my main goal right now, even though I can't control it, but that's something that I think I deserve and I believe in myself that I can compete in big league camp next year, so I really want that to happen.
-How about the rest of the off-season, do you have anything big planned before you head back to the diamond?
I have a little Hawaii trip planned.
-To me that doesn't sound little. That's big! Talk about it. Who's going?
I'm going with my girlfriend and her family. She's got some family out there, so I look forward to it every off-season. It's cool to go from 30 degree weather to 80 degree weather. It's cool for sure.