some bad news about ricardo rincon -- appears headed for surgery. as for the game . . . . i just can't bring myself to write about it. so here instead is the q+a i did with cardinal farmhand michael parisi a couple of weeks back. a 9th-rounder from the 2004 draft, parisi hasn't drawn a whole lot of attention yet, but he has moved up the chain pretty quickly -- two seasons to get through the a classifications, now at double a in his age-23 year. he's the type of pitcher this organization likes, a groundball specialist -- gives up some singles but doesn't walk folks and keeps the ball in the park. his 2006 line: 2-0 with a 4.23 era. in 27.2 innings he has allowed 30 hits, walked 9, struck out 30, and given up a couple of homers.
at least one prospect watcher, john sickels of SB Nation brother site Minor League Ball, has an eye on this player. sickels lists parisi as the 18th-best prospect in the cardinal chain and assigns him the same grade (C+) as well-regarded prospects such as tyler herron (a 2005 1st-rounder), nick webber (2d round), and eric haberer (2004 3d-rounder). he may be a candidate for the 40-man roster by next off-season -- and for triple-a by next spring.
do you go by michael or mike?
it doesn't matter -- well, michael preferably. my grandmother would like that.
i see that you pitched at manhattan college, and your first minor league assignment was in new jersey. was that pretty close to home?
it was a few hours away. whenever i pitched a home game, my family got to come out, my parents and a lot of my friends. i remember one game i had to get 25 tickets.
you were on that championship team at palm beach last year. was that your first title?
yeah, it was. that was a great group of guys. we all got along really well, kept it loose. it was definitely the best experience i've had playing baseball.
how's the transition been to double a for you?
it's a learning process. those balls that you leave up in high a, the guy might foul it off; but this guy [in double a] is gonna smash it. so there's definitely a little learning curve there, but the coaches here are amazing. they've really made it real easy.
tell me a little bit about your repertoire -- what you throw, how you throw.
my main pitch is a two-seam fastball, a sinker. i throw that about 92, 93. my curveball is definitely my second pitch. i throw three different types of curveballs. i throw a slow one, that's kind of like a get-me-over pitch. then i throw a harder one that's kind of like 12-6, and then i throw another hard one probably about 80 miles an hour that's more of a slurve. it starts out at a righty's hip but then breaks over the outside half. and then i have a changeup, which is kind of a new thing for me. the coaches here have been telling me, "gotta get a changeup, gotta get a changeup." so far this season, knock on wood, i've thrown probably 9, 10 changeups a game and been pretty successful with it. so i'm gonna just keep sticking with it.
that's something you just got introduced to this year?
last year they wanted me to throw it, i just wasn't comfortable with it. in the off-season i really worked on it and worked on it. so this spring i came in and said, "i'm gonna start throwing changeups this year," and they were like, "that's what you need." so i started throwing it in the bullpen on the side; i'd throw probably 50-50 fastballs and changeups, maybe mix in a couple of curveballs. but it was definitely a focus of mine to get that changeup.
your strikeouts are way, way up this year. is there anything you attribute that to?
just being prepared. this offseason i worked out with this guy named george lofton in new york, he's like a speed and conditioning guy. so i felt like this year i came into camp a lot more prepared than i did the previous year. i feel like i'm almost in midseason form right out of the gate. last year i kind of had a slow start, and then i started picking it up. this year i felt like i was definitely prepared for the season.
that springfield park is a pretty good hitter's park, isn't it?
oh yeah. if you leave the ball up there, it's gonna go.
does that force you to alter your style at all?
it's just something that you gotta deal with. i'm pretty much a groundball kind of pitcher, so those fly balls are mistakes even if they're caught. ground balls are definitely the name of the game. of course it's in the back of your mind -- if that ball goes up, it has a chance. the big difference between here and the florida state league is the guy can smash the ball in the florida state league and it'll stay in the ballpark.
that groundball orientation seems like an emphasis throughout the cardinal system, all the way up to the big-league pitching staff. have you ever had a chance to meet dave duncan or tony la russa?
they came out and spoke to us during minor-league camp, and that was their main focus: keep the ball down, keep on throwing sinkers, and get those ground balls. and these coaches here, they all preach: "keep the ball down and make the guy hit the ball on the ground." and they're 100 percent right.
if a bullpen role got you to the majors more quickly, would you be open to that?
absolutely. when i was in college i pitched a little bit out of the bullpen, and my arm can bounce back pretty quick. so i'm open for anything.