Monday, March 2, 2009

Asked and answered: Justin Masterson, Red Sox pitcher

Justin Masterson pitched two sharp innings in the Red Sox's 5-3 loss to the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale on Monday. Here's his reaction:

How'd you feel?
"It was nice. It was nice. Today I personally didn’t feel as strong; it’s still early spring training. But it was nice to get out there and get in some kind of a rhythm, get a few ground balls and try to work the changeup a little bit. It was nice to be out there."

Did you approach this start differently than you would as a reliever, even though it's spring training?
"Yes and no. I’m pretty laid-back as it is, so I’d say there’s a little more laid-back-ness as I approach this. There’s not as much of a dire need to dominate. It’s more, in many respects, to get a good feel, especially being a big guy and with my delivery, just making sure we get a good feel so we can take that from pitch to pitch."

What pitches are you working with now? Are you trying to add anything?
"Javy Lopez and Gary Tuck and countless guys have said, ‘You never want to take away. You always want to add.’ For me, I’m happy with the four-seamer, sinker and slider. The changeup, we worked it in last year sometimes, but it’s one where we want to get it even more consistent so if it is only used two or three times a game, those two or three times, it’s pretty effective. We’ll definitely continue to work that in there. That would be the main thing."

Are you looking at this as competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, or are you just waiting to find out what your role is?
"Kind of neither. It’s more just looking at it as trying to get ready to pitch. If you look at it as a competition, it’s a battle. But if they’re just waiting for them to tell you, you have that sense of, ‘Oh, I’m just waiting in limbo. I’m not going to start pitching.’ I want to go out and, whatever innings I’m in, do the best I can to get ready. Whenever the word comes about exactly what will be taking place, I’ll be ready to pitch.

How is the feel of your breaking pitches coming along?
"The slider seems to be coming pretty good. I actually waited a long time to work it in, as far as the spring goes, and it feels really good. For me, my arm angle, if I can relax, allows it to roll off the fingers, which makes it effective. In some respects, the sinker is the biggest feel pitch for me, just to get that feeling and make sure we stay on top and drive through it rather than trying to cut it off."

Disappointed you didn't get the strike three call on that check-swing on a slider to Ty Wigginton?
"I still got a pop-up. If he’d hit a home run, I would have been a little more upset. But for me, mentally, I knew it was close. It’s right there. That’s the thing: You take that and say, ‘Hey, that’s a good pitch to work off’ and put that in your head and move from there. I think there’s too much spring left right now."

Is it unsettling not to know if you're going to start or relieve?
"For me, it’s nice. Part of it is neat to be within that discussion: ‘Oh, wow, they really think I can do either one,’ and I feel the same way. It’s not unsettling yet. I hope it doesn’t get there. I’d like to stay with a nice, easy mind about it because even if one decision is made, something could happen and that decision could change. No matter what, you’re going to have to stay more or less on your toes and just be ready for whatever comes your way.

Have they told you when they're going to make that decision?
"There’s no definite timetable. They want to let me know before the season started. You’d think a week or so, maybe a couple of weeks to go to the bullpen and get a back-to-back outing there, get that feel. But there’s no definite time, and I’m fine with that. ... I’m just hoping for all the guys to be good because I want to have a tough staff because we’ve got one, especially with the likes of Brad (Penny) and when John (Smoltz) comes later."

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