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Interview with Mike Wlodarczyk

For those who may not know, Mike has pitched to  sub-4 ERA in all 3 of his seasons in the Rays system. Mike was nice enough to answer some questions for the site, and he was pretty detailed with his responses. Thanks Mike for taking the time to do this for us, as it will be much appreciated by everyone.

Matt Bishoff: Many fans follow your stats and are bewildered by your last name when they see Wlodarczyk written down. What is the correct way to pronounce it?

Mike Wlodarczyk: After hearing so many pronunciations over the years I sometimes wonder whether or not I say it correctly.  However, when people ask me to break it down phonetically I'll generally say the "L" is silent and spell it out "wo - dar - check"

MB: You are coming off of a strong season at Vero Beach(9-6, 3.85 ERA), do you expect to start the season at Double-A Montgomery this year?

MW: Yes, taking last year into consideration as well as the progression I've made I expect to start in Montgomery come April.

MB: Are there any specific areas that you are trying to improve on for the upcoming season? Maybe a new pitch, or just focusing on improving a pitch you already use?

MW: As a pitcher you are always trying to tweak things here and there to see what you can do to improve.  Last year in Spring Training I began throwing a cut fastball, which I carried into the season and continued to develop. However, that was still my first year throwing that pitch and there is still work to be done.  You can't master a new pitch in a year.  At times I fell in love with it and threw it maybe too much, leading to more walks than I would like.  It's a great weapon to have, but I need to be able to put it where I want as well as know when and where to use it.  So to answer your question, I'd like to continue to improve that pitch as well as cut down on the walks (which at times can be as much a mental part of the game as well as physical)

MB: James Shields has been noted to be very involved with lower-level pitchers, offering advice and guidance. Have you ever spoken with James, and if so what advice did he give?

MW: We've spoken in passing perhaps a time or two but nothing much more than that.  However, I am aware that he is quite involved with lower level pitchers and is willing to lend a hand in whatever way he can.

MB: I am not sure if you are familiar with minor leaguer Randy Newsom's new business, "Real Sports Investments." Here is the website for the business, Basically, its a new concept where fans can purchase specific minor league players like stocks, and if they make it to the major leagues, the fans will get a certain percentage of their MLB-salary. What do you think of this idea, and is this something you would possibly be interested in?

MW: It's definetely an interesting concept and a nice way to get some supplemental income while working your way through the minors.  For me, I would have to see it in action before I would be willing to commit.  I wonder if it would actually create some added pressure to succeed if you were to enter said agreement.

MB: Pitching your entire season in Vero Beach, you got to spend some time with Wade Davis and Jake McGee. What was it like being in a rotation with those guys, and what should Rays fans expect from them in the future?

MW: I've been fortunate enough to spend the better part of each of my 3 seasons with these two guys, and at times you become desensitized to everything when it comes to witnessing how good they really are and what they are capable of because you get to see them pitch so almost take them for granted.  But not only are they fun to watch, but they are a great motivational tool because you realize what you are up against and how hard you need to work to reach your goal.  For the future, the sky really is the limit.  These two guys will definetely be a force to be reckoned with
for years to come.

MB: Obviously, you want to make it to the big leagues. Have you set a time frame as a goal for yourself to reach the MLB-level? If so, when is it?

MW: Short and long term goals are a part of everyday life, so obviously I created a timeline in my head of when I would like to be in the big leagues.  As I see it, the normal progression through the minors is generally a year at each level.  So given that pace and where I'm at including my age and other intangibles, I hope to spend 2008 in Montgomery, 2009 in Durham, and arrive in Tampa late that year (or sooner) if all goes as planned.

MB: You were selected by the Montreal Expos in the 15th round of the 2004 amateur draft, were you ever close to signing with the Expos? Looking back on it now, do you feel you made the right move waiting another year?

MW: I considered signing with the Expos at that time but it was easy for me to look inside and see that it wasn't time to leave college yet.  I didn't have many collegiate innings under my belt and I felt  that I could improve my draft status that summer in the Cape.  It also gave me a chance to finish my degree at Boston College which is something that I will always have to fall back on if need be.

MB: As you go through the Rays system, is it difficult changing pitching coaches on a yearly basis, or do the Rays do a good job of keeping the coaches on all the levels consistent in there instructions?

MW: I've been lucky in that my past two years I've had RC Lichtenstein as my pitching coach and we've always been on the same page after spending so much time together; so its tough to answer such a question.  Though from my college experience, I can tell you it can be tough when you have a new coach each year.  We had 3 different pitching coaches in 4 years, and even though each has something new to teach, you don't get the time to know them and extract as much knowledge as you like when the door is constantly revolving. I can say this though, the Rays do a great job of keeping consistent instruction and I can't say enough about pitching coordinator Dick Bosman
and how he's helped me among many others in the system.

Thanks again to Mike for being so responsive with these questions. Hopefully he can continue with his success at Double-A Montgomery