We had the opportunity to chat with one of the White Sox’ top pitching prospects, Chris Beck. Recently promoted to the AAA Charlotte Knights, this right-hander is a key piece of the future pitching puzzle in the parent club's "re-tooling" process.
Chris talked with us about pitching to contact versus strikeouts, yoga, getting married, and minimizing the big inning...
FutureSox (FS): We’ve seen you pitch in person and of course there are scouting reports, but how would you describe your pitch repertoire?
Chris Beck (CB): I’d say: the fastball, 2- and 4-seam, runs 90 to 96. The change-up is my 2nd best pitch right now, it’s a circle change. Slider and curve… Slider is cutter-ish at times, usually mid or upper 80’s I get some more shape to it. The curve is just something to change eye level, usually around the 79 to 81 mark, it gets slurvish sometimes.
FS: Speaking of seeing you in person, when we saw you pitch in May, we noticed something curious. It appeared in that start that you were throwing nothing but fastballs for the first five innings, before going to a few breaking pitches. Were the Sox having you focus on something at that time, or is it just based on what you are comfortable with that day?
CB: That was a game plan for that day, just to take hands away until the hitters can prove they could get it. For me a lot of pitches come off the fastball. Even after that day, I like to throw inside, establish off that inside fastball. I stick with something until proven that it doesn’t work. Early ground ball outs or fly ball outs is good. If I can get an out with just two or three fastballs, great. Starters are made to go deep into games. I take that into account, try to save the bullpen for another day.
FS: These things may be related… we’ve noticed that you have been successful this year in getting outs without getting many strikeouts. Are you pitching to early contact? Or is it a function of your pitching style?
CB: Absolutely, trying to get early contact. You won’t find good starters always trying for the punch-out. If you pitch effectively where you want, you will get them. I try to establish early in the zone, get swings, ground ball outs. A lot of what I do works off the fastball. After college I was struggling with the feel for breaking pitches, but since working on some mechanical issues, it’s improving. That feel was in and out, but it’s come on better lately. Just getting the feel back for the slider, sometimes like a cutter. If I get early contact so be it, if it’s a ground ball to the shortstop or a fly ball to the right fielder. In this day and age strikeout numbers are big for people. At some point over did it, put all my eggs in one basket the slider. Now in AAA I got away from that habit. I’m using the change a lot, striking guys out with it now. Just harped on my slider too much before.
FS: What would you say your biggest strength is as a pitcher?
CB: I would say, not giving up free bases. Or put another way, making them earn it. Sure you give up the hit-by-pitch or walk every so often, but not letting it snowball. Pitching out of jams is big. It teaches you a lot with guys on base, what your weapons are and how you want to approach. So just being able to manage the big inning, keep the damage to a minimum.
FS: It was suggested when you were drafted that you may have actually gotten too strong, and perhaps lost some flexibility. Has your workout regimen changed as a result?
CB: Just the wrong type of lifting. I got super bulky that junior year, 240 or even 243 at times, and my flexibility was gone. I had to fight my delivery, and that’s hard for a pitcher. Just was struggling that one year. I changed a lot. Now my workouts are tailored to explosiveness. In the offseason it’s about moving as fast as I can for as long as I can. I do some yoga from week to week, probably twice a week. Now it’s just maintaining flexibility, to where body feels good. No reason to add strength in late August, your body is kind of weak now after over a hundred games. It’s just maintenance mode at this point. I’m still learning, as you always do in baseball, what my body needs. That lifting routine as a junior was just the opposite of what I needed.
FS: Let’s step back a bit and talk baseball more generally. What has been your favorite baseball moment so far since joining the Sox organization?
CB: There’s been some good ones. I’d say probably it was pitching in Gwinnett. I’ve been there, my future brother and sister in-law live across the street. I saw games there when I was young. I got to pitch in front of friends and family, so that was pretty neat. There are so many, but I’d go with that one.
FS: When do you envision yourself seeing the major leagues, or do you not have a timeframe in mind?
CB: For me it’s setting goals, so that’s the perspective. Not saying you have failed if you don’t reach a certain point at a certain time. Just keep pushing yourself. 2014 or 2015 is all fine with me. I have no control over it; moving up, going down or getting traded. So you just have to have control over your own thoughts and emotions in a game that gives you none except on the mound every 5th day. Just do my job, that’s all I can do. Where I end up is part of a higher plan.
FS: Here’s a softball – what is your favorite baseball movie? Non-baseball movie?
CB: Bull Durham, hands down. Lately, it’s been a while since I’ve seen one. I’m a big Marvel movie guy, Iron Man and Captain America, those types of movies.
FS: Any big plans for the offseason?
CB: Well I’m getting married! So, taking the vows and all that, it's pretty exciting. Having a nice honeymoon in St. Lucia, and then just getting used to that stage of my life, hopefully getting some time to enjoy it and relax.
FS: Finally, open microphone, is there anything you’d like to tell the White Sox, Knights, Barons or just personal fans out there?
CB: Thank you to the fans, and anyone who has showed any interest on my career at all. And of course number one, thanks to the White Sox for the opportunity to play baseball. I’m very blessed to be where I am, and I thank them for taking a chance on me when they didn’t have to. I owe pretty much my whole career to them, so I’m just really grateful.
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to talk with us, and to the Charlotte Knights for helping arrange the interview!
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