one place in all of professional sport where the defense controls the ball.
It's a collaborative effort with the catcher to call the game to the pitchers
strengths and the batters weakness.
It's also extremely difficult, going
against the body's physical design. Many have said that pitching is one of the
most unnatural motions a body can do over time, placing extreme stresses and
strains over the course of a season, and more importantly a career.
thought it would be good to get inside the particulars of the art of pitching,
and could think of no one better from Portland than Kent
Growing up in Portland, Kent spent the better part of 9
seasons in the Majors spanning 8 teams from '92-'01(Montreal, Colorado, Giants,
Cubs, Phillies, Angels, Cardinals, and Astros), but his professional career
spans many more where he worked in the Expos system in the Minors. He has
worked in relief and starting roles, that culminated in being selected to the
'99 All-Star game in Boston while with the Cardinals where he posted an
impressive 190 innings pitched, a 3.97 ERA, and an impressive 18-7 season. His
career ERA is an impressive 4.19.
During the course of the interview we
tapped into a variety of subjects from the Expos organization and Gary Carter;
to pitching at Mile High altitude in Coors Field; to work habits; to the way a
long career in pitching at high levels requires adjusting your approach to your
body and your strengths, and what it would be like to have MLB in
start in Portland
OBC: Growing up here in Portland,
was baseball your first love as a sport?
Bottenfield: When I was younger it was definitely my
favorite. As I got older and got into high school, I started really loving
basketball and football. I guess I knew I had the most talent at baseball, but
I enjoyed the other sports just as well.
OBC: All kids have dreamed of being a certain player when
growing up. Was there guy you most wanted to be like?
Bottenfield: Ya, Nolan Ryan. I appreciated not only his
ability, but the way he would go do his work and you didnt here much out
of him, and his work ethic and his integrity.
As you know Kent, Portland is in the running for the Expos in 2004, or 2005.
Since you started your career there, can you tell me what it was like playing
for the organization?
Bottenfield: Well, when I was there, when I first signed
with the organization, was probably the best in baseball. They had a great
player development program. Their coordinators were excellent. They knew how to
relate to the young players; they did that extremely well. Then when I first
got to the big leagues, in Montreal, we were kind of playing to 35-40,000
people most every night. The next year I was traded, and so I really dont
know what happened. I just think it probably had to do with finance, but I
dont know why they started losing the fans. They were bringing them in so
that had to be making money. But they were trading off players and selling them
it just seemed like a cycle.
OBC: Your teammate from those first couple of
years was Gary Carter, who just went into the Hall of Fame. How was Gary to
work with as a catcher?
I worked with him. He caught most of the games that I pitched, when I was there
in 92. In fact, I was starting pitcher in his last game ever behind the
plate. It was really cool because the first pitch of the game, he took it and
he did me a favor and rolled it out to the mound. So, I threw it out of play
into the dugout so he could sign that ball in private for me later on that day.
So, that was a real fond memory. I enjoyed Gary a lot; he was a good example
OBC: There was also a couple of great pitchers
on that 92-93 team. Did you try to look at Dennis Martinez and pick
up some things from him?
tried to look at how, even at that time, which was the later stages of his
career, how Dennis was an extremely hard worker. He would go and do his running
consistently, and he was really big on throwing everyday. Which, when I was
younger, I really stayed away from because I thought I needed the rest in
between starts. And here is the first guy Ive seen who really like to
play catch and go at it everyday.
A career spanning several
OBC: You spent your time with a number of teams.
What was the hardest thing about leaving a team and going to a new one?
Bottenfield: The hardest thing for me
I always felt my relationships with people that worked in the club house
or the secretary or trainers, basically they were permanent fixtures. Some of
the players I played with were either two or three different teams. I missed
that too. The hardest part was those relationships because those were the
people that I was closest to over the years.
spent some time in Denver with the Rockies. Obviously its a hitters park.
Whats it like pitching at that altitude? Do you except the fact that the
ball jumps there or do you take it hard like you would when you give up that
many runs at sea level?
Bottenfield: Well, it was tough for me when I was
younger towards the beginning of my major league career, which was when I was
there. It was hard you know; mentally, it was very difficult to accept. Now, as
a veteran going and back there as a visitor, now you have that understanding
that there are going to be a lot of runs scored. You are not pitching for
numbers, you are pitching for wins and get your team in a position to win. All
you can do when you go in there is, I have to put my team in a position to win,
whether it is 1-0 or whether it is 10-9, thats your only job. It is very
hard to do this when you are a young player. Its much easier to
understand that as a veteran.
OBC: Can you tell us how
life was with the Giants, Cubs, Phillies, and Astros?
Bottenfield: The Giants that
was very short lived. I came from assignment from Colorado and signed as a free
agent and had a month in AAA and I got called up the week before the strike, so
I didnt have a very good feel for that organization.
The Cubs, I
really, really enjoyed. It was a great place to play. It was almost like having
a normal job with all the dates leaving at night, get home at five or six,
pretty much every day. So that was nice for my family. I really tried very hard
at the end of my two years to go back there and it just didnt work out.
The Phillies I dont have much to say about that
organization. I shouldnt say the organization. I probably shouldnt
say anything about it. Not my favorite place to play. Not my favorite city. To
be honest, I actually turned down a big contract because I didnt want to
take my family there.
That is how I ended up in Houston. From a team
standpoint, organization standpoint, it was awesome but that was the year of my
injuries and that was the end of my career.
I played with the best all around player I have ever played with in
baseball. I have played with Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Larry Walker, but
Jeff Bagwell is the best all around baseball player, and you dont
appreciate him until you play with him everyday. You should see what that guy
does everyday physically and mentally. It is absolutely amazing. I got
to tell him that before he left.
OBC: Once you got to St.
Louis and you started to get into a groove, what was it like living through
your teammate Mark McGwire's HR chase?
Bottenfield: We were basically his fans
with the best seat in the house. We were so excited for him as a team. We
werent doing that tremendous at that time, so it was really something. It
was fun for us. He handled it extremely well. He got hit from so many different
directions with his time. For somebody to be able to focus night in and night
out with all the media and all the being tugged in different directions, that
is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I went through a tiny bit of that
in 99 when I made the All-Star game. When I came, with all the interview
requests, people wanting me to do this but still not enough, even a tenth of
what that guy was going through and he was able to get through that. Seventy
home runs, I thought it was amazing.
OBC: Kent, you
played with the Cardinals in 1999 when young Jose Jimenez pitched a no-hitter
vs. Arizona. Is it true that players avoid pitchers like the plague in the
midst of a no-no?
more like pitchers avoid the players. I mean, you know, they have to find their
own little corner. Everybodys different. As a team you, dont avoid
them. There are people who will say things and you are not paying attention,
but there are some pitchers that would go into the dugout and they wont
want to be around anybody. So you kind of see what their feeling is. If they
want to talk you talk. If they dont want to talk, you stay away from
OBC: Lets touch on the
mechanics of pitching
You had a career ending shoulder surgery. At the
highest levels of the game does the arm movement of power pitching become more
or less unnatural? Is it a strain on your body?
Bottenfield: Oh, absolutely. The arm was never meant to
move in that direction at high speed. Any more though -- this is my own opinion
given the ability to throw, if you have health you have health. And you work at
it, and you do everything you possibly can. But I have seen guys in great shape
that work harder than anybody and they work on their shoulders and they come
down with injuries every year. I have seen guys who have been around and
dont do anything for shoulder strength or anything like that, and they
pitch for a very long time. But I think it is mostly its obviously, I was
taught you are supposed to do that but I think it is your makeup. I think there
are a lot of times there are things you can to about it.
OBC: On hitting
Did you ever sass any of the
players about being able to switch hit?
Bottenfield: You know the funny thing about that, I
started switch hitting in AAA. I actually did a little bit in high school. You
say a lot of information on yourself when you start to play and I may have put
switch hitter on there. I did in high school a few times and I didnt do
it again until AAA and I had a couple of at bats left-handed , but that never
left my bio. I never switch hit in the big leagues and I actually, I believe,
just for the records they have me as having a couple of hits left handed. I
have never taken a left hand at bat in the big leagues.
OBC: A bunch was made
of Curt Schilling tipping pitches last season. Did this ever occur with you?
Does it happen often?
absolutely. I mean in players and one learns from the other. The two best I
have ever seen are Tim Wallach and Larry Walker. Those two guys were the best
of finding pitchers tipping their pitches and also getting signs from third
base coach. I am not talking about being on second base or sitting in the
dugout watching third base coach figuring out their signs. There are players
like that. There arent that many any more. Most guys dont put that
kind of time and effort into their game. But, absolutely, pitches can give it a
way. I did give a change up error in my career and had to go to a bigger glove.
So it definitely happens.
OBC: Can you tell us any major
changes in your style of pitching from 92 through 2001? Any serious
Bottenfield: Yes, because
Montreal liked to draft guys that could throw hard and I had no understanding
of what pitching was all about. They liked the radar gun to light up 90+ and I
could do that. But for years I beat my head against the wall, why was I so
inconsistent? And it came down to location. I realized eventually that I
wasnt the kind of pitcher that could throw 92-93 and have the kind of
location I needed to be successful. So in Chicago in 96, I was throwing
extremely hard. I was throwing 94, 95, 96. I was doing that in relief role and
you know your location is critical but not nearly as much as it is as a
starter. So I had some pretty good years in Chicago. But when I became a
starter again in St. Louis, the following years I had to learn what type of
pitcher I was. And once I did that I had a lot of success as a starter because
I understood myself after 14 years of playing professional ball, I knew what
kind of pitcher I was. I knew my game plan extremely well and I never tried to
go out and find what I could do.
OBC: Starting or Relief?
Which did you prefer?
Bottenfield: Well, I
started most of my career, but when I was almost out of the game and I got a
job with the Cubs, they turned me into a closer in AAA. And I tell you what, I
learned a whole lot about pitching because I was coming in, in clutch
situations with runners on or no runners on or one out or 9th inning or 8th
inning. It was a new situation everyday. So I learned a lot about having the
guts to get out of it, and I didnt want to go back, but that revived my
career for those two years in Chicago. When St. Louis suggested I become a
starter, at first I said no and finally I said, You know what you
dont have a choice, you are going to start. So I went into that
kind of concerned that I was going to go back to my inconsistent ways. But I
had a great pitching coach in Dave Duncan. He and I spent a lot of time talking
and I really started to develop who I was as a pitcher, both physically and
OBC: Have you ever considered getting involved
in baseball in any other capacity other than a player?
Bottenfield: I have. I mean I love the game and I have
seriously thought about going back into it. But I almost think I would rather
manage than be a pitching coach. But I dont know if this is the time
where for the last eleven, twelve years, I put my wife through the minor
leagues and the major leagues, traveling, being away, you know, my kids for the
last six or seven years. So right now this time has been important for us, that
I just dont jump back into it and continue it. I am into some other
things right now. But I have definitely not ruled out getting back into it some
day cause I do love the game.
Life in Portland
grew up in Portland. Is there a good story that you can tell about your
Bottenfield: Well I have
probably got a thousand stories. I still enjoy getting back to there. I get
back there once a year, sometimes more. It was a great environment. You know I
had someone tell me one time, one of the scouts, they said they find usually
the toughest, mentally toughest kids, ballplayers out of there. To me it is the
perfect sports town from an athletes standpoint because it has everything
you need but it is not so big that it is overwhelming. It is a beautiful place
to live. It is one of those places where, I dont know about the Trail
Blazers, but a lot of baseball players would probably find their way living
there year round.
OBC: Knowing what you know about
Portland, do you think MLB will wind up here?
Bottenfield: I think it would be a great environment for
it. You know, obviously Portlands proven this with the Trail Blazers.
They are going to support a franchise if the stadium is done correctly I
dont think there would be any question.
OBC: If there is MLB, you want to come out for opening
day? Kick it with your brother and the rest of us? Would be something to have a
team in your hometown wouldnt it?
Bottenfield: If MLB came to Portland, there is no doubt
I would be there on opening day. I couldnt pass up something like that. I
would be involved completely. I grew up in Portland and I spent seventeen years
of my life playing professional baseball and eight years playing in the major
leagues, so that would be a combination I couldnt pass up.
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