Q&A: Nick Travieso, Cincinnati Reds Pitching Prospect

Nick Travieso had an up-and-down first full professional season. That doesn’t mean the Cincinnati Reds pitching prospect didn’t make great strides. The 2012 first-round pick learned a lot, which is ultimately more important than his 7-4 record or 4.63 ERA with the low-A Dayton Dragons.

Travieso celebrated his 20th birthday at the end of January, and he’ll head into spring training looking to improve on his 2013 campaign. He’ll do so with a better grasp of his mechanics, and full confidence in his plus fastball and swing-and-miss slider.

Travieso talked about his growing pains, and what he learned from them, late in the minor-league season.


Travieso on acclimating to pro ball:
“I’ve learned a lot, mainly from my pitching coaches. I’ve learned that in pro ball, you actually have to pitch. Before I got drafted, it was more just throwing hard and getting away with having good stuff. Out here, if you throw hard and have good stuff but leave it over the plate, they’re going to hit it. I need to keep the ball down and hit my spots.

“In high school, you maybe run into one or two batters on each team that are actually good. Here, you have five or six batters that can really swing it. You’re not going to be able to throw it past everybody.”

On getting off to a slow start:
“I’m pleased with how things have been going as of late. I’m starting to pitch a lot better now, not so much for the stats, but for my personal being. My mechanics and ability to throw stikes are better.

“When I came in this spring, I wasn’t at my best. I’m not pleased about that. I struggled at the beginning, but now I’m starting to figure it out a little bit.

“I guess I kind of tried to do a little too much. I tried to be more than what I am. I had to come around to realizing I got drafted for a reason. What worked for me in high school, I’m starting to go back to now. I’m working with Tony Fossas, my pitching coach. He said, ‘Look, whatever’s comfortable for you, just go back to it and figure it out.‘ At the beginning of the year, I felt like I was trying to be too mechanical, trying to look like a pitcher instead of being a pitcher.”

On his mechanics: “I’ve been told I’m pretty fluid throughout my mechanics. You know, pretty fluid the whole way through, with not too many pauses or anything like that. I’m pretty much a guy who likes to stay comfortable and let my arm work instead of being mechanical.

“They did [tweak my delivery] a little bit, and tried to stick with it. I worked with it and kept telling myself it would get better. But then I worked with Reds pitching great Tom Browning. He said, ‘Look, all you really want to do is get in a rocking chair out there; get comfortable‘. From then on — basically from extended [spring training] –it was pretty much straight toward where I want to be.”

On his repertoire:
“I throw a fastball, a slider and a change. Every now and then I like to mix in a curveball just to show it. Basically, my fastball is my No. 1 pitch, and I go to my slider as my No. 2.

“I feel like I have power pitches. I can get up to the mid-90s, and my slider is a power pitch. I feel like I can let the ball go when I want. Right now, I’m primarily working on getting the ball down the zone — I’m not focusing much on velocity — but I still think I‘m a power pitcher.”

On his fastball and getting used to a five-day routine: “My fastball is a four-seam. I hardly ever throw a two-seam, unless I really need a ground ball, or if a guy is hitting my fastball pretty well. My velocity has changed a little bit since high school. It’s been a long process of getting used to pitching every five days and [stuff] like that. In high school it was every seven-eight days, so I had a pretty good break between starts. The whole five-day routine kind of took me a while to get used to. Now that it’s the end of the season, I’m starting to really get used to it. I hate to have saved it for the end, but that’s how it’s worked out.”

On velocity and location:
“When I’ve been feeling right, my fastball has been about 92-94 [mph]. It’s been up to 95 now and again. But it’s not so much my velo. It’s more that when I’m feeling good, I’m locating well. I’m down in the zone and getting outs. Velocity’s not really a big thing we’re looking at this year.

“It’s my first full season. I’ve been talking to my pitching coaches about that, and they understand how it’s a change from high school. I’m definitely looking forward to next year, getting back out there and being ready to go once spring comes.”

On his changeup; “It’s been a big development. I’ve worked with Mario Soto — another Reds great — on it. He was known for his changeup, so I kind of went to him in extended and said, ‘I’m going to need a changeup now, can you help me work on it?’

“[Soto] told me the grip is going to do everything. It’s kind of a four-seam grip with three fingers on top and the pinky and thumb connected at the bottom. I’m throwing it as hard as I can, and it’s sinking off the plate for me. I think [the grip] is pretty similar to the one he threw, actually.”

On one day making it to the big leagues
: “I wouldn’t say it’s something I dream about so much as I think about it and make myself work harder to get what I want. I worked my butt off just to get drafted, and now the process has kind of started all over again to make it to the big leagues. I’m going through the same process, trying to take that next step. I‘ve definitely learned a lot this season.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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