Mariners pitching prospect Carter Capps is a hard-throwing part of the future in Seattle. The former catcher won 24 straight games while pitching for Mount Olive College in North Carolina on his way to being named 2011 Division II National Pitcher of the Year by three separate outfits.
He took a break from pregame earlier this week to talk with SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall about his transformation from an okay hitting catcher to a fireballing, fast-rising, late inning pitching prospect.
SeattleClubhouse: Thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview with me today, Carter.
Carter Capps: You bet, Rick. Thanks for the opportunity.
SC: Take me through the conversion timetable where you switched from being a catcher to being a pitcher -- did you pitch at all before getting to Mount Olive?
CC: I was just a catcher in high school and when I redshirted my first year at Mount Olive I started the conversion, so then from my freshman year on I've been just a pitcher.
SC: So how do you like this whole pitching thing?
CC: (laughs) I absolutely love it. Which is good, because I don't think I have much of a choice now. It's definitely a lot easier on the knees.
SC: And being 6-foot-5, catching probably would've posed quite a few obstacles for you as you progressed.
CC: It's a long ways down and a long ways back up. This is a lot better.
SC: Are you missing hitting at all? I imagine you swung a pretty strong stick given your size.
CC: I miss it a little, but it's alright. I was a decent hitter -- I could always hit for average but I never had much power for whatever reason.
SC: Tying into that background, do you think that your time spent behind the plate has helped you better understand pitching sequences and things of that nature that help you succeed as a pitcher?
CC: It definitely helps the sequences out a lot. It's a different perspective because you can't always see the little things like where a guy sets up in the box exactly, but I do think it helps. I do look around for little tips, but mainly I just think about what types of pitches and locations I had a hard time hitting. Of course these guys I'm facing are all tenfold better than I was at hitting.
SC: So that was your first big change, going from catching to pitching, but this season you've had another change, going from starting to coming out of the bullpen. You seem to have taken to it quite well, but explain the differences in your prep between starting and relieving.
CC: I like coming out of the bullpen much better. I get to throw more often, obviously, get more appearances, and in my mind at least I seem like I'm making more progression. I never really liked the whole waiting around aspect of being a starter. I like having the chance to pitch pretty much every night. You know you have to come to the ballpark every night and be on your game and ready to go.
SC: So that helps you keep your focus during games better?
CC: Definitely. I'm more into the game and I have a feel for the game to see if it's a game that I could be coming into or not. And once the later innings come around I start getting myself loose and getting ready.
SC: You went 24-1 in two seasons and posted 24 straight victories starting in college, but it was your performance in the Cape Cod League in relief -- against what many consider some of the most top-notch amateur competition out there -- that really boosted your stock as a prospect. What was your experience like in the Cape with that pro style atmosphere?
CC: Obviously that's a really good league with a lot of really good players. And the host families are some of the nicest people in the world. But the baseball was just phenomenal with a nice down-home feel. Reminded me of playing back home a little bit so I was very comfortable there.
SC: And you played for the Mariners there, too, right?
CC: Yes, the Harwich Mariners. So either way that summer I was going to be playing for the Mariners.
SC: For the first part of this season you had yourself a great bullpen tag-team partner with Stephen Pryor and you sharing the late inning duties. Did he teach you anything about his approach or his style that helped you?
CC: Stephen and I talked a lot, he is a great guy. We have similar stuff -- obviously he's a lot more polished than me -- but we talked about how he approaches his appearances, his mindset, things of that nature. Obviously he has unbelievable stuff and knows how to pitch, but he's an even better guy, so it was always great to talk to him about any kind of baseball questions you would have or really anything.
SC: One of the biggest keys to success as you've developed as a pitcher is your ability to consistently work in the lower part of the strike zone. A lot of pitchers -- even guys that didn't used to be catchers -- struggle with that command because of mechanics. How do you maintain your command low in the zone?
CC: It all comes with practice I think. Lance Painter is our pitching coach here and I was with Rich Dorman (in Clinton) last year. And they both pound at us to work as hard as you can on your mechanics everywhere except for when you're on the mound in a game. Once it comes game time, go out there and compete and whatever you carry over, great. You build on that and carry over more and more each time so you're continually getting a little better and a little more refined each time.
SC: You mentioned your pro pitching coaches there, so who would you consider to be the most influential person on your baseball career to this point in your life?
CC: I'd say my parents. That goes back to them driving me all over the state to AAU tournaments and everything. They're both really hard workers -- not wealthy or anything -- but they just taught me to work hard and earn everything that you get.
SC: Great qualities to have.
CC: Absolutely. Great people.
SC: Are you a goal setter -- before the season, or even during the season, to help motivate yourself and keep yourself focused?
CC: Definitely. I set long-term goals, but I'm not really as concerned with them as I am my short-term goals, because I feel like if I achieve my short-term goals then they will get me to where I want to be in the long-term.
SC: Well, I think that with that talented team you have down there in Jackson right now one of those goals could be some minor league hardware. What's it like playing for the Generals with all this talent up and down the roster?
CC: Well down in the bullpen we're all picking one another's brains all the time. Any help that any of us can get from each other is definitely a blessing. We have unbelievable talent, and not just the Big Three, but our other two starters and all of our pitching staff, and the whole team, really.
SC: Well make sure you have fun. Thanks for taking the time to give us a little insight into your style, Carter. Good luck to you this season in Jackson and beyond.
CC: I appreciate it. Thanks a lot, Rick.