The Interview Vault: Blake Beavan

beavan interview vault.jpg

We sit on the eve of Game One of the 2010 World Series, just a day away from the most hyped pitcher’s duel of the playoffs so far (and there has been many)…Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers against Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants.

As I wrote in an earlier blog post, the Clinton LumberKings have had an interesting connection to these playoffs given our former status as the low-A affiliate of the Rangers.  That connection extends to Lee, Clinton’s current affiliate, the Seattle Mariners and the subject of today’s “The Interview Vault”, right-hander Blake Beavan.

Back on July 9, the Rangers made waves that are still being felt across Major League Baseball when they acquired Lee and right-hander Mark Lowe from the Mariners in exchange for four players, all former LumberKings.

Without question, the player that made that deal move — the one that kept Lee from becoming a Yankee, at least for now — was switch-hitting first-baseman Justin Smoak.  Right-hander Josh Lueke and infielder Matt Lawson were also promising prospects at the time of the trade, but the 21-year-old Beavan could very well be the most important piece of the deal when we look back in several years.

To take Beavan away from Texas is to conclude the “local kid makes good” story that he had been working on ever since his first round (17th overall) selection in the 2007 June draft.  A native of Irving, TX, Beavan played his high school ball just 12 miles away from Rangers Ballpark at Irving High School.  Even before his selection by the team he grew up following, Beavan was already a bonafide star in the area having earned Baseball America‘s 2006 Youth Player of the Year award after an 11-strikeout performance against Cuba in the World Junior Championships.  Later in his senior season, he tossed a perfect game and struck out 18 in a 6-0 win over MacArthur High, Irving’s number one rival.

All of those accomplishments were behind him already when he arrived in Clinton in late April, 2008.  A lengthy holdout kept him away from rookie ball in 2007, so his April 29 start against the Great Lakes Loons at Alliant Energy Field proved to truly be his first professional action.

What we saw that night was about as sharp a performance possible given all the variables: a nervous 19-year-old that hadn’t thrown a pitch above the instructional league, pitching in front of both his parents and Rangers’ Pitching Coordinator (and later Mariners pitching coach) Rick Adair.  Beavan allowed three measly singles, walked none and struck out three over six scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over the Loons.  He pitched well to contact, inducing four double plays in the game.

I caught up with Blake after that start, and that’s the interview we’re throwing back to today.  He talks about the outing, getting drafted by his hometown team, staying mentally focused while holding out, working with Rangers’ staff in the instructional league, his fastball/slider/change arsenal and more.

Listen Here: 
Blake Beavan (after first pro start on 4.30.08).mp3

That start was just the beginning of a season that saw Beavan go 10-6 with 2.37 ERA in 23 starts, 121 innings.  The strikeout total (73, or 5.39 per nine innings) wasn’t exactly what scouts were expecting, but the 20 walks, .234 opponent average and 5-0 record over his final eight starts showed plenty of promise.

In 2009, he went a combined 9-8, 4.14 in 27 starts between high-A Bakersfield and double-A Frisco.  The 2010 season saw his return to the RoughRiders and his best numbers since 2008.  Beavan had nearly identical stats as his season with Clinton, going 10-5 with a 2.78 ERA, 68 strikeouts to just 12 walks and a .242 opponent average in 110.0 innings.  He stood on the verge of a promotion to triple-A Oklahoma City when Texas struck the deal with Seattle.

As Mariners fans know, Beavan was hit hard with Tacoma, posting a a 6.47 ERA and .331 opponent average in seven starts, 40.1 innings with the Rainiers.  Those numbers didn’t beg for a September call-up, but they also aren’t cause for concern.  He still walked only eight while striking out 22 in the PCL and was dominant when ahead in the count, limiting opponents to a .222 average.  In the playoffs, he went 1-0 with a more respectable 4.26 ERA in two starts, helping the Rainiers win the PCL Championship.

We’ll see what 2011 holds for Beavan.  Hopefully he’s heading for a call-up to Safeco Field sometime in the season.  Now, at least, you know where he’s been.

-DL

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