It's been awhile since I posted responses to a player interview, so today seems like as good a time as any for another. Top Tigers prospect Casey Crosby was good enough to take some time to answer so questions about his upbringing, Tommy John surgery, recovery and subsequent issues as well as pitching in general.
1) You're an Illinois native if I'm not mistaken: Cubs or White Sox?
Growing up, I hung out with a lot of Cubs fans. Especially my best friend. He and his family were huge Cubs fans so they rubbed off on me a little
2) Even if you answer the first question correctly (for Tigers fans) you're out in the open as being a fan of Jake Peavy, and he works for 'the enemy' now. I expect you'll be forgiven all the same. But what draws you to Peavy, and what qualities in him would you like to emulate?
I'd say his demeanor on the mound overall. He'll go after whoever is standing in the box against him. I try to emulate that and have that same bulldog mentality.
3) Today fans of the Tigers and baseball in general know you as a pitcher, but you had quite the football career in high school as well. Did you get scholarship offers from colleges for football, and if so was there ever any question in your mind about which sport you'd pursue?
I had some interests from FCS and a couple MAC schools but it never got to scholarship offers. From day one, my sport was baseball. I knew that's where I had the best chance of being successful, and also I loved baseball more. But do I miss football? All the time.
4) If you weren't playing baseball you'd be…
I would be finishing up college maybe in a business major of some sort, and seeing where football would take me.
5) How did you find out that you had been selected by the Tigers? Level of excitement (1-10)?
I'd say about an 11 if that's possible. To be honest, if it were any team it would be, but now looking back at it, I really got lucky to land in a great organization.
6) If you don't mind, take us through the signing process. You get the call that you've been drafted, but that's just the beginning of the journey. Who did you choose to be your representation and how did you come to that decision? Were you at all involved in the contract negotiations, or did you let your agents handle all of it?
After I was drafted, it was pretty much just a waiting game to see if the Tigers wanted to sign me. They knew what it would take to get me to postpone college and sign and it took until one of the last days for it to happen. So I pretty much just had a relaxed summer.
7) Shortly after signing with the Tigers following your signing in 2007, you had to undergo Tommy John surgery. Thankfully the injury isn't nearly the career killer it once was. Tell us if you would about the injury itself. Was it a complete tear? And for those who aren't familiar with it, explain the surgery as best you can.
Yes, my ligament was completely torn and what they do is they take the damaged ligament completely out and took out one of the tendons on the bottom of my forearm that run from the wrist to the elbow and drill two tiny little holes in my bone and pretty much wrap the tendon around. Eventually, the tendons form into a ligament that is actually stronger than the initial ligament. It's unbelievable how it works, but hey it works.
8) What was rehab experience like? How long did it take before you could use the arm again, and once you could, what kind of work did you do to rehab the arm?
My rehab went pretty smooth. Four months after surgery was when I threw for the first time. I did a lot of exercises on my forearms and shoulder to get them back to full strength, and around the 8 1/2 month range as when I got back to throwing in games which is faster than average.
9) Beyond the physical toll, major injuries, especially for a professional athlete can be emotionally difficult. Your primary income earner is suddenly damaged and there can be doubts and fear - perfectly normal human reactions - about how your body will recover and whether or not you'll ever be the same again. How did you cope with all of that?
Honestly I didn't really have any fears. I knew the procedure was common and it's been done many times before. Also, I know that I was young and it will be easier for me to recover than if I were 30.
10) Amazingly you bounced back brilliantly and managed to actually make a few starts in 2008. Then in 2009 you showed off your incredible talent and potential, making 24 starts and pitching very well despite some understandable control issues. How gratifying was that?
It was very gratifying. Up until 2009 I haven't really showed what I could do.
11) Still, we know that it usually takes 2-3 years for a pitcher to full rediscover their old form and perhaps most importantly the old command and feel for the off speed offerings. What was missing in 2009 that you felt you had before the surgery?
When I was in high school I really didn't know much about pitching. All I did was throw hard and hope for the best. My off speed stuff was awful, also. During rehab I learned to work under control and take some time with pitching coaches to work on what I needed to work on. So I would actually say I had things missing before surgery that I discovered in 2009.
12) 2010 obviously didn't go the way you would've wanted as you battled elbow soreness and swelling throughout the season. Still after being looked at by Dr. Andrews and his staff, it was determined that your elbow was fine structurally.
Elbow soreness isn't exactly the most surprising thing a pitcher feels throughout a season, but this was different. Were the doctors able to give you any insight into what was causing the swelling? How did you try and combat it?
We chalked it up to being overworked. I never really got to rest my elbow very much the past couple years and in 2010 I kept trying to come back to quick from my injury that my elbow just wouldn't loosen up. But this offseason I took a good amount of time off and now I feel stronger than ever.
13) Once bit, twice shy is an old saying. In your case you've been bit by the elbow injury bug twice now, is there ever any fear or apprehension about the future?
There's no room for fear of being injured in any sport, so I block all of that out. All i know is I'm healthy right now and I'm doing everything I can to stay healthy.
14) Reading through some of your past interviews (I don't want to get too redundant with the questions!) you seem to have a keen eye for picking out talent in your fellow Minor Leaguers and giving out some good reports. Give us one on yourself. What does Casey Crosby throw and what would he like to improve on? Feel free to take the opportunity to refer to yourself in the third person.
I am a power pitcher that needs to throw down in the zone. If I throw down in the zone, I will be effective. Not only my four seam, but 2 seam fastball as well. My breaking ball has tight rotation and if i miss with it, it's down in the zone which is good. My change up I feel has improved dramatically from 2009 to now, and its a pitch I will incorporate into games more and more. Some improvements I need to make is mentally when something goes wrong like I walk a guy and give up a hit to still go at hitters the way I know how and not letting the inning get away from me.
15) I always like to end interviews with this one: You've finished your warm-up tosses and you're getting ready ready to take the mound for the very first time. You paw at the back of the mound with your cleats pondering the obstacles you've overcome to reach this moment. Looking up into a sea of fans you see your friends family cheering you on…
Try and put that moment into words.
I can't. I'd feel like the most blessed man on Earth at that time that I really wouldn't know what to think. There's honestly nothing like it.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.