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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Boston Red Sox Pitching Prospect Matt Spalding is Looking to Make His Mark

The more advanced prospects of the Boston Red Sox have received a lot of attention this spring. While it is certainly an impressive group, the team also has a lot of valuable young players in the lower levels of their minor league system. One of those rising players is right-handed pitcher Matt Spalding, who just started his professional career in 2012.

Spalding was a star for St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Kentucky. He went 6-4 with a 1.40 ERA as a senior, prompting the Red Sox to make him their 29th-round selection in the 2011 draft. Although he had a scholarship to attend the University of Louisville, he passed up on that opportunity to start his career.

He features a low-90s fastball and a good curve for a pitcher his age. As he gets older, it’s possible his fastball could play up a little more, making him a candidate to start or relieve.

Spalding made his pro debut in 2012 for Boston’s Gulf Coast League team. He appeared in eight games (four starts) and went 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA. In his 20 innings, he allowed 11 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 15. projects he will start this season with the short-season Lowell Spinners. Just 20, his career could take off quickly once he gets a chance to pitch regularly.

I had a chance to throw some questions at the pitching prospect last year. Check out what he had to say, and make sure to keep track of his season once it is underway.

Matt Spalding Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Pedro Martinez. Although I was younger he was someone who I looked up to and admired growing up. I love the way he competed, and I feel he is a good person for me to study today and learn from now. 

Can you describe what your draft day experience was like?: Well, early that day I got some calls during the early rounds. I thought I may go sooner but was just waiting to see what happened. I had practice that evening for my high school team, and we were scrimmaging that day, so I pitched an inning. When I came out my coach had the phone for me; it was my dad and he was the first person to tell me. It was great to be with my teammates when I found out because a few are my best friends and they supported me the whole way. I'm very fortunate to have this opportunity. 

How difficult was the decision to sign with the Red Sox instead of attending Louisville?: I just wanted to make the best decision. Louisville is my hometown and is a great program with great coaches and players. Playing pro baseball has always been my dream, and was what I wanted to do, and felt it was right for me. The real dream is to make it to the MLB. 

You experienced some control issues this past season; what do you think you need to do to correct that?: I started spring training really well; arm was feeling great and was pitching well. During extended spring training I had a little injury and took some time off. Coming back from that was more difficult than what I thought it would be, and I've never taken time off like that before. Just working on consistency and staying confident is the key for me. 

Which pitches do you throw, and which is your best and which do you believe needs the most work?: Fastball, curveball, changeup. My fastball is definitely my best. My curveball I have really developed well this season and it has worked for me a lot. My changeup is good; I just need to be more consistent with it, which is what I am working on now here at instructional league. 

How does life change for a young adult once they are signed by a famous baseball team like Boston?: It's very humbling and I'm so thankful for this opportunity. You definitely get more attention and everything you do or say is being watched by someone. But I can't describe the feeling of young kids looking up to you, because I was once in their shoes with the same dreams. Enjoying it is the most important thing, and not getting caught up in it or taking anything for granted. 

Can you describe how much support you get from Red Sox staff when it comes to coaching, fitness, nutrition, etc...?: We are lucky to have the staff we do in our organization. We have great resources and people who really want to help make you better in any way. The coaching is awesome. Boston really takes care of us with nutrition and strength programs, and also with educating us. 

What was it like the first time you were at Fenway Park and in the clubhouse?: It was so surreal. A beautiful ballpark and atmosphere, and the city is amazing. Pitching at Fenway was unbelievable and is something I will remember for the rest of my life, and is something I hope to be doing regularly one day. 


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