Q&A with Twins Reliever Justin Haley

If a minor league baseball player is not on his big league club’s 40-man roster after five seasons, he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Held annually during the Winter Meetings, the draft involves little risk and can reap big rewards.

The team with the worst record the previous season gets the first opportunity to pick and so on. Most simply pass. When a player is selected, the gaining team pays the former team a $50,000 fee. The selected player then must remain on the new team’s 25-man major league roster or be offered back to the original team for half price.

The Twins used this process to acquire two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana after the 1999 season. They also added reliever Ryan Pressly in 2012. This year, it’s Justin Haley’s turn. In five seasons with the Boston Red Sox organization, Haley appeared in 118 games, starting 106. He posted a 3.91 ERA, striking out 485 batters and walking 224.

A right biceps injury landed Haley on the Disabled List (DL) from April 22 to May 7, but he’s back now and hoping to prove his worth. The 25-year-old and I talked last week toward the end of his DL stint.

DZ: Right now you are on the DL with a right biceps injury, how is that going for you?

HALEY: Good. Just getting in with the training staff, working it out, get back throwing. Got a bullpen (session) today. Hopeful.

DZ: Do you have a timetable?

HALEY: No. Just kind of taking it day-by-day at this point. It’s looking promising.

DZ: It’s your first month in the big leagues, what are your impressions so far?

HALEY: I love it. I am having a great time. All of the guys have been really good to me, showing me the ropes, so to speak. Enjoying it.

DZ: Back in spring training, how did you find out you made the team?

HALEY: They called me into the office about two days before we broke camp and said, “We’ve got some good news. We are going to keep you with the team.”

DZ: Did you have a pretty good vibe going in or were you unsure?

HALEY: For me, it wasn’t a sure thing. I would just kind of go every day, give 100%, hope it happens. I was lucky enough for it to (happen).

DZ: Were you really nervous going in there?

HALEY: A little bit. Yeah. A little nervous (laughs).

DZ: You came in as a Rule 5 pick…what was it like going through that?

HALEY: It was exciting. I got to enjoy it and kind of experience it with my wife and my family back in California. It was good. It was nice to be able to go through that experience with them. It was really once in a lifetime.

DZ: Was spring training different this year, knowing that if you didn’t make the team, you weren’t going to go to the minor leagues with (the Twins), you were going to go back to (Boston)?

HALEY: The rules of it are different. Definitely. It was an all or nothing (situation). I had to go out there every day and be successful to make the team. I was blessed enough to show them enough of what they needed to see to keep me.

DZ: I was looking at your Twitter page, I noticed you have a wife who is an artist. What can you tell me about that?

HALEY: My wife is an artist. She actually – about a year and a half ago – she started her own website. She does commission pet painting; artbywinn.com is her website. She is really good. Really talented. She was an art major in college. She loves doing it and allows her to kind of be free to move around and kind of experience this crazy baseball life with me and still go provide and make money. It’s really great. I am really proud of her.

DZ: Did you guys meet in college?

HALEY: No, we actually met my first year in Lowell (Red Sox A ball team). She was a photography intern.

DZ: There is a lot of talk in baseball about analytics and stats. Are there any stats that you look for in your own game that you want to improve on or deem important?

HALEY: For me, first pitch strike is really important. Not getting to three-ball counts. Making sure that I command the zone and throw a lot of strikes.

See more of David Zingler’s 2017 player interviews:
May 11: Craig Breslow
May 5: Chris Gimenez
February 17: Cole Aldrich

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