After the Twins 12-2 win in Detroit on June 9, Jake Odorizzi left Comerica Park with a gaudy 9-2 record and a miniscule 1.92 ERA. His team meanwhile, was 43-21 with a 10.5 game cushion over second place Cleveland.
Nobody could have expected Odorizzi, who had a 3.95 career ERA entering this season, to maintain that pace. And while his ERA has predictably risen, the Twins lead over the Indians has shrank. Overall though, the 29-year-old has been the Twins steadiest starter in 2019. In 137 innings, Odorizzi has a 3.55 ERA, 145 strikeouts against 49 walks and 14-6 record.
The 2019 All Star and I chatted near his locker during the last homestand.
DZ: You guys are obviously in the pennant race now and every game you pitch is super important, how do you deal the pressure and expectations of that?
ODORIZZI: Same as every other game, really. A bit fortunate, I’ve had to start quite a few games in my career and every game’s important whether you’re in the pennant race or not. Every team is capable of winning at any night…You need to go out there and pitch well. It doesn’t really matter who it’s against, who it is. This league’s all about winning and if you can give your team a chance to win every single time out, you build that rapport with your teammates, coaching staff, everything and that’s what I kind of try to pride myself on…The days that I’m pitching, I want the team to know that we have a really good chance of winning.
DZ: Cool. Obviously you’ve been around a few years. This year, Wes Johnson is the pitching coach, what’s different about him than maybe some of the other coaches you’ve had?
ODORIZZI: I think, views of the technology and how to apply it are a little bit different than at the inter-college level. There’s a lot of stuff that you can work on and try out at a level that kinda knows what works, what doesn’t work, has a good program and he’s good at being able to apply it to guys that it’s different here, it changes people’s careers, it changes people’s lives, whereas college, you’re kind of in charge of them. So, I think that at this point, he’s done a good job if you give him the take of having conversations of good, bad and different of our views on whatever it may be that we’re thinking about.
DZ: You got off to a really great start this year. When you’re pitching that well, does it just seem easy, almost?
ODORIZZI: Easy is never the word for pitching just because the second you think it is, it’s going to backfire right in your face. I think consistency is the driving force. What makes people successful is the consistent pitch shape, consistent execution and I was able to do that routinely early on in the year, got out of it about early in July, but I think I’m back to where I’m at now. Stuff hasn’t really wavered between start of the season. Now it’s just a matter of execution and when it comes down to in this league, every hitter’s good and if you make mistakes, mistakes are going to get hit. So it just boils down to the execution that you can provide while you’re out there.
DZ: You were named to your first All Star Game, which obviously had to be pretty cool. And then, unfortunately you were injured, you didn’t get to play. What was that like…?
ODORIZZI: It was a lot of fun. I knew I wasn’t going to be pitching and regardless I was supposed to start the last game before the break, which would’ve put me out of that game but it was a very minor thing that made me “miss it” quote-unquote. It’s just a blister, so it was kind of nice to get that rest right before the break and get an extended All Star break and be ready to go. This last two and a half months of the season, especially, there’s a lot of guys here have got multiple full seasons under your belt and you have to taper your workload as the season goes on. So it was nice to kind of have a little bit of early break and be ready to make every start between now and whenever we’re done.
DZ: It’s been over a month now, what’d you take from that atmosphere? What stands out about it?
ODORIZZI: It was good having conversations with guys you don’t normally get to talk to, and there’s just that professional respect of, you know, everybody’s an equal in that room and it’s the best of the best, so you can really just kind of have some conversations at maybe on a different level than normal. And it’s guys that you don’t normally see everyday so you just kind of want to soak it up as much as you can in that two-day time span, and there’s some stuff that I took away from it that I’ve started implementing in my game and that’s just the nature of the business. When we’re around a lot of good guys that’ve had really great careers and a lot of first year all stars as well.
DZ: Cool, one last thing. I know I was looking at your Twitter page and I notice you’re involved in the Humane Society, how did that all start?
ODORIZZI: Before I was traded here last year, we had a foundation set up in Tampa that also worked with a shelter down there and obviously, I was not in Tampa last year so we just wanted to apply what we were doing down there over to our organization up here and we chose the Humane Society early, liked what they were doing, took a tour of the facility, everything along those lines and it’s just something my wife and I are passionate about. When it comes to animals, we adopted a pet of our own years back, so it’s something that’s always near and dear to us, to be able to give back to the Minneapolis community, make it a little bit better. I think it’s, using the platform that we have provided, and we’re kind of spreading awareness, is the most important thing, so we’re really fortunate to be able to be able to partner with them.
See more of David Zingler’s 2019 athlete interviews:
August 27: Mitch Garver
August 23: Trevor May
August 21: Sergio Romo
August 17: Sylvia Fowles
July 25: Max Kepler
July 20: Kyle Gibson
July 10: Alaina Coates
June 25: Taylor Rogers
June 19: Ryan Eades
June 16: Jason Castro
May 18: Seimone Augustus
April 24: Ryne Harper
April 21: CJ Cron
February 2: Caleb Truax