For today's Minor League Monday we've got a special interview; not only was I able to catch up with the Mets top third base prospect Zach Lutz, he was even kind enough to bring along his college coach who also happens to be his father, Yogi Lutz.
Follow on below the break for a transcript of the full interview:
Rob: Zach, what was it like playing for your dad in college? Was it easier? Or maybe it was tougher since I'm sure he did not go easy on you?
Zach: Yeah it was tough, but he treated me like anyone else on the team. He didn't make any more adjustments to me than he did anyone else. But it was definitely a good time playing for him. He knows my swing better than anybody else. So he really helped me get to where I'm at today.
Rob: And for you Yogi, what was it like to coach your son? Was it hard for you to treat him like everyone else? Did you have any pet peeves about him as a player? How about that stuff?
Yogi: I think it's naturally, the dream of any coach to coach your son at any level, especially at the college level. But when Zach was a freshman he had some real good guys ahead of him - Anthony Recker was a senior at that time and he's with the Oakland A's right now. So he had a lot of guys that he could follow. But he did a little bit more than follow; he was always the first one as far as work ethic and so that made him real easy to coach.
Rob: How would you say for this offseason that Zach is doing with his offseason routine? Do you think he's almost ready for camp or what other kind of stuff do you guys have left to work on - and I'm assuming you guys kind of work together on that stuff during the offseason...?
Yogi: Yeah I think probably the one part of his game that got him to where he is today is his work ethic. But sometimes that can work against you too at the same time. Because he's relentless with what he does as far as offseason conditioning. So he had to learn to temper that back just a little bit and get ready for spring training. But I think everything seems to be on pace. He's feeling healthy now and that's the main thing.
Rob: Ok Zach, obviously you had a big year in 2010, you hit for a ton of power, you had an all-around strong season at the plate but you kind of ran into the same issue that your dad just kind of mentioned: staying healthy. Since you've been drafted you've had that issue where haven't always been able to stay on the field. This season it was a foot issue that you suffered in May and it actually kept you out for a couple months. In the past you've had all sorts of different stuff. So first how is the foot feeling? And also do you consider the injury history kind of like "well I'm an injury-prone guy" or is it just bad luck?
Zach: Well first off my foot is feeling the best it's ever felt. I've been doing a lot of rehab back home now, keeping up with that every day. I don't really consider myself injury-prone, I just kind of had some bad luck. But then again I always think that everything happens for a reason and I've never gotten down on myself. And if I ever did get down on myself my mom and dad were always there to get me back up because I'm not gonna let that get in the way of my path to get to the big leagues.
Rob: Well I mentioned that 2010 - despite the injuries - was still a strong season for you. You blew past your previous high in homers and you did it in under 250 ab's; so what gives with that? Did you do anything differently this year or did things just kind of come together at the plate?
Zach: Probably just making everyday adjustments to the pitching. Moving up in levels the pitching just keeps getting better and better, pitchers have better command of all their pitches. In hitter's counts you're not seeing a fastball right down the middle, you're seeing cutters, sliders, change-ups. So just making adjustments, getting to the ballpark early and just getting the work done and just keep working hard.
Rob: Hitting on that a little bit, you mentioned the differences between the pitching at different levels, would you say that's the biggest difference, the breaking pitches, the secondary-type pitches that you see between say Double-A pitching and then pitching that you see at the lower levels?
Zach: Yeah, definitely. I think at the lower levels I always thought that guys would just try to throw it by you. Guys who could throw it 95, 97mph would just try to throw a fastball by you. But when I moved up, the thing I noticed about Double-A and Triple-A was that starting pitchers who only throw 89 to 92 mph but everything is moving. They're not just throwing like a straight four-seam fastball. They're throwing two-seamers, cutters, sliders, change-ups. And everything's moving. Their control of every pitch is keyed. And you've just got to make adjustments to that to be a good hitter and to be a good average hitter.
Rob: So on top of this big year, you're moving up the system. You had some exposure to Triple-A this year. But now I don't know if you've noticed but the Mets have got a guy at third base whose probably not going to be going anywhere anytime soon. Does that change your approach at all? Do you plan for a position move or something or do you just not worry about that stuff?
Zach: Nah, I don't worry about that at all. I mean, David Wright is his own player and I'm not trying to be the next David Wright or anything like that. I'll just continue to go out there and play my game the way I know how to play my game: Getting to the ballpark early and try to get better and better every day. I just want to have a chance to help out the big league team this year.
Rob: Talking about this year a little bit, do you have anything specifically that you're trying to work on or improve? And what are your expectations about your role or where you're gonna be playing this year?
Zach: The only thing I'm really worried about is finding a way to stay on the field. That's my main thing. I mean last year I played in I think it was about 75 games and I had 250 ab's. I just need to find a way to stay on the field. Ever since I've been on the field I've been able to produce good numbers. I think that's just my main thing.
Rob: Here's one for both of you, this season you spent most of your time with Binghamton and so you kind of get the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd anytime you were playing against Reading, that's the Reading Phillies team. So what was that like for you? Did you have a lot of friends and family showing up? Yogi, I'm sure you made it to at least a couple of those games right?
Yogi: Yeah, it was kind of neat because growing up I went out to a lot of the Reading Phillies games and was kind of in awe of the players at the professional level. And to see Zach back at that stadium kind of gave you a chill.
Rob: And for you Zach, was it kind of cool to play back at home like that as a professional?
Zach: Yeah definitely, You know me and my dad would always go out to games. I remember seeing C.C. Sabathia out there, Pat Burrell, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins. And seeing guys like that then having the opportunity to be where they were at one point, it's a thrill. And I had a lot of friends and family that came out and showed support so it was a good time.
Rob: As far as playing in the Reading area, obviously you stayed close to home for college. Was that a tough decision to stay home and play for your dad and go to Alvernia? Or was that just a natural decision just to do that?
Zach: I could have gone to some other big Division I schools. But I always told my dad that I wanted to come and play for him. I always thought that it doesn't matter where you go, if you just work hard and put up good some numbers somebody will find you.
Rob: And you were certainly right about that. Alvernia's not a huge school but you still ended up getting chosen in the top five rounds so it definitely worked out for you.
Zach: Yeah definitely.
Rob: So I usually like to end these with a little lightning round of personal questions to get to know you guys a little better off the field so here goes. What else do you like to do in your free time?
Rob: What is your favorite TV show?
Zach: Probably Everybody Loves Raymond.
Rob: What was the last movie you saw and was it any good?
Zach: 'The Town'; I thought it was a good one.
Rob: Do you have a nickname?
Zach: Everybody just calls me Lutzy.
Rob: And Yogi here's one for you, any pet peeves about Zach's game?
Yogi: Yeah, I think probably the hardest thing for me is that it's easier to coach him than to watch him now at the professional level. I don't know if you want to call it a pet peeve but it's just a nerve thing for me.
Rob: Allright Zach, I've got one more serious question I've got to ask you before we go. I know you're a Pennsylvania guy, you're from Reading, please tell me you were not a Phillies fan growing up.
Zach: Definitely not a Phillies fan.
Rob: (laughs) Good news. So then who was your favorite ballplayer growing up?
Rob: Ok well I think that wraps it. Guys, I appreciate the time. Yogi, good lucking on the upcoming season and Zach, good luck down in camp. Thanks again.