Visalia Rawhide pitcher Ryan Cook is riding the performance roller coaster during his second full season in professional baseball.
There have been highs for the former Clovis High and USC standout, such as his win July 10 against California League North Division-leading Bakersfield, when he held the Blaze to three earned runs on eight hits and two walks over 7 1/3 innings.
And there have been lows for the Arizona Diamondbacks' 27th-round selection from the 2008 amateur draft, such as his previous start July 6 at Lake Elsinore, when he gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits and six walks in 1 2/3 innings.
Cook, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound right-hander who is 4-4 with a 4.85 ERA in 72 1/3 innings for advanced Class-A Visalia, sat down with The Bee on July 11.
Fine game (July 10). How were you able to put a performance like that together?
I've been in a little funk this year so far, and my biggest thing is I haven't been able to jump ahead of hitters. And last night I was able to get 0-1. That's a big pitch. Once you get somebody 0-1, you have count leverage and you can do a lot with them then. I would say that's the biggest thing I did (July 10) that I haven't been doing in my previous few starts.
After a couple of rough starts, did you make any adjustments? Or were you just feeling it in the bullpen?
What's crazy about pitching is I felt great my last two outings and my numbers haven't been there. I've just been missing the corners here and there. Talking about count leverage, now all of a sudden the hitter has count leverage and it makes it easier for the hitter to do his job. (July 10) was really just about getting ahead. I had good command with all my pitches. And that was really the only difference.
What's it been like to play professionally so close to home?
It's been great. My family and friends from home have been able to come out to a lot of my games, which hasn't happened since high school. My family was fortunate enough with me going to college in L.A., they got to come to most of my starts, but my extended family that didn't get to go down and see me, that hasn't seen me since high school, and all my buddies that I played against and with, they all come out and cheer me on out here. It's been a really cool experience.
You got a spot start with Triple-A Reno earlier this year, what was that experience like?
It was a big, big learning curve. The biggest difference in the hitters from here to there is those guys up there don't miss mistakes. It doesn't matter if you are ahead in the count, behind in the count - if you make a mistake you are going to pay for it. Here, you might be able to get away it a few pitches a game that up there will go for a double.
When you get to a level like that on a temporary basis, does it whet your appetite to work a little harder to get back there?
Yeah. I felt like I didn't pitch my best. I didn't have all my pitches working for me, but I was able to battle. I'm not going to say I pitched good, I'm not going to say I pitched horrible, either. But I was able to battle and that lets me know that on the days when I have my good stuff, maybe I can pitch at that level.
Assess how your season has gone so far?
It's been a rocky year. I've been up and down, great to bad, and everything else in between. It's not what I envisioned coming into the year. Last year in (low Class-A) South Bend (where he was a Midwest League All-Star) I was able to go out and virtually dominate most of my starts. To come here and scuffle the way I've been scuffling on occasion and to not be able to really repeat my good outings and be consistent has been frustrating. But it's been a big learning experience. I've never really failed like this before, so I am learning how to accept failure and to get better from it.
What are your goals for the rest of the season?
I've thrown the numbers thing all out the window. I just want to go out there the rest of this season and put together as many quality starts as I can in a row, put my team in position to win the game as many times as possible for the rest of the year. And if I go out and do that, the numbers are going to be there.