Catching up with… Justin Grimm
Throughout the off-season, we will spend some time catching up with former RoughRiders. In this edition, we hear from pitcher Justin Grimm, who was Frisco’s Opening Day starter in 2012 and went 9-3 with a 1.72 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) for the ‘Riders. He was promoted directly to the Rangers in mid-June and rotated through Frisco, Triple-A Round Rock and Texas over the remainder of the season. ‘Riders broadcaster Alex Vispoli chatted with Justin in Arlington recently to talk about his adjustment to working out of the bullpen and his 2012 season.
Alex Vispoli: How has your experience been since you re-joined the Rangers? Like you never left?
Justin Grimm: Yeah, it’s a little different. When I got up here it was more of a relief because I wanted to get back at some point in September. That was my goal when I got sent back down [to Frisco in July]. So it’s a little of a relief. Things go a little smoother too. I knew a lot of the guys [this time around] and I can continue getting closer to them.
AV: Is it a little easier when you can walk back into the clubhouse knowing that you have relationships with a lot of these guys, whereas the first time you might not have really known much about them seeing as it was your first time coming into a big league clubhouse?
JG: Yeah, it’s a lot easier. Like you said when I first came up here I knew one guy, Robbie Ross. But this time people are starting to open up more and more everyday and I just try to be myself and stay in my path, not try to get in the way too much. It’s definitely different the second time and plus you expect a little more out of yourself the second time around.
AV: What’s the adjustment been like for you going from starter to the bullpen which is something you really haven’t done before?
JG: It’s a little different physically. With starting you’re on more of a routine, you know when you’re going to throw. When you’re in the bullpen, you don’t know what the coach is thinking. Maybe he wants to give a certain guy a rest or maybe he doesn’t, so you just have to be ready every day and stay mentally locked in every day when the game starts. From the physical side of it, to me it takes a toll on my body because I’m not used to it. It’s throwing everyday. Not that I’ve been throwing every single day, but when I was in Frisco [at the end of the regular season], I was throwing every other day and I discovered that was arm recovering at a different rate. So instead of five days [between throwing in games] you’ve got one day or maybe you’re going to throw the next day.
AV: You haven’t had a ton of chances to get in games since coming back but how helpful was it that you had those few games in Frisco to take the training wheels off when it comes to pitching in relief for the first time?
JG: I think that helped me out more from just knowing what to expect from a physical side because, like I said, it’s different when you’re starting because you’ve got five days instead of having to be ready to go the next day. Mentally, I think it’s all the same. You’re just trying to go out there and attack the hitter. For me, whether it’s starting or coming out of the bullpen, you’re just trying to go after guys, you don’t want to walk them and try not to get yourself into trouble.
AV: What’s the feeling been like in a playoff race? Is it any different than when you were in the playoffs with Frisco or is it that same focus that you see from your teammates and from yourself?
JG: I think it’s the same focus. I think when you go out there the adrenaline’s always pumping no matter what. It is a little tougher coming in when we’re down a lot as compared to a tie ballgame. I think from a competitive standpoint, you try to be as competitive as you can be. Still, it is a little different. But as far as going out there and wanting to get the job done, I think it’s the same mindset.
AV: In your big league debut back in June you had a packed house and you’ve had big home crowds down the stretch. I would bet that gets the adrenaline going and that it never gets old.
JG: Yeah, I think I control the adrenaline a little bit better in a starting role. In the debut I think that’s the best I’ve handled myself in a while. I stayed within myself and just pounded the zone. Out of the ’pen, you know you’re in there for one or two innings so you kind of just blow it out. It’s a little bit different but it’s something you have to get used to.
AV: What are you going to remember from your season with the RoughRiders? What do you take from your experience in Frisco?
JG: It was just a really good year for me. I think I led the league in ERA [note: Grimm’s 1.72 ERA would have been the lowest in the Texas League, but he finished 28.1 innings short of qualifying] and had a lot of success. I learned a lot from [pitching coach Jeff Andrews], probably the most I have learned in any year that I’ve played baseball. I think that comes from coming into the season just wanting to learn and then getting better. I knew I had to do something different [this season] and had to listen to Jeff because he’s been around for a while. He’s been at the big league level and he knows what it takes. It’s a tribute to Jeff that he gets guys ready to go for the big league level. It’s not just like “I’m going to get you ready for Triple-A and what you have to do there.” So it’s good to be with that type of coach and that’s probably what I am going to take most [from my season in Frisco].