Jesse Litsch, a 23-year-old right-hander, is one of the young starters who have helped solidify the Blue Jays' rotation this season. In just his second year in the big leagues, Litsch has already equaled his '07 win total, and was among the American League's Top 10 in victories and ERA when he answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com:
MLBPLAYERS.com: How do you evaluate your season so far?
Litsch: I would definitely call it a success right now. I've gone out there and thrown strikes every day. I'm trying to get hitters out, which for a pitcher is the whole ballgame. We've been winning the games and swinging the bats well, which is obviously very important. As a team, we're ready to roll.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Coming out of Spring Training, did you envision this type of success out of the gate?
Litsch: In the spring I was fighting for a spot. It was a battle then. I grabbed that spot, and came in this year with the mindset to just compete like I always do. I'm the same person every day. I'm about going out there and throwing strikes.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you having fun with the success you've had?
Litsch: The success has helped with the enjoyment of being in the big leagues, as opposed to being in the Minor Leagues. I had some struggles early on, but I'm getting into a groove and sticking with what has worked.
MLBPLAYERS.com: For fans who haven't seen you pitch, how do you describe your style?
Litsch: I compete. I'm a competitor. I'm a guy who, when he finds the zone, says, 'Here it is, come and get it.' I like to use my defense. They're there, so why not use them? I throw five pitches for strikes at any time, and that's another key. I'm a finesse pitcher, I guess you would say, and my key is finding that strike zone.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What did you learn last year as a rookie?
Litsch: I learned so many aspects of the game. I got to watch veterans like Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett throw, and that helped me out a little bit. I was able to get my feet wet.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How did you take that experience with you into this season?
Litsch: Last year, I knew that my second season was something that I was looking forward to. Knowing what to expect gives you a little bit more of a cushion to work with, I would say.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You have worked exclusively as a starter in the big leagues, with the exception of one game this year when you worked as a reliever. What was that circumstance, and did you enjoy it?
Litsch: It was my first time out of the 'pen. We had a rainout, which forced a doubleheader the next day. They put me in the 'pen because that was my regular day to pitch. That's how it ended up happening. I threw three innings and tried to save some of the arms down there. It was a different experience, but an interesting one.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What did you see when you were down there for the first time?
Litsch: I came in to pitch in the fourth inning, so I wasn't down there real long. But I saw pretty quickly that they're like a family down there. They have their own lifestyle in the bullpen. It is their world.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Saying that you only have two years of experiences in the big leagues is not entirely true. What are your memories of being a batboy for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays?
Litsch: I worked for them for two years. I also had an internship there in the public relations department. It was great at that age to see all of the big leaguers and to get that experience. I got to see a lot about what it is like at this level.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What was it like to then go out and compete against the Rays?
Litsch: I pitched last year against them twice there. This year we played them, but it was in Orlando. It is always great to go back home and have your family and friends around you. You get hyped about it.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Even though you now compete against them, do you like to see the on-the-field success that the Tampa franchise is having now?
Litsch: I don't know. When I was there, I was just a batboy who ran and got bats. That was in 2001 and 2002. There are only a few guys still there from that time. It's good for them, but since they're in our division, we're gunning for them.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Finally, as the season progresses, what goals do you have as you move forward?
Litsch: We just want to keep this going. We're here to win the World Series. That's our goal for this season. I just want to keep winning, have fun and compete. As long as I am doing that every day, that's all that I can give.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.