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Many Caps

Questions for the multi-faceted D.J. Carrasco

By CORY FRANKLIN M.D.

    DJ. Carrasco is a pitcher in his second season with the White Sox. A tall powerful right-hander, his biggest asset is his versatility. The 32-year-old has been a starter, pitched in long relief and has even worked as a closer for manager Ozzie Guillen. Carrasco pitched well this year, and at the time of this interview, with three weeks to go in the 2009 season, he led the Sox pitching staff in winning percentage (.833) with a 5-1 record.

What does D.J. stand for?
Danny Junior. My dad’s name is Danny, but nobody calls me that.

Where are you from?
I’m from a really small town, Safford, Arizona. But I was raised in northern California in the Bay Area.

How do you like Chicago?
It’s one of my favorite places. It’s clean—there’s a lot of culture and things to do. It’s like a cleaner northern California. During the season when I’m here, the weather’s good. I don’t know about the winters.

You’ve had an atypical career. You didn’t start out as a pitcher. What happened?
Coming out of high school I was a better hitter than pitcher. All my honors were as a hitter, an outfielder/first baseman. When I started pitching, I threw hard, but I was more of a thrower than a pitcher. When I was first signed in the minors, I said I would only sign if I got a chance to hit. But when I got to camp, position players went to one group and pitchers went to another. I went with the position players and to my dismay they pulled me over to the pitchers. So basically they lied to me to get me to sign my first contract. I loved to hit more than I loved to pitch, but after two releases I figured I had to pitch to stick in the game.

You also spent a long time in the minors before making it to the majors. What was that like?
I never had the silver spoon. It was really tough because I always had good success in the minors. I believed I was better than many guys I saw make it to the majors. Every year I threw well, but every year front office decisions held me back and hurt my chances of moving up. I was signed for only one dollar, so teams didn’t have any money invested in me. It was the business aspect of the game that kept me in the minors so long. It’s unfortunate, but it helps to understand how things really work. You’ve been a starting pitcher, a long reliever and a closer. Which role do you like best? I like being a closer. You’re the last man standing and everything relies on you. You either deliver or you don’t. I also like being a starter because it’s more like a chess match. It’s a thinking game because you see the hitters two or three times. Long relief, you usually go three innings at most and you see every hitter once. I don’t like it as much as the other roles, but it’s important to the team.

What pitches do you throw primarily?
Most of my success is with my fastball, which is a cutter/sinker. I throw that about 90 percent of the time. If I’m pitching in relief, I probably will only see a hitter once, so I don’t need to bust out my change-up or curve that much. I have a pitch I call “the Frisbee,” which is a drop-down curve, or drop-down fastball.

Who’s the best hitter you’ve faced?
The best hitter I ever faced was Barry Bonds. But the hardest guy for me to get out is Magglio Ordonez. He owns me.

How about the best all-around ballplayer?
The best all-around ballplayer I’ve seen would have to be Alex Rodriguez.

Who’s the best pitcher you’ve seen?
Mariano Rivera. He’s been getting people out for 15 years with one pitch. When everybody knows what you do for 15 years and they still can’t hit it, that’s the definition of the best.  You have a reputation as a team player. How has that helped you in your career? It helps when you’re on the mound and the guys behind you are going to play hard. Your manager might be pulling for you a little more when you’re struggling out there. Baseball is a long, hard game. Team chemistry is important. But baseball is only a part of being a good person. I’m interested in being a good person in general. That’s very important to me.
 

Published: October 12, 2009
Issue: November 2009 Sports Issue