Redleg Nation is thrilled to have Reds minor leaguer Bo Lanier as a “Redleg Nation Spotlight Player” and we are going to be following his career with a lot of interest. Other than his annoying habit of calling me “sir” (which makes me feel very old), Bo is a very classy, well-spoken, and nice guy.
We’re happy that he was willing to give us some of his time and attention and we hope to follow his career all the way to Great American Ballpark.
Watch Redleg Nation for more from Reds farmhand Bo Lanier in the coming months.
Interview with Bo Lanier, conducted 9/4/06 in the offices of the Dayton Dragons about 2 hours before the last game of the season.
RN: Redleg Nation (Bill Lack)
BL: Bo Lanier
RN: Redleg Nation is talking with Dayton Dragons pitcher Bo Lanier. He’s been kind enough to give us some of his time today.
RN: Bo, let’s talk about when you started playing baseball? How old were you when you started playing?
BL: I started tee ball when I was 5 years old. 5…turning 6.
RN: Parents always have been big supporters?
BL: Yeah, they’ve always been big supporters. One of my first memories is being in the front yard in a diaper and a big red bat and my dad throwing whiffle balls to me. They started me early.
RN: When did you realize that you had a chance to play pro ball?
BL: It had to be probably my sophomore year in college, maybe my redshirt sophomore year. Because my goals kind of changed. My goals, my life’s dream was I wanted to play baseball at University of Georgia. I always dreamed of playing in the major leagues, but it wasn’t a goal that I sought overnight. The goal that I set for myself in high school was to play college ball and in my junior and senior year of high school, I thought I might get the chance to play at Georgia, they offered me that. That was my goal in school, I want to do well enough in practice, I want to do well enough in the games where I can play for Georgia.
RN: So, you saw it as a step process?
BL: Yes, sir. And also, when I was in high school, I was a mid-80’s guy. I threw in the mid-80’s, but I had a 12-6 curveball that was my out pitch. And that’s what got me to Georgia. I wasn’t even a pitcher in high school. I pitched but that wasn’t my primary position. I saw myself going to college as a second baseman, leadoff hitter. And the way I got seen was, every year we played our cross-town rivals — Athens, Georgia — at Foley Field at University of Georgia and I happened to pitch that game. The head coach was there and he said, “Why don’t you come pitch for Georgia?” That’s how it happened.
And then my freshman fall, I started throwing 88-89, just kind of came out of nowhere. I went home for Christmas break and I don’t do anything for month. I come back and my first bullpen, I’m throwing 92-93. And I didn’t know where that came from. That year I was 92-93, the next year I came back and the first game of the season I was hitting 95. Later that season, I touched 96-97. I don’t know where the speed came from.
But when that started happening, my phone started ringing off the hook with scouts and I ended up not signing that year, because all of a sudden I’m seeing my name on Baseball America, which I never even followed, I was in the top 200 prospects, they were saying you’re going to go in the top 4 or 5 rounds, and it just kind of hit me and I said, “Whoa…” Because I didn’t see that for myself; I saw myself playing for Georgia, getting my degree and getting a job.
RN: Going on with your life?
BL: Yeah, going on with my life. I wasn’t on the map, no scouts had talked to me, all of a sudden, I get an arm overnight and my phone’s ringing off the hook, letters are coming in, and they ask, “Do you want to play pro ball right now?” and every time I said, “I don’t know.” My plans have changed so quickly that if I sign this year, my life changes like that. (snaps his fingers).
RN: Like shell-shock.
BL: It hit me to where I didn’t expect it, I wasn’t ready for it. The Red Sox ended up taking me that year in the 35th round and I got a lot of calls offering me the 4th or 5th round and I kept saying, “no”. That’s where the signability is, a team’s not going to draft you there if they can’t sign you, especially with those early picks. So they took me later in the draft that year and were going to follow me in the Cape Cod League. I had decided I was not going to sign unless it was life-altering money. Which is going to be $600,000 or more, which I understood was too big a price for me, but to take me away from school and to change my life that quickly, it was going to have to be life-altering money.
RN: Who did you talk to about these things? Your folks?
BL: I talked to my dad mostly. But he pretty much put it in my hands. He said this is your life, if you want help, I’ll give it to you, and he did. But that was the biggest thing, it just happened so quickly.
Now, say, if I’d have gone to college, and I wanted to play three years and go to pro ball, it might have been ok, but it was not ‘til the season started when I started getting calls, a couple of months before the draft. Everything changed so quickly that I wasn’t ready for it.
RN: Did you ever figure out where the extra speed came from? Physical maturity, mechanics? Or did you just say, “Thank God.”
BL: (laughs) I definitely said, “Thank God.” It was a lot of growing, I was always a late bloomer. My freshman year in high school, I remember weighing in for football. I knew I was small, but I didn’t know I was this small. I was 5’1 and 85 lbs, running around with some of those guys that were huge. I didn’t realize how small I was.
I grew close to a foot between my senior year (high school) and my freshman year in college. So, I started to develop.
I also never threw year round until I got to college. I played other sports. Baseball was always my sport, but I didn’t throw year round. So, I think arm strength and doing a lot of long tossing, the arm program, probably got me there. That and growing is probably what got me there.
RN: In ’05, you were drafted by the Reds in the 10th round, this time you signed. Is that about where you expected to be drafted?
BL: At the time, yes sir, but going into that year I was supposed to be in the top 5 rounds and I went in and, maybe the pressure of every time I went in a game there were scouts there and every pitch there were so many guns behind the plate.
And also, the thing about college is sometimes they can change you. I’d gone in that year and we’d just come off winning the SEC championship and going to Omaha. They came with a new philosophy for a lot of our pitchers and some mechanics were changed and things were changed..
RN: A different coaching philosophy by the coaching staff?
BL: Not to lay the blame totally on them, but things were changed to where I didn’t respond to it as well as others did. And some people did the same as I did. I went out there sometimes and felt like I didn’t know how to throw a baseball. I just had a terrible year. That’s kind of the way it works; if you throw hard, you’re going to get taken in the top 10 rounds. So, when the draft came, I knew I was going to go somewhere between 7 -10.
RN: You grow up a Braves fan?
BL: I grew up a Braves fan.
RN: Is it an adjustment, now that you’re in this organization?
BL: It is, I mean, I root for the Reds, but it’s still…I don’t see myself as a Red.
RN: Too far away?
BL: Yeah, I don’t mean it in a bad way. When I see the Reds playing, it hasn’t sunk in that I’m with that organization. It just hasn’t sunk in to where I’m rooting for them against the Braves. But it’s tough. (laugh)..
But if I get there and I’m a Red, they’re the enemy and they’ll be my second favorite team. But it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
RN: Last year you spent the majority of the year in the GCL and had pretty good numbers. 3.33 ERA, 1.9 Whip…and they moved you back from Billings last year to move you into the rotation. You and Russell Haltiwanger.
BL: Yes, sir. It was a lot of things, I was coming off a bad year at Georgia, my mechanics were messed up, and I was trying to get back to my old self. And when I was in Billings, things were a little off, because when you change an arm angle for awhile and you try to go back to it, you just can’t go right back to it.
RN: Sounds kind of like a golf swing.
BL: It’s so tough to go right back to that. What I needed was innings and in Billings we had so many guys and they were using the tandem starting where two guys were starting…
RN: The old regime’s philosophy…
BL: The old philosophy and your relievers are not going to get many innings. So they sent me to the GCL to be in that rotation, to be in that tandem…
RN: To get more innings?
BL: To get more innings and to get back to my old self. And I struggled at the beginning, not only trying to get back to my old self, but also starting. Especially in that heat. I didn’t start one time in college and when I hit that heat in the 3rd and 4th inning, I’d be gassed. I struggled at first, and after a few weeks I think I had like a 10 or 11 ERA. But I think my last month, I don’t know if I gave up a run. If I did, it was only one in my last month.
RN: Lots of unearned runs in that league.
BL: A lot of unearned runs.
RN: You had told me last year that the umpiring in that league was pretty inconsistent.
BL: It is. It’s like the players in that league. There’s a lot of inconsistency in the players at that level and there’s also with the umpires.
RN: I talked to a couple of other players, even talked to one player’s mom at a Sarasota Reds game last year and haven’t heard one pitcher say they liked the tandem starting idea. Is it pretty universal that everybody hated the tandem starting idea?
BL: I did not like it. I was not a fan of it. I can’t name one person that was.
RN: You and Russell both told me that you felt that with this system, you threw more than you would have on a normal system.
BL: Yeah, it was. You didn’t have as much rest. Another thing that’s maybe hard to understand for people that aren’t pitchers is that a role is very important. A defined role is very important. And if you’re a starter, before the game, you have a routine, you have the time and you warm up, you’re starting the game, it’s your game. That’s the starter’s mentality. And with the tandem, half the time they’re starting, but half the time they’re relieving. And a lot of times starters like to go deep into the game and that’s when they start to get on. And it was like when they’d start to get on, it’s time to take them out because they’d hit their pitch count or their inning limit. And they have to put this other guy in.
RN: And the second starter never knows when he’s coming in.
BL: That’s right. Another thing is, it’s not his game. He’s in there in somebody else’s game.
When you’re a reliever, it’s sometimes tough for a reliever to go in mentally. There are different relieving roles too. If you’re the closer, you’re going right at them, you’re not holding anything back. You’re not trying to conserve anything to go later in the game. If you’ve been doing that for a long time, it’s tough to become a starter because now you have to learn how pitch that way and use all three pitches to a hitter, because you’re going to see that hitter 2-3-4 times in that game. But if you’re closer, you’re going to see a guy one time and he might not be able to catch up to your fastball. But if you see him 3-4 times, he’s going to be able to time it up, no matter how hard you throw. You’re going to have to show him other pitches.
It gets into a role thing that’s kind of complicated and tough to explain.
Also, your arm is not on a schedule. And the relievers kind of get left out.
RN: They don’t even carry many relievers. I think here they were carrying something like 4 relievers last year.
BL: And you’re not going to get very many innings because if the starter goes 4 and the second guy goes 4, they you have the closer. But the other guys only get mop up, never a big role. Only if you’re winning by a ton. The only time you’re going to pitch them is because the starters didn’t go 4 innings.
RN: Does the team or the organization or coaches sit down with guys and tell them what their role is or what they see as your future and what you need to work on, that kind of thing?
BL: They don’t really sit us down. They haven’t yet since I’ve been here. I’ve kind of bounced around in roles this year as a reliever. Sometimes I’ve been setup guy, sometimes I’ve been middle relief, sometimes I’ve been the closer and all that’s fine. But I never knew the day that I switched from one role to another.
RN: It seemed like you were the closer. And I follow you pretty closely, then all of a sudden it seemed like they were stretching you out to two and three innings.
BL: Yeah, but I didn’t know…I didn’t have a problem with it, it’s fine.
RN: But going back to what you talked about before, it’s easier on the pitcher if they know what their role is.
BL: If they know what their role is. Some people feel that at this level the roles don’t really mean anything, its just innings. But personally, I think it can make a difference. It’s not like I got upset with it, but I didn’t know when I changed roles. They didn’t say, this is what we’re going to do They don’t do that. Some organizations may do that.
RN: But that hasn’t been done here?
RN: When we met last year when you were playing in the GCL, you explained to me what your days were like, it sounded almost like an 8-5, six-day-a-week job in the GCL. It sounded like a real grind.
BL: It was.
RN: Can you tell us how it’s different in this league, compared to that league?
BL: It’s definitely better here. It might be different if I was playing in Sarasota (FSL-High A), playing in front of 200 fans.
There were positives and negatives to last year. It was bad because you had to get up so early and you play your games in that heat at 12:00 or 1:00. It was just so hot. But the good thing was you could kind of have a life, where if you played at home, you were done at 3:00, if you were playing away, you were done at 5:00 or 5:30. So, you had the rest of the day to do something. That was a positive. The bad thing was that there were no fans in the stands. It doesn’t even feel like you’re in a game, it’s more like an intrasquad game.
The thing about here, especially playing in Dayton because the fans’ support is unreal. It’s tough going from Dayton to anywhere else on the road. Unless you go to West Michigan or Kane County. Someplace else that draws fans. It’s hard to go from this…it’ll be hard to go from this to anywhere else but Cincinnati probably.
RN: I’ve often wondered how tough it is to go from Dayton to Sarasota where they draw 400-500 people.
BL: It’s tough to stay mentally focused the whole game.
RN: Do you feed off the fans here?
BL: I do. I definitely feed off the fans. Some people have problems with the fans, if they’ve never experienced the crowds before, but playing at Georgia I experienced that on a regular basis and I definitely feed off the fans. I’ll throw a lot harder, I’ll throw a lot more strikes, and the game means more. I know that sounds bad, any game should mean the same, you’re trying to win, trying to compete, but for some reason when the fans are there, whether they’re watching the game or not (laughs), it doesn’t matter. As long as they’re there, it makes you that much more focused and that much more in the game.
It’s more of a baseball season. Last year it was like I was in Sarasota (GCL) to play baseball, but it was kind of like I was on vacation. I’d get done and it would be like, “what do I do now?” I had nothing to do, it wasn’t like I was in school and would go to class at this time and have baseball the rest of the day. So, then, my time was pretty much planned out for me.
RN: It almost sounds like baseball boot camp. Survival of the fittest.
BL: I know. I had so much free time, I didn’t know what to do with my life. And now, I get to sleep in. I come in, usually around 2:00 for a 7:00 game, and things are just planned out that I’m doing this station at this time, this station at this time, stretching at this time, throw, then the games there. To where I’m on a schedule. That was the hardest thing in the GCL, having so much free time. I didn’t know what to do, I just went back to the hotel and watched TV. And there is only so much you can do. Going to the beach was good, but other than that, there was nothing to do with my time. It made the days go by slower.
RN: How many pitches do you throw?
BL: I throw 3 pitches. I throw 2 different kinds of fastballs. A lot of people throw 2 different kinds of fastballs. I throw a 4-seam fastball that’s straighter and probably a harder pitch. And I throw a 2-seam fastball that will run a little bit and maybe sink a little bit.
RN: Break in on a right-hander?
BL: It’ll run in on a right-hander, yes, sir. I throw it a lot to lefties, away, trying to get ground balls. Because, I kind of need to break this habit, but our philosophy in college was get them out early and make them put it in play. I throw a lot of fastballs. I throw a ton of fastballs. A lot of times, striking someone out isn’t in my plan. Now, if I get 2 strikes. If I get 0-2 or a 1-2, then it might be an option. But early in the at bat, I don’t try to strike them out. I want them to put it in play in the first three pitches and let them get themselves out.
And I throw a kind of slider, curve. A slurve. A true curveball is 12 to 6, straight up and down. A slider is sideways. I’m kind of right in between. And I’ll throw a change up that I don’t throw much. I just kind of show it every now and then. I have three, but I guess technically 4.
RN: Are you working on anything that you’d like to add?
BL: That’s pretty much all I need coming out of the pen, or even as a starter. It’s even tough to have two that you can throw for strikes. And I can throw my fastball and curve for strikes. I need to work on my change up. Not only command, but I need to learn how to use it more. I need to show it more. A lot of times I fall in love with my fastball where I’ll throw that all the time.
RN: The changeup would help set your fastball up?
BL: It would make my fastball that much better. I need to do that. It’s tough sometimes, especially at this level, I need to throw it so I can develop it. It’ll help me later on, but sometimes it’s so tough when you see a guy late on your fastball, to throw your changeup. He might catch up to that.
I know I SHOULD throw it, but I don’t WANT to throw it.
RN: Is this the most you’ve ever thrown in one season?
BL: Yes sir, it is. In college I might have had a season where I threw 45 innings, then I went to the Cape Cod League and threw probably 15 there. I showed up really late there (Cape Cod League) because we were in Omaha.
RN: Is that wooden bat league?
BL: Yes, it’s a wooden bat league. That’s probably 60 innings there.
RN: You’re at what now, about 77 innings?
BL: I don’t have a clue what I’m at. I think I’m in the high 60’s or somewhere in the 70’s. I haven’t looked in a long time. But that was from February to now, those 60 innings.
RN: You have 70 1/3 innings.
BL: There you go and I didn’t start throwing now until mid-April, so it’s a lot of innings and a lot of days. It has kind of been stressful on my arm.
RN: You’ve struggled in August.
BL: I have.
RN: Do you think your arm is tired?
BL: I KNOW my arm is very tired. I’ve gone to a role where I’ve gotten a lot of innings on short rest and I’m not saying it’s bad, but I’m not used to it. It’s something that I’ll grow into.
RN: Do you look at your numbers?
BL: No. I never do. (He starts looking at the numbers that I had printed out.)
RN: This is broken down by month.
BL: Ok. See, I only had 10 innings in June, I’ve had 10 innings the past week and a half. You throw 3 plus innings, you might get a day or two off, then you have to throw again. You think, “Wow, this is definitely getting to me.”
RN: Can you tell in the bullpen when you have it and when you don’t? Or is there no correlation? Or do sometimes you feel good there and have nothing when you get to the mound?
BL: It’s weird. Some days I’ll be in the bullpen and I’m terrible and I go out there and I can’t be touched. But even sometimes on the mound, I’ll be throwing so bad and they can’t hit it. But sometimes I have my stuff in the pen and I go out there and I’m terrible. Sometimes I’ll go out there and all of my stuff is working but I can’t get one person out. It’s definitely a game of luck. If they hit it, sometimes you get away with it.
I still remember, when I had my best stuff. When West Michigan was here last, and they were killing me. Even against Wisconsin the last series, there was a game when I gave up 3 runs in 2 innings and I had all my stuff. It was just everything they hit found a hole.
That’s when you just kind of throw your hands up and say, “There’s nothing I can do.”
RN: Does the team talk to you about numbers?
BL: No, sir.
RN: Not even in the off-season?
BL: No. They’ll talk to you like, “we want you to get your walks down” or “we want you to work on this pitch”. Walks have always been my Achilles Heel.
RN: You had a bad July for walks.
BL: I had a TERRIBLE July for walks.
RN: You had 11 walks in 16 2/3 in July.
BL: That’s the thing that’s always gotten me. Mentally, when I go out there, sometimes I question myself. If I’m good early, I’m not going to walk anybody or I’m not going to walk more than one, because I’m not thinking about it.
But sometimes I go out there and the first couple pitches are balls and I start changing my arm. I start aiming. That’s when the hitters start taking and you know they’re taking. You’re not there with a plan, like I’m going to go outside with this one, all you’re thinking about is “please, do not throw a ball.” When you do that, you’re done and I know that. I know that if I do this, I might as well take myself out right now.
RN: So, it’s tough to reset yourself mentally on the mound.
BL: It is tough. That’s part of growing and I understand that. But that’s something I need to work on. I feel like sometimes I psych myself out and sometimes I start thinking about mechanics and you can’t do that. Mechanics are something you might work on on the side, but you can’t take them into the game. You have to concentrate on the hitter.
RN: Let’s talk more generally life in the minor leagues for a couple of minutes. You told me that in the GCL the team had you set up in a hotel and they had a buffet or a restaurant or something where you could go to eat.
BL: It was at the field, at Ed Smith. When we came to the field, they had a buffet.
RN: How does it work here in Dayton…now you weren’t on the original roster, right?
BL: No, I spent 4 days in extended spring training. It took me a couple of days to get there, I showed up in the second series.
RN: When you came to Dayton, did they help you find a place to live? How does that kind of thing work?
BL: The Reds don’t get involved, but there’s a guy named Rick, if he’s not one of the boosters, he’s one of the big supporters. He comes to all the games, you always see him there. He has some apartments. XXXXX Apartments It’s tough in the minor leagues. If we didn’t have him, I don’t know what I’d do because we don’t have any furniture, we can’t bring any furniture here and you never know where you’re going to be.
I couldn’t sign a lease and the shortest amount of time you could sign a lease for was 3 months. You’re locked into that. And you have to get bills in your name. And you have to get it furnished or get furniture. That would just be crazy.
RN: Is there someone like that in every city?
BL: I don’t know. I hope, but I don’t know. But he’s really helped us. We don’t even have to sign a lease with him. And we just pay a flat rate.
RN: Do you guys usually room together, like do you have a roommate?
BL: Yes, sir. When I was in those apartments, I lived with Haltiwanger and Josh Holden. Those apartments were actually full and when Haltiwanger got here, he had to sign a three-month lease with somebody. So, I kind of bunked up with him early, then when Paul Janish got moved up, I moved into his room at XXXXX Apartments. When Haltiwanger’s lease was up, I told him that he could come stay in my room and he just put up a blowup mattress
RN: The luxurious life of a minor leaguer.
BL: That’s right.
RN: When you’re on the road, they’re all bus trips, right?
BL: Yes, sir.
RN: What do you guys do to pass the time on the road?
BL: We always watch movies on the charter buses. A lot of guys listen to their Ipods. If I don’t like the movie they’re playing, I have a personal DVD player and a lot of guys now have that or they have a video Ipod and watch a movie on that or listen to music. Or try to sleep.
It’s tough sleeping on the bus. I’ve done it so much now, that I’m just numb to any bus trip.
RN: Can sleep anywhere?
BL: It more like it doesn’t matter how far it is. It’s not like I’m in a hurry to get home, so the trip seems so long. It’s just I get on and it’s like…the trip’s 20 hours, I don’t care. I’m going to sit here and the trip is going to seem the same to me. I’m numb to any bus trip. We’ve done it all year, so it’s just no big deal. You just get used to it, where it’s not so bad.
RN: What about in other cities on the road?
BL: In this league you don’t go to many “awesome” cities. But there are some that are ok. Dayton is by far the best, nothing even compares to Dayton. Even seeing where other teams, where they stay in the hotel on that strip, there are all kinds of restaurants there.
On Miller Lane. I don’t know if you know where they stay. They stay where the Comfort Suites or the Comfort Inn on Miller Lane, where everything is.
But a lot of times, it’s not like that when you go to other cities. You go to Grand Rapids, where West Michigan is, or East Lansing, that’s ok. But if you go to South Bend or Clinton, or something like that, you might have a McDonalds, if you’re lucky.
That’s another thing that’s bad on the road. We get out so late. We don’t get back to the hotel until about 11:00. By that time, everything’s closed, so all we have is fast food. And a lot of times, those doors are closed and only the drive through is open and we don’t have a car and you can’t go through the drive through unless you have a car. So we have to just find ways to get food. It can get a little frustrating sometimes.
I’m not complaining, it’s just how it is. That’s just “the life”. Payin’ the dues, everybody had to go through it.
RN: Take me through your normal game day.
BL: I usually get here around 2:00, a little after 2:00. This is for a home game. Pitchers stretch at 3:00. Once we stretch, I go into my arm routine. I always do an arm routine with a 3 lb weight and a band that I’m always pulling on to get my arm loose before I throw a ball. Then I’ll throw, depending on how much I threw a couple of days before.
It depends. I’m not going to long toss if I threw 3 innings the day before. So, I’ll get my arm loose and so we’ll be done there about 3:30. I’ll go in for a little bit, put on a batting glove because I usually hit fungos for everybody.
BP starts a little before 4:00. And will go until probably 5:00. So, I’ll hit fungos to the infielders for about an hour. Then we’ll go inside, that’s when the other team is doing their stretching and hitting.
So, for those 2 hours, it’s kind of down time, but we have the lounge where we can watch TV or play cards. They put out food for us, so if you don’t bring food, they have food that you can eat during that time.
Around 6:20, I’ll put on my game uniform, so I can be out there by 6:30 or so, to sign autographs and stuff. Then it’s game time.
RN: You forgot something. At least in the games I’ve been to, you catch more ceremonial first pitches than anyone else on the team.
BL: I do.
RN: You’ve had your picture taken a lot.
BL: I know. I don’t usually pitch until later, so early in the year I did it a couple of times and then I just became friends with a few people on the “Green Team” (the people that do the on-field promotions, skits, etc for the Dragons) and a few people that kind of run it here.
So, I’ll do it. I don’t have anything to do until later and its kind of fun. I like it. Now, when it gets around 6:30 or so, I’ll go find them and say, “What time’s the first pitch?”.
I’ll meet the people before I go do it, so it’s just become part of the day. It’s fun.
RN: Do you start the game in the dugout or do you start out in the bullpen?
BL: I usually start out in the bullpen, but lately since it’s late in the season, we’ve been kind of hanging out in the dugout. But I usually stay in the pen all the time.
RN: What are you plans for the winter?
BL: I have to have my tonsils taken out. I actually have an appointment tomorrow to meet with the doctor, then I may have to have an endoscopy also where they go in and stretch out my throat. I’ve had a lot of problems. When I had mono, it really messed up my tonsils.
It’s really hard to put on weight right now because when I eat a certain amount, but it’s really hard to explain, but my throat’s closing up to where, the timing is off, when I swallow, my brain thinks the food’s going to hit my stomach and is rejecting it. So, it’s a big mess right now. So, when I work out or when I eat a lot, it’s rejecting it.
I’ll probably start a workout routine in November.
RN: How much do you throw in the winter?
BL: You know, a lot of people don’t throw, but I’ve never had an arm problem. (Knocks on the wooden table we’re sitting at.) And it seems like every time I take even one day off during the season, my arm doesn’t feel as good. So I like to throw pretty much every day.
So, when it gets to be about mid-November, I’m going to throw every single day until spring training starts. Even though I didn’t do well in spring training this year, I felt like I came in ready. There was not one day when I might have thrown and it was sore the next day. My arm was definitely in shape.
RN: Are you going to make any changes this winter from what you did last winter?
BL: I don’t think so. Because my arm was healthy. (We both knock on the table again.) And it’s so hard to find a catcher. I just find a catcher, give him $20 or $30 and ask if he’ll catch a bullpen for me.
That’s the other thing about pro ball and college also. You’re always there year round in college, so you have your team catchers. But in pro ball, you’re on your own for those off-season months and you have to find your own catchers.
And I can’t use the UGA (University of Georgia) guys because they have to catch the UGA guys. You find a local high school guy or something.
RN: You went to instructional ball last year, didn’t you?
BL: I did.
RN: Will you be going to that this year?
BL: I’m not this year. I’ve thrown too many innings.
RN: What goes on in instructional ball?
BL: It’s pretty much for first year guys or first rounder guys. It’s all the head people can be there and see the new guys because right now, a lot of the AA and AAA guys can’t see the new batch because they’re coaching those teams.
Also, it’s a chance for all those guys, before spring training, before you have so many guys there, a chance to be hands on with the new guys and kind of give them an idea of what they want them to work on.
RN: What did you get out of instructional ball last year?
BL: I got a fractured knee. But…I think a lot of people, it’s definitely beneficial for you. But in my case, a freak accident, I was warming up in the bullpen and our head pitching coordinator, Mack Jenkins, a ball was coming in there and he said, “Watch out” and I was in my stride and I tried to stop and my knee when “crack”…I was done before I started.
RN: I’d have cried like a baby.
BL: I wanted to. I definitely screamed that’s for sure.
RN: I have no idea of financial things with ball players, other than the Jay Bruces and the Homer Baileys, who you read about their big contracts. Do you have to work in the off-season? Do most guys have to have a regular job in the off-season?
BL: I think maybe most guys do. It depends on the individual and how well off their family is. I’m fortunate to where my parents can pretty much support anything that I do. But if you’re not fortunate enough, then you’d have to have a job.
Because we’re pretty much, just getting by. If that. And a lot of folks still have to have help from their parents. So when you get in the off-season, you don’t have anything.
RN: So, your salary only runs during the playing season? Not a 12-month contract?
BL: We don’t even get paid in spring training. Only as long as you’re on a roster.
RN: When we met last year, you told me that if you weren’t a Dragon, you’d be upset. And you’ve been here all year, during the season, do you think about promotion? Do you wonder, why did he get moved up and I didn’t? Or do you think, “I’m just going to take care of my business…”
BL: You can’t get caught up in that because you never know the reason. Of course, it’s probably natural to say that, but of course everybody’s going to say, “Why not me?” I don’t get caught up in that too much. I usually understand the reasoning behind everything and this year, there wasn’t anything I questioned or anybody questioned, I don’t think.
A lot of times if it’s your first year, they want you to have one full season of success in that one place.
To be honest, I know Sarasota is another step up, but I wanted to spend one whole year here in Dayton, personally. It’s not a place where you want to leave. I at least want to experience that for a year.
If I was going to Chattanooga, maybe that’d be a different story.
Now, next year, as much as I love Dayton, in the big scheme, I want to go on to Sarasota, definitely. But this year, I wanted to stay in Dayton.
RN: Have you been satisfied with your season?
BL: I was. I’ve not been a fan of my August. But before that, I realize that I’ve kind of hit a wall with innings and it’s the first time I’ve done that. You know, I can’t be too dissatisfied with it.
I think…my ERA’s about 3.11 now, it just went down a little bit. I had couple of scoreless innings the other night.
RN: 2 scoreless, 4 strikeouts.
BL: Yeah, I had the curveball working the other night. A 3 ERA is definitely good, but I’m always going to be my biggest critic and want a lower ERA. Especially when I had like a low 2 the other day….now it’s a low 3. You always want to finish strong. That’s kind of been disappointing to me.
I guess if I’m not being so hard on myself, I know I’ve had a pretty good season.
RN: Of course, your goal is to make the big leagues. How confident are you of doing that?
BL: I don’t know. I realize there are so many things I have to work on. Now, I do have the arm…there are guys in the big leagues, I wouldn’t be the hardest thrower there, wouldn’t even be close, but I’d just be another big league arm. But my breaking ball, if it stays consistent, is good enough to where if I can throw it for strikes, in any count that I wanted, it’s a good enough pitch.
But my control has to get better or I can’t even pitch in AA. I understand that and I have to get a changeup that I can throw for a strike because the higher I go up, those hitter are going to know that I only have two pitches that I can get over the plate. And they’ll just sit on those. Those hitters are so good, if you don’t have a third pitch, they can get you. It’s just something else in their mind.
If I can get my control down and develop my changeup, I’ve got a shot. I’m not saying I’m definitely going to get there, but I definitely have a shot because I do have the arm or I wouldn’t have been drafted. I do have the arm and I do have a breaking ball. But there are so many things I do have to improve on. The mental side. My mechanics and the control. And my overall “stuff”.
RN: Is there a big difference between the hitters between where you pitched last year and this league?
BL: They’re more free swinging in the lower levels. You can throw a curveball in the dirt and they’re just hacking. It’s gotten a little better. But as hitters move up, they’re looking for their “one pitch” and if they get that pitch, they’re not going to miss it. That might not be the case here, they might get their pitch, but they’re not going to be on it every time. And that’s the thing as you move up levels, those big league hitters, if they’re looking for a fastball inside and it’s outside, they’ll just take it. They’ll just wait for that pitch. And when they get it, they never miss. It’s just crazy how that works, but that’s how it works.
Also, I realize that I have no hard feelings about this, but baseball is also a business. The more money they have in you, the more opportunities you’re going to get.
RN: So, they’re going to do things for Jay Bruce that they’re not going to do for Bo Lanier.
BL: Exactly, and I don’t have a problem with that. I understand that and if I were running the business, I’d do it exactly the same way because if you give someone this much money.
Obviously Jay is talented to where he should have gotten that money. And Jay is every single bit of the player he’s hyped up to be. Absolutely. And that’s just the way it is. If you have this much money in this guy and this much money in this guy, they might put up the same numbers, but you have to go with this guy (the player they have the more money in) and I have no hard feelings with that. That’s just the reality and that’s just how this game works.
So that’s how when you go in a later round, like a 10th round, you have to be that much better than the guys ahead of you. And I understand that.
You can’t just be good, you have to be a lot better than that.
RN: Thinking about your baseball future. Have you given yourself any kind of deadline? Have you said to yourself, “If I don’t make the majors or AAA by the time I’m X years old, then maybe its time to do something else”? Or is it too early in your career to even think about that kind of thing?
BL: I don’t know. I battle this a lot to give myself a deadline because ….I don’t mean this to sound bad against baseball, but baseball works to where you can have a lot of years in and not turn into anything. But with football, you get drafted and you’re playing in the NFL or basketball, you’re playing in the NBA. And if you don’t make that one team, you can get on with things.
And baseball, because there’s so much skill involved, every level is so much different. I sometimes wonder, is this a waste of time? The fact that I have a life somewhere else, I went to school, I’m very close to graduating in business. And I can make a lot of money doing that, right away, when I’m not making much at this. But the ultimate goal is to get there (the big leagues) and you can make that kind of money.
So, I re-evaluate myself a lot. I don’t really talk with anybody about it, because it’s my life. But sometimes I do say to myself, is this a waste of time? Am I doing the right thing here. Of course, you’re going to second guess yourself and question things, but right now I think it’s the right thing because it’s an opportunity not many have.
RN: It’s an opportunity that many people would love to have, it’s the thing that dreams are made of. It really is.
BL: It is. Of course, there are some downsides to it. But also, it’s fun, especially here in Dayton. You get to sign all kinds of autographs and people follow you. It definitely makes it worthwhile.
RN: Well, that’s all I’ve got. And I thank you for your time and hope we can stay in touch. We’ll be following your career.
RN: You know, you and Russell (Haltiwanger) made me look good last year because you told me how good Jay Bruce was when we were talking down there and I came back and told people that and then he has this breakout year here.
BL: If he hadn’t hurt his shoulder, and it’s not bad, but it’s going to effect your swing, I think he would have finished .320 with a lot more home runs. He was trying to play through it, trying to be tough, but you can’t play through a separated shoulder. Even though it’s not bad and it’s going to be 100% in just a few weeks. It’ll be fine in instructionals, but it’s just bad timing at the end of the year.
RN: He looks like a special player.
BL: He is definitely a special player. I think he is 100% going to be in the big leagues, unless he has some injury. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. (Again, we knock on the table.) And I think when he gets there, he’s going to be something special.
RN: I had a chance to talk to him for a couple minutes early in the season and he seems like a nice kid too. He seems like a very nice guy.
BL: He’s not only mature in his baseball ability, he’s only 19 and he’s probably the most mature person on the team. He has no other distractions, other than baseball. He has his goals. He doesn’t get caught up in the partying life. He doesn’t get caught up chasing girls, he has a girlfriend that he’s probably going to marry. He understands what he has to do. He’s very responsible with everything. I’ve never seen a 19-year-old kid that responsible.
RN: I sure wasn’t.
BL: I wasn’t either. He’s got that much money and he’s so responsible with it. He doesn’t spend it, he only spends the money he’s given. He’s got that put away.
RN: I read somewhere that he bought a truck.
BL: He bought his first car. He didn’t have a car of his own, he actually bought his first car. He also helped his parents out a little bit, he helped buy his sister a house. So he definitely took care of his family and he’s a very good kid.
RN: Again, thanks Bo. Good luck and we’ll talk again soon.