After a 14-7 South Bend Cubs win over the Lake County Captains last month, I had the chance to talk with Cubs pitching prospect Cory Abbott. Abbott was the Cubs second-round choice in 2017. Abbott has since been promoted to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. Here are some of the highlights of the discussion.
TH: You picked a nice day to not be pitching today.
CA: Yeah, quite a bit of offense both ways. Nice to get the win.
TH: You’re a San Diego kid. Who did you root for growing up?
CA: I was mostly a Giants fan. My dad was from the Bay Area, so most of the Padres games we went to see were against San Francisco. The years the Padres were good were really fun. But, usually, it was the Giants.
TH: You went to Loyola Marymount. My awareness of them is mostly basketball fron the late-80’s and early 90’s. What should we know about LMU?
CA: It’s not much about basketball anymore. It’s mostly soccer, baseball and softball. The West Coast Conference is a really competitive baseball league. Also, it’s a private school with low teacher-to-student ratios. It’s a very strong academic school from that standpoint.
TH: Is it downtown?
CA: It’s right by LAX. The views are fantastic. People like to talk about the views at Pepperdine, but the views at LMU are really nice, also.
TH: You tossed a perfect game against Brigham Young in 2017. They hit .317 as a team that season. No-hitters and perfect games usually have fun backstories. What can you tell us about your big game?
CA: I had no idea. I was trying to get hitters out. They were such a good hitting team, I wasn’t thinking about hits or base runners. They hit so well, I was trying for the strikeouts. I wanted to get the win.
TH: It was a 2-0 final. You had no idea what was going on?
CA: Not until everyone started going crazy. Then, I realized something was up.
TH: And no idea you hadn’t walked anyone, either?
CA: None. They were a good team, and we needed the win. That’s where my focus was.
TH: What can you remember about your draft night?
CA: My agent had told me I might get drafted in the late second round, but not to get too confident about it. I had a cookout with a few of my friends, had a couple of beers, and watched the coverage.
TH: Did you have any inkling it was going to be the Cubs?
CA: Not really. The Yankees had interviewed me just before the draft. A fly-in-fly-out sort of interview. They told me the night of the draft that I was their guy in the second round if a specific high school guy (Matt Sauer) was off the board. They took him at 54. The Dodgers were interested, (at 62) but the money didn’t line up. When the Cubs called and asked if I would sign for the slotted amount, it was an easy sale.
TH: How was the adjustment process to pro ball?
CA: I treated the first year like it was a college summer ball experience. Summer ball is a natural in amateur baseball, and I treated it like that. Building the camaraderie. That’s largely how my time in Arizona and Eugene were last season.
TH: Did you know anyone in the Cubs pipeline at the time?
CA: Corey Black was rehabbing from an injury. He was from San Diego, and I knew him. Ian Clarkin is with the White Sox, and he was from San Diego in my time period, as well.
TH: What is something you’d like to get better with over your next eight to 10 starts?
CA: My change-up. In college, the goal was to win games, so my change was rarely getting used. Now, it’s my fourth-best pitch behind my curve and slider. It hurts getting beaten on my fourth-best pitch, but I have to keep using it. My last homer I gave up was to Will Benson (Lake County-Indians affiliate) on a change. I have to get better with that. I keep trying different grips.
TH: It has to be interesting to have the minor leagues “about development” after college being about “getting wins.”
CA: Definitely. In college, it’s about getting the hitters to make the outs. In minor league ball, everyone is developing. Sometimes plays aren’t being made like they were in college because the infielders tend to be very inexperienced. They are often so very young, coming from other countries.
TH: You’re also calling your own pitches.
CA: Yeah, in college, the coaches call the pitches. In the pros, the catcher and pitcher have to think in unison. But, I need to keep working on the change-up, as that’s what will move me up the ladder.
TH: I hear you’ll really enjoy working with Tavi (Myrtle Beach pitching coach Anderson Tavares). He’s very good at developing pitchers. Adbert Alzolay was “another guy” until Tavi.
CA: I really want to get to Myrtle Beach, but I realize how much depth there is in the system with pitching. To get to Myrtle Beach, I need there to be an opening, and they’re in a bit of the same holding pattern that I am.
TH: One final question. You’re about 10 pitches from your pitch count, and the pitching coach is coming out for a chat, and you want to get the last out. How’s that conversation go?
CA: The last time I lobbied to stay in, it didn’t work very well. I probably won’t try that the next time.
TH: Thanks for taking some time for us, and you have definitely pitched well enough for All-Star consideration, and a promotion should be coming, as well. Have a great rest of the season.
CA: Thanks as well.