Justin Fitzgerald is currently playing in the DWL, pitching for the Leones del Escogido. The righty completed his second full season in the Eastern League (Double-A) with the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He threw a career high 164.2 innings and finished the season with a 3.22 ERA and a career-best 130 strikeouts. He also walked a career-high 60 batters. The year was an overall success, tacking on even more impressive numbers than in 2011.
Now 26, the Giants 2008 11th round pick is extending his playing time and putting his skills and body to the 'test.'
Here is what he had to say over the weekend:
On playing winter ball: It was always something I had been interested in doing for the experience. I wanted to play last year but was not given permission because of the amount of innings I threw. But this year after my third season starting I wanted to test myself beyond a minor league innings count which has been 165 three years in a row. Felipe Alou had come into town in July and had mentioned to him I was interested in playing in the Dominican this winter. He had asked me year before but like I said was not able to play. He said he would tell his son Moises who is our GM here for Leones del Escogido. Summer past and season ended and Moises called me like September 15th and offered me a job and I immediately accepted and now I'm here.
On the pros and cons of winter leagues: There were the negative thoughts that crossed my mind before coming here. But I found more positive than negative when looking at the whole picture. Major League starters throw on average 180-210 innings a year over 33 starts. I'll finish within those parameters after winter ball. Facing competition a step above AA was another positive and testing my ability. Exposure of course. And let's be honest the money is better than a minor league salary. I know I'll get home in time considering I'm only playing the 1st half to get rest and back into shape for my offseason program.
On winter league competition: Lineups and pitching staffs feature a wide array of players. Top prospects in the lower levels, AA & AAA veterans, ex big league veterans, to rising stars at the big league level. A lot of talent on the field at all times. Therefore competition is very good.
On the experience of playing Venezuela: So far has been A really good experience on and off the field. Interesting as well. A very different culture. Our front office here has been extremely professional with making the Americans feel comfortable in this new environment. Moises Alou has been hands on and a great resource for us here as the general manager. Class act. The baseball enthusiasm is electric on the field and in the stands, the country is diverse and beautiful, and the food well it's okay. In n Out here I come when I step foot in the states!
Improving something or just getting more innings? Overall I think it was more about escalating the innings but there is always room for improvement. I have taken this time to keep working on my fastball command, improve my splitter I just started throwing this year (split change mix), and throw a back door slider with command. So far so good. All things that will help me in the long run.
Looking forward: 2013 is proving to be big year of promise and hope for me. I feel like I proved a lot as a baseball player this year. Overcoming some adversity and growing as a pitcher mentally more than anything. I hope I can go into Spring Training with my health of course and an opportunity to prove I can compete at the highest level at some point. It all lies in my hands and with my ability to prove it.