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Most scouts agree that the toughest jump in the minor leagues is from High-A to Double-A. For Oakland A's right-handed pitching prospect Brad Knox, however, the transition was a relatively smooth one. Knox struggled during his first few weeks at Double-A, but quickly turned the corner and wound up posting even better numbers at Double-A in 2006 than he had at High-A in 2005.
Knox was especially effective in July when he went 6-0 with a 1.76 ERA. He continued that hot stretch into August when he went 2-2 with a 2.21 ERA. Knox finished the year tied for the Midland team-lead in wins and second on the team in ERA.
We spoke with the Central Arizona Junior College alum about his achievements with the Rockhounds and what he is working on this off-season.
OaklandClubhouse: It seems like after a bit of a rough start that you really got things going towards the middle of the season. What adjustments did you make to get yourself going?
Brad Knox: Me and [Midland pitching coach Jim] Coffman worked on a few things. It wasn't mental and it wasn't that I wasn't in good shape or anything like that. It was more mechanical more than anything else. My mechanics were just shot at the start of the season, everything was sort of out of sync. After awhile, we got everything working again and I really think it showed in my numbers.
OC: You had a few injury problems with your back a few years ago. Did you have any back troubles this season?
BK: I never had any injuries this season, knock on wood.
OC: When you were in the middle of that streak of six or seven straight wins, did you feel like you were going to win every time you stepped on the mound?
BK: That's how you feel when you are in a groove that you are going to get the competition out every time. That's how I felt for those seven or eight games, that we were going to win when I went out there. Some of the guys commented to me that they felt really confident when I was out on the mound during that stretch. It definitely felt good during that stretch and when [the winning streak] ended, and I finally had a bad game, I was able to recover and pitch well after that, so I was really happy about that.
I think tempo is a really important thing. Even when I wasn't pitching well, I still kept a really fast tempo. Guys have mentioned that they appreciate the fast tempo because it keeps them in the game. Even if I have a bad game and give up three or four or five runs, I'm working quickly so the game doesn't drag on.
OC: Is it hard to trust your defense and not try to strikeout every batter or do you trust that your defense is going to make plays behind you?
BK: I've learned a lot about trusting your defense. At this level and at Triple-A and the big leagues, you can't go into a game thinking you are going to strike everyone out. I never pitch for the strikeout, unless there are guys on-base and no-outs. Then I'm looking to strike someone out to get out of the jam. Otherwise, I am just looking to get the hitter out through contact.
We had a really great defense at Midland this year, so I trusted them a lot. They made huge plays for me all season. You can see in my stats that they were among the leaders in double-plays. I had a bet going with [Brad] Ziegler, another starter, and Connor Robertson, one of the closers, about who was going to end up with more double-plays, since we were all tied with 14 or 15 at one point.
OC: Did you add any pitches this season?
BK: This year I used my two-seamer a lot to both sides of the plate. I was able to freeze a lot of hitters with that pitch. I remember one time I was facing [Walter] Young of the Corpus Christi Hooks and he was a big dude [315 pounds] and a very intimidating hitter. I threw my first cut-fastball to a left-hander to him and it came back over the plate to freeze him and I felt like that was a pitch I could really use.
I got a lot of groundballs out of it, too, and I could throw it in the dirt [to get hitters to chase it], that sort of thing. My change-up, I think I threw it better then I did last year. I felt pretty confident throwing it all season. All of my other pitches were pretty much there and I was using them regularly, too.
OC: It seems like you have a very good chance of being in Triple-A next season. Now that you are pitching in the top levels of the system, do you feel like the big leagues are just around the corner?
BK: I never really think like that. I just keep focused on what's ahead of me. My goal going into spring training is to feel like I did in mid-season this year. I remember thinking mid-season that I wish I had felt like this at the start of the year. I started throwing two weeks ago, which is earlier then last year. I wasn't out of shape last year, because I was really in the best shape of my life. I had lost 25-30 pounds, but I think that throwing earlier will hopefully get my mechanics ready to go by the start of spring training. A lot of guys use spring training to get the rust out and I'm looking to get the rust out before I get there. Hopefully, I'll throw well enough that I can get called up to big league camp when they need another arm.
OC: Have you ever thrown at big league camp?
BK: I haven't. I've never once gone over [to big league camp]. I'd definitely like to show them what I can do.
OC: Was the Midland coaching staff good to work with? It seems like they've had a lot of success in the two years that they have been there.
BK: Yes, they were. Von and I had a good relationship and Webby [Webster Garrison, Midland's hitting coach] and I had built a good relationship a few years ago. I built a special relationship with Coffman and we catch-up every few weeks or so this off-season. Von was great. He would ask my opinion about things, like whether I wanted to pitch in a certain game or things like that. He made me feel pretty special.
OC: I know when we spoke last off-season that your goal going into the year was to stay healthy. Is that still your main goal or do you have other goals going into 2007?
BK: I probably have the same goals going into this year. I definitely want to stay healthy and I'd like to improve my consistency. There were a few times this year when I wasn't as consistent as I would have liked to have been. I don't want to be a guy that walks five or six guys and has to be out by the fourth inning. I want them to look at me as a starting pitcher who can go seven innings every time out.