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At the start of the 2009 season, Mickey Storey was a forgotten man. A 2008 31st round pick out of Florida Atlantic University, Storey had a relatively nondescript professional debut in 2008 when he posted a 3.27 ERA in 22 relief innings for the A’s Rookie League team. When Storey was assigned to extended spring training at the start of 2009, it appeared that his career with the A’s might be stalled before it even really got started.
Storey quickly changed the minds of the powers-that-be in the A’s organization, however. He was given a shot at full-season baseball in mid-May with the Low-A Kane County Cougars and he got off to a terrific start with the Cougars, saving nine games and allowing only one run and one walk in 17.1 innings. From that moment on, Storey was a player on the rise. He moved up to High-A Stockton, where he posted a 2.28 ERA with nine saves in 23.2 innings. Storey also made two shut-out appearances with Triple-A Sacramento and then was sent to Double-A Midland for the final few weeks of the season.
He helped to stabilize the Rockhounds’ bullpen by tossing 7.2 shut-out innings in the season’s final few weeks. Midland clinched a spot in the post-season during the season’s final weekend and wound-up winning the Texas League championship. Storey played a big role in the Rockhounds’ post-season success, as he pitched in six of the team’s eight games.
All in all, Storey finished the regular season with a 1.22 ERA, 18 saves and 71 strike-outs with only eight walks in 51.2 innings. Storey was scheduled to attend the A’s Instructional League after the season was over, but when a spot opened in the Arizona Fall League, Storey once again was given an opportunity to raise his profile. Thus far, Storey has found similar success in the AFL to what he found during the regular season. In 10.1 innings, Storey has struck-out 12 and has walked three. His ERA is 4.35, but four of the five runs he has allowed came in one outing that lasted two-thirds of an inning. In the remaining 9.2 innings, he has given up only five hits, one run and no homeruns with those 12 strike-outs.
We spoke to Storey on Friday about his AFL experience, his journey through the A’s system this season and more…
OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on having a great season. How has the AFL gone for you? What has the experience been like?
Mickey Storey: First off, it’s been an honor to be invited to the league. I’m thankful that the A’s wanted to put me in this league. That says a lot in itself. The league is really good. Everybody who plays in it is supposed to be really good. It’s been tough at times, but it’s a good learning experience also.
OC: Pretty much every outing you’ve had in the AFL has been a successful one except for one (October 23rd when he allowed four runs in two-third of an inning). Then you had an outing on November 9th when you struck out five out of the six guys you faced. What was the big difference for you between the two outings?
MS: As far as the bad outing, it was just one of those days when I couldn’t get the ball down in the strike zone. It just goes to show you that the hitters here will really capitalize on you making mistakes and that was one of those days when I made a ton of mistakes and things didn’t go my way. The difference in the outings since is just being able to command the strike zone like I did for most of the regular season.
I have felt more like I did during the season the last couple of days and the last couple of outings. I have felt really in tune with things. The biggest difference is that during the regular season you are working more on a daily basis, whereas here it’s more the case where you can get three or four days off and you just don’t have the reps out on the mound and your mechanics can falter a little bit and your quality isn’t always there. But that’s what you have to do, you have to keep with your routine on a daily basis and make quality pitches. That’s the only difference.
OC: Are you scheduled to pitch on certain days in this league, or is it still more that you are going into a game not knowing if you are going to pitch?
MS: Yeah, that’s pretty much how it is. It’s pretty much like the real season, but during the real season, you have roles. During the season, you can see how the game is going and know pretty much whether or not you are going to get in. Here, if you pitch in a game, you get an automatic day off, which turns into two days off because there are extra pitchers here. So you pretty much get an automatic two days off and after that, you are never really sure if you are going to pitch on that third or fourth day. There have been times where I have gotten in on five days rest or four days rest, just depending upon sometimes if another team’s front office is in town and they want their guy to pitch when those guys are in town or things like that.
OC: You pitched a full season and then in the playoffs with Midland. Has fatigue been an issue at all in this league or were the few weeks off in-between the playoffs and the AFL enough to rest and rejuvenate?
MS: I think we had two weeks off, which was really only a couple of days off because you had to keep yourself up to get ready for the Fall League. So I only got a couple of days off but it was plenty of rejuvenation because I have felt good and strong out here the entire time. I was just mentioning to another guy in the league that the last few weeks my arm has felt more crisp than it has in awhile. It feels like I’m just kicking it into gear almost, but that obviously isn’t really the case because it’s been a long season. But I have felt strong the whole way through and hopefully I’ll get through another week and I’ll stay strong and healthy.
OC: Going back to the start of the season, you began at extended spring training, but then made it through four affiliates. How motivated were you after having to start the season at extended?
MS: It made me extremely motivated because I really took it as not a good thing. I told myself that there was not a lot of faith in me right now and every time I get the ball, I’m going to have to show these people what I can do. Every time I took the mound, I kept that mindset that I was going to have to pitch well or I wasn’t going to get the chance again. I actually pitched good on most occasions and that allowed me to continue to get opportunities and helped me to build the faith from people within the organization.
They took it from there. They didn’t have to move me up, but I guess they saw something and they kept moving me up and I kept succeeding, which was great. But it was definitely a real wake-up call to start at extended when I thought I was going to be able to compete for a job right away. But everything has turned out great.
OC: I got to see you pitch a couple of times this year. The curveball is obviously a really good pitch for you. What other pitches are you comfortable with?
MS: I feel pretty comfortable with all three – the fastball, curveball and a change-up. The change-up being my third pitch. I have thrown the change-up a lot more in the Fall League just to give these guys a different look and to try to get a little work on it. I feel really comfortable with that and I can throw it in pretty much any count now. Before I would shy away from it because I wasn’t as comfortable with the pitch, but now it’s sort of a go-to pitch also. I have also been working on a cutter.
OC: Does Gil [Patterson, A’s minor league pitching coordinator] insist on everyone throwing that pitch [laughs]?
MS: [laughs] Yeah, Gil loves the cutter. It has been a work-in-progress for me so far. But I have been throwing it in bullpen sessions and everyday on the side to try to get a feel for it. Hopefully by next season it will be another pitch added to the repertoire.
OC: You were a pretty accomplished starter in college. Would you like to go back to starting at some point, or are you happy in the late-inning relieving role?
MS: I’m happy. I like relieving. If they were to tell me, ‘hey, we’d like you to take a chance at starting,’ I wouldn’t turn anything down, but I am comfortable with relieving now and I feel like I have made the adjustment pretty well. A lot of people had always told me that they thought I’d be a good reliever and this has been my first season as a full-time reliever and I feel like I have adjusted well. I like the role actually. I’d be open to anything, but I like relieving for now.
OC: You got a chance to pitch with Midland for a few weeks before the post-season and then you pitched pretty extensively during the post-season. What was that experience like to pitch in the post-season and win it all?
MS: It was great. It was really exciting. When they called me up, it was one of those things where they wanted me to help the team make the playoffs. As soon as I got up there, I got to pitch right away and I pitched well. That gave me a role going into the playoffs as a go-to guy.
The team morale was great. They all wanted to win. You could tell that they had been winning all year, so for them to have not clinched the playoffs yet, there was a sense [among the guys who were on the team all year] that they had to make the playoffs because we were the best team in the league. When we clinched it, we said, ‘alright, we’ve clinched it, there is no sense now in not winning the whole thing.’ Then when we did, it was great. It was my first championship, my first ring at any level. I’m really excited to get that ring on ring day.
OC: You got up to Double-A and even had a few appearances in Triple-A. Were there things that you learned from playing at the higher levels that you think you are going to bring into next season?
MS: Oh, sure. Not so much on the field, but off the field. In the clubhouse and in a way to look at things. Just really understanding the business and the game because this is my first season in professional baseball, so I’m still naïve. I learned a lot from those guys.
On the field, the season went fast for me. When things are rolling, it goes fast. When I was on the field, it just flew by, so I’m not sure how much I learned or didn’t learn. I really just learned that at every level, it’s tougher. There is a reason that there are levels. Every level, the hitters get better and stuff like that.
OC: Is this competition in the AFL the toughest of the levels that you have faced thus far?
MS: I would say so just because it is a mixture of Double-A, Triple-A and some big leaguers and it is the best of all of those. From what they say, a good percentage of the guys in the Fall League are going to be big leaguers. So you are facing pretty good guys from the lead-off hitter through the ninth hitter. Every out is a tough out. In Triple-A, I didn’t have enough time to go through a bunch of batting orders for those guys to see me, so I feel like I snuck up on those guys a little bit. Double-A I thought was really tough, but I think that this league, yeah, it’s tough because if you make one little mistake, they’ll capitalize on it.
OC: What are your plans for the off-season? Are you going to take some time off or do you have a throwing program that you are going to jump right into?
MS: I’ll probably take some time off from throwing just until they get together with me and let me know whether I am going to go to big league camp or minor league camp. But I’ll definitely be conditioning. Working out is something that I’ll be doing a lot more this off-season because I definitely think I can get a little stronger and I feel like that can help me to stay healthy and maybe help with the velocity a little bit. So I’ll probably take a couple of days off from throwing, but I’ll jump right into running and lifting weights.