Indians righthander Chuck Lofgren has been a little busy lately, but he caught up with us in another entry to his Prospect Diary. Lofgren got the better of high Class A Salem and Astros lefthander Troy Patton in his last start, allowing just one hit over seven innings. And now he faces Orioles righthander Radhames Liz on Saturday in Kinston, which should be one of the premiere pitching matchups of the weekend.
"It was raining the entire game in my last start on Sunday against Salem, but I felt really good going into it. When the weather's like that, you don't feel as warm and ready as you normally do.
"That might be the reason my velocity was down a little bit, but that didn't really matter and I didn't find out how hard I was throwing until after the game anyway. All I knew then was my stuff was as good as it's been all season. My curveball was really on and my changeup–which has been the most important pitch for me–I felt like I could throw it any time and have something good happen.
"I really just have a lot of confidence in that pitch. I mean, my fastball is still my number one out pitch, but I'm throwing the changeup more in strikeout situations or when I need to do something to give hitters a different look. It's better to use it when it's unexpected, and it seems to be just one more thing to get hitters thinking.
"I gave up only one hit, which was awesome. It was a comebacker that I kind of lunged for and it hit off my glove. I talked with (pitching coach) Steve Lyons about it and he told me that if I'd have let it go, (third baseman Matt) Whitney had a better chance of getting to it, but I went after it purely on reaction. It was the heat of the moment, and I thought I'd have a shot at it for sure.
"The matchup tomorrow is going to be a lot of fun–Liz has more strikeouts than I do, but our ERAs are pretty similar. He's got great stuff and it's a real challenge when you face guys like that. Last week when I faced Patton, you obviously know who these guys are, and that just makes you pick up your game more. It's the same when you know you're facing guys who can rake it. You have to bear down more and that really gets the competitive juices flowing to a different level.
"So far, life in the Carolina League is good. The bus trips are shorter than they were in the South Atlantic League, which I'm so thankful for. We don't have a system to watch movies on the bus though, so players usually just bring along DVD players and we watch stuff by ourselves or maybe two of us with double-jacked earphones.
"Other than that, I just try to make it to church every week, sometimes more than once a week, play video games, read, surf the net and get mentally prepared for starts.
"One thing I want to explain is a lot of people ask me why I bend down and make the sign of the cross before every inning. And while my friends and family will tell you I'm a religious person, it's more about my grandfather than anything else.
"He passed away when I was going into my freshman year of high school. And before he died, I promised him every time I went on the mound, that I'd talk to him. I know he's with me every time–in the good and bad–whatever happens out there. I can feel him when I'm out there, and that just really helps me focus more completely."