Prospect Q&A: Sean Gallagher

Cubs righthander Sean Gallagher was scrambling on Monday to figure out what to do with his truck as Florida braced itself for Tropical Storm Alberto.

Turns out he didn’t have much to worry about at all, since the Cubs called him up to Double-A West Tenn yesterday afternoon.

So much for the posh place on Daytona Beach.

Gallagher and outfielder Ryan Harvey were sharing a house overlooking the beach–the same place Cubs righthander Kerry Wood stayed while he was in the high Class A Florida State League in 1996.

“It’s an awesome place and it’s so relaxing,” Gallagher said. “It’s great at night just to turn off the air conditioning, prop open the doors and fall asleep listening to the waves crashing on the beach.”

The ocean view seemed to work nicely for Gallagher this season, as he went 4-0, 2.30 with 80 strikeouts in 78 innings for Daytona.

Now it’s time to take his act to Pringles Park in Jackson, Tenn., where he no doubt faces a bigger challenge.

We sat down with the Cubs’ 12th-round pick in 2004 out of high school in Fort Lauderdale to talk about his first love–deep sea fishing–his recent spike in velocity, and how scrapping his slider wound up being the best thing for him this season.

Baseball America: So what’s been going on in Daytona? What have you been doing in your free time?

Sean Gallagher: I’m fishing ALL the time, whenever I have time. I’ll do some fishing on a lake if I have to, but deep sea fishing is the way to go. If we’re home on the weekend, my brother will come up and we’ll go out. We’ve even gone out early in the morning on weekdays. Down here, it’s great because you can go year round.

BA: So are you after anything in particular on these trips? And what makes salt water fishing so much better than fresh water?

SG: I just like salt water better because of growing up in Florida. The guys I go with when we go fresh water just kick my butt because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’d much rather battle a 170-pound Marlin than go for a seven-pound bass. That’s just me. I like being out in the open water compared to a lake. But yeah, we go all the time, going after marlin, sailfish and dolphin. We actually went about a month ago and caught a ton of fish. I called our clubhouse manager on the way back to see if he had an idea for a spread that night. When he said no, I was all over it. He went out, got all the spices we needed and we had an awesome post-game spread of all kinds of fish. Everyone in the clubhouse really liked it, even if they hadn’t tried some of it before. It was cool just to have something different.

BA: So moving on to some baseball talk, your numbers have been solid all season so far. How have you felt this year, compared to last year when you went 14-5, 2.71 at low Class A Peoria?

SG: I wasn’t too comfortable over my first couple of starts, just working on keeping my mechanics consistent and finding a release point I was comfortable with. But maybe four starts ago, everything kind of clicked and I was keeping the ball down a lot more than I had been. I think the biggest thing for me was to really focus in on my mechanics and that’s helped me get back to the point where I was for the better part of last year.

BA: When your name comes up, the first thing anyone talks about is your ability to command the fastball. And scouts we’ve talked to said you were showing a little more velocity than in years past. How have you been commanding the fastball and is there anything you’re working on with that pitch?

SG: I’ve been working on a cutter and that’s coming along, but it’s still a work in progress at this point. My two-seamer is definitely my go-to pitch. I really worked on building up my upper body in the offseason and my last couple of starts I touched 94 (mph), which is a pretty significant improvement from where I was last year. Where I was sitting 89-91 in the past, I’m now 90-93. I feel a lot stronger physically and part of that comes from working so hard on my endurance level between starts in my routine now.

BA: The fastball aside, managers in the Midwest League rated your curveball as the best in that league last year. We’ve gotten varied reports on what kind of pitch it really is, so what is your overall assessment of that pitch at this point?

SG: Well, that’s probably because I throw two different kinds. One is a loopy curve that I know I can get over for a strike when I need to. And it’s not bad loopy, it’s something that has been keeping hitters a little off balance, which is always good. The other one is a hard snapper I’ll throw when I’m 0-1 or 0-2 in the count. My confidence in both of them is definitely there, but I really had a lot of trouble with it early on. I was using a slider a lot late in the season last year, and I tried to bring it back again this season. But when I started throwing the slider, I started to lose my feel for my curveball. I made the decision to scrap it completely and two starts later my curveball was all the way back to where it was before.

It’s just been over the last couple starts that I’ve brought the slider back a little bit. I’ll just drop it in there every now and then to get in a hitter’s head.

BA: A scout we talked to said your changeup had come a long way from last season. Have you done anything different to improve it?

SG: It’s been a lot better than it was. Early on in my career it was basically a BP fastball, which wasn’t fun. But that was because I was trying to get it to dance and sink with my arm action–I didn’t really mess with the grip. It turned out to be the grip that it needed to make it more effective. My arm action was fine, I just smoothed it out a little bit and focused on the grip. If I let the grip do the action, it’s got some nice sink and fade at the end.

BA: So finally–and staple question we have to ask this season, because it seems like everyone on the planet has one: are you an iPod guy?

SG: Definitely. My parents bought me one for Christmas last year and I think I already have like four or five thousand songs on it already and probably 30 videos. I have a lot of standup comedy video from Comedy Central, that sort of thing. As far as music goes, I definitely have a ton of Linkin Park. I’m a rock guy, not really heavy metal, but rock.

BA: See, we’re all big Wolfmother fans at the BA Headquarters . . . well, at least a few of us are. Those guys rock out. You have any Rage Against The Machine? That’s a little more our speed since we’re older guys for the most part.

SG: I have to check Wolfmother out. I really like Rage Against The Machine. I remember hearing them when they came out. I think I was 16.

BA: Ouch.