March 17, 2010
By Phil Stanton
UCLA Bruins are one of the early surprises in 2010, off to a
school-record start at 13-0. They were 3-10 at this point a
One of the keys to the success has been catcher
Steve Rodriguez (left). The sophomore hit .179 a season ago in
95 at-bats with two doubles, two homers, 14 runs and 10 RBI.
This year, Rodriguez is batting .375 with five homers, 13 runs
and 12 RBI.
Rodriguez also handles an outstanding pitching
staff. The Bruins had walked 35 and struck out 173 in 117.0
innings with a 2.00 ERA. Opponents are hitting .188 against
UCLA. Fellow sophomores Gerrit Cole (4-0, 2.10, 25.2 IP, 12 H, 4
BB, 41 K) and Trevor Bauer (3-0, 2.38, 22.2 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 38
K) have been superb as starters. Closer Dan Klein (1-0, 3 Sv,
0.00 ERA, 11.0 IP, 7 H, 2 BB, 14 K) has been automatic at the
end of games.
Rodriguez recently took time to answer our
First Inning - What is the biggest key for the
strong start for UCLA?
Our team’s mentality has a lot to do with our
recent success. We take the game one pitch at a time. Our
offense has been taking quality at-bats, and our pitching staff
has refined their mental game. The physical aspect for our
pitchers has always been there, but they’ve really improved
their mental game.
Second Inning - How much confidence has the
team received from going 2-0 against teams from the SEC and 4-0
against the Big 12?
We treat every opponent the same, regardless of
which conference they compete in. We just try to go out there
and play our game. Certainly it’s nice to be recognized,
nationally, by winning the non-conference games against quality
competition. But we don’t put any extra emphasis on a team
because of their conference affiliation.
Inning - What has been the top factor for your improvement at
I’ve been able to slow the game down when I’m at
the plate. It’s about going pitch-to-pitch in an at-bat and
trying to put a good ball on the swing every time. I’ve learned
not to throw at-bats away, mentally.
Fourth Inning - What did you take from your
summer experience in the New England Collegiate League?
I learned to become more vocal and have a larger
presence on the field. I didn’t know that many guys to start out
with. But in order to know your teammates better, you have to
become more vocal, and I did that. That has helped me at UCLA
Inning - What have you seen from behind the plate this season
from the Bruin pitching staff?
Our guys are much tougher, mentally. Their
ability to pitch hasn’t changed much, but they don’t get
frustrated as easily. They have no fear against any batter that
comes to the plate. Their stronger mentality has allowed them to
become that much more successful.
Sixth Inning - How do you explain the
tremendous control of the staff, with 35 walks and 173
strikeouts in 117 innings?
It’s a result of their bullpen sessions, and how
they go about their bullpens. They do a good job at making their
bullpens game-like, and they strive for perfection in those
sessions. They realize that they don’t need every strike to be
called – for example, if they miss one pitch or don’t get the
call they are looking for, they realize that they still control
that at-bat and can still get that batter out.
Seventh Inning - What makes Gerrit Cole so
strong on the mound?
People obviously look at his velocity, as well as
his slider, as his key pitches to shut down teams. But I’d have
to say that it is also his changeup. He has a strong grasp on
that pitch and has confidence in that pitch. When you have a guy
with a fastball and slider like Gerrit does, and then he throws
in that changeup, he can be very difficult to hit. Gerrit is a
competitor who thrives on competing on the big stage.
Eighth Inning - What is the key to Trevor
Bauer’s success on the hill?
His greatest strength is his ability to throw
every one of his pitches, at any time that he wants, for a
strike. His throwing program is very unique and allows him to
last so long in games. Trevor’s strong stamina helps him succeed
on the mound.
Inning - Is there competition among the starters to out-perform
There’s definitely a little internal competition
among our starting rotation, but its good competition. They
don’t necessarily want to make the other guy look bad, but they
do want to perform just as well, if not better, than their
teammates. As a whole, that makes our starting rotation that
(photo courtesy of UCLA Media