Kyle has posted a 2.35 ERA with a 1.020 WHIP in 62 games over the last two seasons for the Royals in the minors, and will now join a Padres minor league system that is already loaded with top pitching prospects. Kyle was nice enough to take some time out of his schedule to allow the Friar Faithful to get to know him before next season.
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Devin Sparks: First of all, welcome to the San Diego Padres!
Kyle Bartsch: Thank you, I’m very excited and pumped up about becoming a Padre!
DS: How did you first first hear about the trade?
KB: I first heard about the trade when I received a phone call from the Kansas City front office, and they informed me that I had been traded to the San Diego Padres. The Royals are a first class organization, and the people I spoke to on the phone from the organization were very candid and positive about the entire situation for both parties involved.
I was then contacted by the San Diego Padres front office, and the conversation was pretty much a welcome to the organization and introduction phone call. There hasn’t been incredible depth as far as conversation with the Padres front office as of yet, but they have made me feel incredibly welcome, comfortable and wanted, and for that I am so thankful and excited to be a Padre.
DS: Well, we are certainly glad to have you! Being drafted in 2013, was getting traded this early in your career even a thought?
KB: Honestly a trade this early on wasn’t even on my radar. I was pretty shocked at the news of being traded straight up for a big leaguer, so it took a while for it to actually sink in. The encouragement has been incredible. In my mind it’s definitely a positive to be valued enough to be traded for a player of that caliber and value. The advice I’ve received from essentially everyone I’ve spoken to is to just stay the course, not thinking of anything other than to continue doing what I’ve always done, and continue along the path of success I’ve already began on.
DS: How did you end up wearing the number 13?
KB: Truth be told, I wear low numbers (single digit numbers) because I’ve always been undersized, so the smaller the number the smaller the jersey. Haha! I wish I had a different explanation than that, but being 5’11” in the professional baseball world, I think I’ll always draw the smallest jerseys. I’ve actually fallen in love with low numbers, so hopefully I can continue that trend with the Padres organization.
DS: Growing up in Texas, did you follow the Rangers or Astros growing up? Did you have a favorite player?
KB: Yes, I’m a DIE HARD Rangers fan. I was part of the loyal fans in the 90’s/2000’s spending all summer at the Ballpark buying bleacher seats and then moving to the countless open seats behind home plate! As far as my favorite player, I can’t pick just one because both Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez were saints in the Bartsch household haha. Once they left, my favorite player allegiance transferred over to Mr. Ranger, Michael Young.
DS: Do you have any superstitions or pre-game rituals?
KB: I actually have a few, and some of them are super weird and super embarrassing, but I’ll share them anyways.
My locker room pre-game starts roughly 25 to 30 minutes before I walk out onto the field. I plug in my headphones and head to the training room to get a pre game stretch and movements with the trainer. For this I make a custom playlist made up of pump up/awesome songs that the trainer and I both have a connection to; so essentially it is our playlist I’m listening to while we’re working together to get the body ready to perform. Afterwards, I head back to my locker and change to my “pre game” playlist and begin “suiting up” (as Barney Stinson would call it). The last items I put on are my cleats, my hoodie, and my backpack (I always wear a hoodie over my jersey regardless of the weather, and I carry all my things in a backpack. I don’t remember how or why this came to be, nor do I have good reasoning for why, but it’s just what I do haha). I don’t start the final stage (the last items I put on) until 5 minutes before I walk out, as I have a specific playlist of 2 songs I listen to, in order, every single time (Just a heads up, I’m a HUUUUUGGGEEEE nerd. Like the nerdiest nerd you’ve ever met). The two songs are “Misty Mountains Cold,” the song the Dwarfs sing in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, followed by “Song of the Lonely Mountain,” the main song from the Hobbit soundtrack. To those two songs I put on my cleats, lace up, throw on my hoodie and backpack, and head out to battle.
My other pre game action is when I’m about to take my first step on the field, I squat down and I scoop up a handful of dirt, smell it, and rub it through my hands (yes, I took this from Maximus, the main character played by Russell Crowe in Gladiator). During this time I pray and thank God for his wonderful blessings and the opportunity to be on a baseball field, because it truly is a blessing that can be gone at any moment, and in that moment he always brings me peace. It’s my calm before the storm.
DS: In your opinion, who is the best relief pitcher of all-time? Who is the best current relief pitcher in the MLB?
KB: I’d probably have to say Mariano Rivera. His numbers and his legacy obviously speak for themselves, but for me what he did, how he did it, and how long he did it, always just blows my mind. He absolutely dominated hitters by throwing one pitch, with average velocity and good movement, exactly where he wanted it almost every time.
To me, that is pitching at it’s very core: that if you throw what you want, where you want it, hitters essentially become helpless. As far as current MLB relievers, there are so many great players that there truly isn’t a right answer. I think my answer is biased because I got to see him up close and more often, but I’d say my vote for best current MLB reliever goes to Wade Davis. He is just plain filthy, and consistently dominated over the entirety of the season.
DS: Trevor Hoffman is such an iconic pitcher in San Diego, the National League, and the MLB that the NL Closer of the Year award was named after him; what does it mean to join an organization that places such a high value on closers? As a young player, do you look forward to adding to that legacy or building your own?
KB: It’s very encouraging being a part of an organization that understands the value of a strong back end of a bullpen, and obviously it’s very cool, as a closer, coming to an organization that had arguably the greatest relief pitcher of all-time in Trevor Hoffman. I don’t know about adding to that legacy, because Trevor Hoffman truly is one of a kind and I personally don’t think anyone could ever add to that legacy of dominance; but I definitely strive to do everything I can, day in and day out, to help the organization win ball games. I don’t think about building my own because, to me, the legacy that matters isn’t that of your own but that of the organization you represent.
DS: What are your thoughts on Clayton Kershaw winning the 2014 NL MVP award? Should a reliever be eligible for the MVP?
KB: I think it is very well deserved. Clayton Kershaw is unbelievable on the mound, and I believe will go down as one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game. I do think all pitchers should be allowed to win the award because it’s most valuable player, not most valuable position player. And if the most dominant and valued player in the league happens to be a reliever, why shouldn’t he be recognized as so?
DS: You were traded from an organization that just was one game away from winning the World Series to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in eight years, how do you feel about this?
KB: I feel the same as I always have in that, as a minor leaguer, my sole focus is getting better every day and doing everything that I can to reach the major league level. Then once there, doing whatever I can to help the team win.
DS: What is the Kyle Bartsch brand of baseball?
KB: The Kyle Bartsch brand of baseball is working your butt off, competing your butt off, and having immense fun playing the game that you love.