The first round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2010 draft, Deck McGuire made his professional debut last season, finishing 9-5 with a 3.02 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 125.1 innings between High-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. This season, he is off to a rougher start: 1-5, 7.71, 22 in 32.2 in seven games with the Fisher Cats.
I spoke with McGuire late last week before a game against the Binghamton Mets. We talked about the origins of his unusual name, if he benefits from facing the same team multiple times, and the positives and negatives of being an active Twitter user.
First think I have to ask you about is your name. I know it’s your middle name, but it’s a little bit unusual, so I was just wondering where the name Deck came from?
It’s actually my mom’s maiden name, so it’s a family name. She called me Deck ever since I was a little kid. It’s cool now, it’s a cool name now. Growing up, not so much.
It’s a little different than being Bill McGuire or Will McGuire?
Yeah, you can turn Deck into a lot of not-nice things when you’re the middle school age. It’s a cool name now, I’ve accepted it, I love it, and it’s who I am.
Getting to your performance this year, you’ve had great, good, and bad outings, in terms of numbers. For you, what distinguishes a good outing from a not-so-good outing? Is it the numbers, is it how you feel?
Really and truly, it really boils down to two things: one is development – I mean, do you get a little bit better every time out – and the other thing is just giving your team a chance to win. I think my job’s really to go eat some innings, keep the game as close as I can, and kinda let the guys do their thing on offense and just give us a chance to win.
With the development thing, just keep working on stuff. Sometimes that’s tough, as a competitor, right off the bat you think to yourself, “Gosh, I just wanna win,” but you gotta realize you’re here for a reason. You’re here to get better. You’re here to WORK to get to the big leagues, so sometimes you’re gonna have to maybe sacrifice what you would LIKE to do, in a sense, to really actually work on what you NEED to do to get a little bit better.
Yes and no, I guess you could say. It’s obviously cool to get to pitch against some of the best guys in minor league baseball, but I think on the other side of things, if you let outside factors determine how you pitch you might be in for some trouble. And there’s also [the fact that] you get to know some of these guys on the other team, I guess Trevor especially, being in Clearwater and us being in Dunedin all year last year. There’s a little bit more of a friendly rivalry to that. But when it comes to just anybody? No, I think you just go out and like I said before, try to get a little bit better every start and just keep your team in the game.
I asked Drew Hutchison that same thing earlier [in the year] and he was like, “I don’t even know who’s throwing that night.” Do you notice – “Oh hey, I’m pitching against Trevor May tonight?” – or is it something that doesn’t even cross your mind?
Not usually till you watch him step on the mound. Usually you just go about your business before the game and then when you see him step on the mound you kinda give it a shrug like, “Oh wow, hey, that guy’s pretty good.” But yeah, I gotta agree with Hutch. It’s just one of those things, you know you’re gonna run into him sometime throughout the season and you just try to go out and do what you have to do to keep your team in the game.
I read in Baseball America you throw a fastball, slider, change, and a curve. Can you tell me a little about how and when each of those developed?
Gosh, I guess I was just always kind of a fastball-curveball guy. I was that guy in Little League that threw the pitch nobody was supposed to, and just knock on wood it never led to any serious injury or anything. Slider was kinda something, gosh I don’t even know, just watching too much baseball on TV, I guess, thought that was something that looked cool to throw. Kinda throughout high school it started developing, and then once I got to college it really clicked and that became my second pitch after my fastball. And the changeup was in college. I mean, those guys are good, and they have metal bats, so the more often you can miss those bats the better off you’ll be. So my freshman year in college was the first time I ever consistently started throwing a changeup.
They still don’t click all the time. It’s one of those things where, that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m in the minor leagues. Every bullpen’s important, every day throwing’s important just to try and refine those to be as consistent as you can possibly be. Something I struggle with every day.
Is there anything new you’re working on or are you pretty content with the repertoire you have right now?
I think the four pitches is plenty. I think it’s now more refining each pitch. Like I said, being more consistent, locating each pitch, using it in the right spot and learning how to pitch with those four pitches.
When you let it go, how soon do you know if it’s a good one or a bad one?
Sometimes before it ever leaves your hand. It’s just kind of one of those things. We throw every day for seven, eight months. The more you feel it, the more comfortable you feel with it, and there’s gonna be days where you’re so sure of your stuff you know before it ever leaves your hand whether it’s gonna be the pitch you want it to be or not, just based on the timing of your body, and there’s some days where you think it’s gonna be great and it’s nowhere near where you want it to be. So it’s just one of those things where you kind of adapt, pitch to pitch. Some of the best guys are good because they can adapt pitch to pitch, at-bat to at-bat. And then sometimes it’s just grip it and rip it.
It’s interesting you mention adapting because I wanted to ask about how it benefits you to face a single team multiple times, like Binghamton, Trenton you’ve faced a couple times. How does that benefit your ability to adapt as you face them multiple times?
Well, luckily for me I’ve had two really bad starts against both those teams to start the year, so there was really nowhere to go but up. But all kidding aside, it’s good and bad because as much as I can adapt to them they can adapt to me. So it’s kinda where baseball becomes such a great sport, because it’s just a chess match. Every single pitch is a chess match, and I obviously have the advantage. If I execute I have a way better chance of getting them out than they do of hitting off of me. It’s just one of those things. It’s nice to be comfortable facing a team. It’s nice to know who you’re going up against and you’re not going in blind, but at the same time you gotta remember how you pitched a guy one night and how you’re gonna tackle him again and again.
Making the adjustments that you make against a team like that, does that help you recognize those adjustments faster when you face a team you may not pitch against so often?
Yeah, I think it’s kinda the comfort aspect of everything. You see a guy that steps in the box and maybe you own that guy and he’s not seeing you very well, he’s never seen you very well, yeah there’s definitely a comfort factor. At the same time, there might be a guy on the other team that has your number, and it is nice to know, “Okay, here’s what I did last time, here’s what he didn’t hit.” So I think there’s always gonna be a little bit of a comfort factor facing a guy. We play 142 games, you’re run into everybody a couple times, so there’s definitely a little bit of a comfort factor when it comes to that stuff.
I wanna ask you also about your catchers. Second year in a row you’ve worked with A.J. Jimenez, and from what I’ve read he has a great defensive reputation, great reputation as a handler of pitchers. From your point of view, from the pitcher’s point of view, what is it that makes him so good at dealing with you or helping you through a game?
Every catcher I’ve run into that’s been really good, it’s kinda been an innate skill. It’s something that I feel like you either have it or you don’t. I’ve been blessed throughout my college and professional career to have guys like Himmy that just gets it. He gets you. There was obviously an adjustment period at the beginning of last year, never having really worked with each other before, but it clicked really fast. It seems like we’re always on the same page, and if we’re not on the first page it always seems to be that second page. I don’t know if I can put it into specifics, he just has it. Same thing goes for Jero, Brian Jeroloman. Both those guys are very cerebral catchers and I kinda pride myself on being a little bit of a cerebral pitcher, and they both just do a great job of reading my mind.
Would you say that a guy last year, Travis d’Arnaud, does he fit into sort of that same category?
Absolutely. I came up here last year, made three starts, and really couldn’t have been more comfortable. Travis did a great job. Obviously he’s known for offense as much as defense. There’s just that comfort level with every guy we have in this organization. I haven’t run into a bad one. They just all seem to know what you’re thinking, know what you want to do, really do a good job of helping you attack the hitter in the way you want to go about it.
The last thing I wanted to ask you about was, you’re a guy who’s pretty active on Twitter, with social media. From a guy who uses it, what are some of the positives and negatives of something like that?
I just really like interacting with the fans. I think it’s a great opportunity to give people the insight to what we go through on a day-to-day basis. It’s not all glitz and glam all the time. There’s some long bus rides and you play in some pretty tough conditions here and there, but it’s fun. It’s fun to kind of allow everybody to realize we’re all just normal guys. We get an opportunity to play a game that we love and that’s a blessing, but we’re all just normal guys having fun. We have fun with each other. As you know we joke, we laugh on Twitter, we laugh on the bus. It’s just a good time.
I think the negatives could be there’s sometimes, knock on wood I haven’t had one yet, but you say something you probably shouldn’t have, speak out about a topic or a situation where it’s just not in your best interest to talk about it. So I think it’s one of those things, there’s give and take, you know what I mean? It’s just fun, and it’s kinda becoming part of the game now. You get to talk to guys on other teams, joke, laugh, whatever, and just enjoy what we’re going through.
Thanks to Deck McGuire for his time and to New Hampshire’s Tom Gauthier and Chris Shuker for coordinating this interview.