Clint Everts was the fifth overall selection by the Montreal Expos in the 2002 draft. A Top 100 prospect for Baseball America prior to the 2003 and 2004 seasons, he had Tommy John surgery after the 2004 season and moved to the bullpen in 2007.
Everts and I spoke recently about the various “what ifs?” he thinks about, his past and present repertoire of pitches, and his post-career plans. A week or so after our conversation, he was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he has a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings over four games.
You were a first round pick, Top 100 prospect, and you’re on a team now with a few young guys kinda like that, in a similar position, like Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins, Drew Hutchison before he moved up to Toronto. What, if anything, do you tell those guys about the path that you’ve taken through the minor leagues?
I don’t really try to use myself as a path, but with those guys any advice I try to give them, I try to tell them in everything they do, have a routine and try to become as consistent as possible and everything else will take care of itself on the field.
Going back to the draft, you and your high school teammate, Scott Kazmir, were both drafted in the first round in ’02. Were you guys friends at the time? Were you in contact on draft day?
I talked to him about it a lot going up towards the draft. I said congratulations as soon as we found out that we got picked. That was a lot of fun, being on the same team. We really didn’t lose that much. It was good, we’d always be pushing each other to try to do better than our last time. That was pretty cool.
That’s gotta be quite the one-two punch for other teams to see coming at them.
Well you know, where I’m from every dang team has a guy throwing 90 miles an hour. But yeah, he was electric in high school and I learned a lot from him.
I read that you were also a highly regarded shortstop coming out of high school. Do you ever wonder what might’ve been if you’d taken that route, if you’d gone to Baylor instead of signing?
As far as going to Baylor, I was already moved in, signed up for classes, I was there. And then they had called me, I wanna say on a Friday, classes started on Monday, but they signed me on Saturday, and then I flew back home and I went to school. It was weird. But yeah, sometimes I do wonder. If I would’ve went to college, I probably would’ve learned how to eat, first of all, because when I got into pro ball I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I was losing weight and I think that’s probably how I hurt myself as far as blowing out [his elbow], but yeah, sometimes I wonder about it. Every now and then I’ll go take swings in the cages and stuff just to try to…
Just to see if it’s there?
Yeah, just to see if I could still actually do it. But those days are long gone, so I just try to concentrate on pitching now.
Early in your career you were a three pitch pitcher – curveball, changeup, fastball. How does that compare to what you throw today?
I swear, it took me like nine years to learn how to just sink a ball. I’ve never been able to throw a sinker at all and I don’t know what – I haven’t changed anything, but I just started throwing it this year. I’ve always tried to mess with it in the past but I always got hurt because it would just run right over across the plate. Now I’m getting pretty good sink. But I do throw a cutter now. They like to call it a slider but I think it’s a cutter. Other than that, I still throw the curveball, that’s always been my best pitch. The changeup’s always there just to keep people honest. But compared to back then, I think I’m a better pitcher. Well, I AM a better pitcher from back then, but as far as having new pitches I just have a cutter and a sinker now.
Is the curveball as good as it was back then?
Last year I wanna say I got it up to maybe like 83 or 84 miles an hour. Before I got hurt I was throwing it mid-high upper 80s, which I thought was pretty hard. It’s not as good as it was, but it’s still alright.
You mentioned getting hurt. That was in 2004 that you had Tommy John?
Yeah, I played the whole season and it was always kinda there, but I thought I was just tired. It was my first full season. I was a starter and I’d never thrown that many innings, and I was just thinking I was just kinda tired and just kinda sore. I played the entire season and then at the end of the year they were like, “You know, your velocity’s kinda dropped down and whatnot, we’re gonna check it out,” and sure enough it had a little tear in there. They gave me an option to either do the surgery or rehab it, but obviously I was gonna need it sometime in the future, and I was like 19 or so, only in like High-A ball, they were like, “Just go ahead and do it.”
That’s another thing I think about sometimes, why did I get it done, but there’s so many little what-ifs. But it’s all good.
You’ve spent significant time in your career as a starter and as a reliever. All things being equal, which of those roles do you prefer?
I absolutely love the bullpen. I like coming in and the game’s on the line. It’s actually fun. It’s so much tougher to be a starter because you gotta go through the lineup three times, at least. Only good thing about a starter, I heard this from somebody, only reason he wanted to be a starter was because if he went to the pen there’s no way he’d be able to throw a perfect game [laughs], or a no-hitter or whatever. But there’s no way I’d be able to do that. I like the bullpen a lot better. I don’t wanna say it’s easier, but if you do come in and you’re actually locating your fastball where you want it, you only gotta face a guy one time that night, you can just go right to your out pitches and not even have to worry about facing him again – in a sense it’s easier, but in a sense it’s not because the level of concentration later in the game is…
So it’s kind of more mental, more focused?
Yeah, I’d agree with that. Those last three outs, six outs, are pretty tough to get compared to the first six outs. But I’d say it’s more of a mental thing.
Back in 2009 you had really a terrific season. Did you think that, based on your performance, you were gonna get a call-up that year?
Yeah, yeah. It was kinda weird. I don’t know what happened. Things just kinda clicked. They made me do this new leg kick that year, and all of a sudden I was becoming consistent in the strike zone and the curveball was there. Things just went my way that year. I felt like I deserved [a call-up], but…I feel like the stars have to align. It was kind of a bummer, but you just gotta try to forget about it.
Something interesting I found is that from the first round of the 2002 draft, where obviously we talked about you were drafted, there were fourteen players who never reached the major leagues.
You’re actually the last one who’s active.
Really? [laughs] Wow.
The other thirteen guys…
They don’t play anymore.
As far as I can tell they’re done. Obviously you’re still a pretty young guy, 27-years-old, but after ten professional seasons, do you start to kinda think about where the end point is gonna be, what’s after?
You know, I think about that a lot, but I really have no other plans. I still feel like I can still make it and actually have a decent career at it, so I’m gonna try to play as long as I can. As long as somebody gives me a chance I’m still gonna play. Like you said, I’m really only 27. It’s not like I’m 32 or 33 and just kind of hanging around, not playing. They’re using me in certain spots, a lot of pressure spots, so they believe in me that I can do it. It kinda motivates me to keep going and working hard.
But yeah, I’m gonna try to play as long as I can, but as far as afterwards? I don’t know, man. I do think about it. I probably need to start taking some classes or something online just to get that going.
I was gonna ask how far you went with the classes before.
When I did get drafted, I went to school in that offseason. I went that offseason and then the next offseason, then I shut it down because that was the year I got hurt and I had to rehab and all that stuff. I haven’t been back since. I would say I’m technically a sophomore, but I don’t think those credits will count because that’s like ten years ago now [laughs]. I don’t know if they’ll count. I’ll probably have to do an online class just to get a degree doing that. I mean, I think about it all the time, but right now I’m just gonna keep grinding it out. Maybe I can get lucky. We’ll see.
The last thing I wanted to ask you, and this is something I asked Brian Jeroloman recently when I talked to him – most guys I talk to, they say they don’t pay attention to the prospect rankings. “Oh, I’m a Top 100 prospect? That’s nice.” You know, they don’t care. You’re a guy who was ranked pretty high for a couple years running. Do you notice when the external praise from other people, from media or whatever, do you notice when that starts to go away? When other people decide that you’re not someone to follow?
It is a business and people do have certain investments in their pitchers or their position players or whatever, and they’re gonna treat them a little bit different as far as individual work and stuff. But I don’t know. I mean, yeah, I guess you can tell, even when it’s letting you do your own thing and kinda stop working with you. You can see that, but being a prospect or whatever, we’re all in the minor leagues, and we’re all trying to get to the big leagues. Some people are gonna get certain chances, some people aren’t. It’s just the way it is.
But I try to tell those guys, like I said earlier, you just gotta keep a level head and take the highs and lows and stay the same way and just try to become consistent. We’re all getting paid to play this. We’re all getting paid, and we all have an opportunity, some bigger than others, but we’re all still playing and we still have an opportunity to play.
Thanks to New Hampshire’s Chris Shuker and Tom Gauthier for coordinating this interview.
Photo: Beyond Fenway