Alex Maestri of Tennessee Smokies

ALESSANDRO MAESTRI OF THE TENNESSEE SMOKIES

Alessandro Maestri pitching for Italy in the World Baseball Classic

The Italian reliever Alessandro Maestri is one of the European minor leaguers in the upper levels of the system, who are steadily move forward towards the big goal Major League. At the end of July he even was promoted to the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs in Iowa, but unfortunately got sent back to Double-A, just a few days later, when the Cubs signed B.J. Ryan. This season Maestri has a 3-2 record with three saves and an ERA of 3.51 in 44 games for the Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League. He has struck out 68 in 74 1/3 innings, while walking 40. Alessandro was so kind to agree on an interview with Mister-Baseball.com.

Congratulations to your promotion to the Iowa Cubs. How did you hear about it?

Thank you! I just got called in the manager’s office after a game. They told me some moves were made up there, so they needed a body in the pen, and I was doing pretty well lately. So it was my turn. Too bad I got sent back to AA just after 3 days I was there, didn’t even got a chance to pitch up there….Eheh….Oh Well

You are also a member of the Italian national team. The Baseball World Cup in your home country is coming up. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but there might be the chance that you miss it because Major League rosters expand to 40 players in September and the Cubs might call you up in the big leagues. Have you thought about it?

I got to be honest, I thought about it, but I got to be realistic too. I don’t think is going to happen this year! Not that I wouldn’t like too, but I think they are going to move other guys up there before me.

You already got a sneak preview of Major League pitching, playing in the World Baseball Classic in and in spring training. How much different is it in comparison to the minors?

Well, baseball is a hard sport! Every time you go out and play you never know what could happen, no matter if you are facing big leaguers or minor leaguers….They are all trying to get a hit from you, of course with big league players there is less room for mistakes!

You are now playing in your fourth season in the US and you moved from short season single-A to triple-A. How difficult is it to adjust to each level not only on but also off the field?

Moving up the ladder u run into some tuff periods, I guess everybody does. I did earlier this season….Every time you get move up you got to make some adjustments, but that’s the way it is! You got to be able to make those adjustments as quicker as possible and trying to get guys out.

You started your professional career as a reliever, switched into a starting role last season and now are back in the bullpen. What do you like better, starting or relieving?

I love being in the bullpen! I like the fact that you can be in a game every other day. I find it is fun even getting in the game in tough situations. Being a starter you get to pitch every fifth day and you get to watch the rest of the games….

How much different is the mindset between starting and relieving?

I just think coming out of the bullpen you got to be as aggressive as possible and try to attack the strike zone mostly with 2 pitches.  Starting you got to pace yourself a little more and mix more than just 2 pitches.

What different types of pitches can you throw and which of them do you use in an actual game? Did you abandon some, when you transitioned back into a bullpen role?

Obviously my fastball, I use my two-seamer  a lot. Slider and a split. I introduced the splitter last year since I couldn’t really throw a change up for strikes consistently.

Baseball America named your slider once the best in the whole Cubs organization. Would you also call it your best pitch?

Yeah…I mean it’s a pitch that I really trust, and I use it a lot to put guys out, but also to get ahead in the count

Do you always wanted to be a pitcher in your career?

Well, it’s something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid. I also like to play the infields, but that probably wouldn’t have got me here.

In the big leagues, the results of the games are number one priority and managers also use the bullpen this way. However in the minors development of the players is much more important. Is there a plan, on which days you pitch? How many pitches are you allowed throwing in a game currently?

Yeah, there is a plan! They do take care of you. Pretty much every time you go out you are on pitch count and they don’t let you stay there over that! Plus they give you enough days off in between appearances based on how many pitches you threw your last time out.

Which Major Leaguer do you idolize?

Honestly I don’t really have a favorite one.

Now you obviously need to root for the Cubs, but which of the teams was your favorite one before coming to the US?

I didn’t really have one either, ahah….So now I’m obviously a cubs fan.

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