Print  Print © MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

Ten Questions with Matt Packer
02/28/2011 10:00 AM ET
The Indians' 32nd-round pick out of the University of Virginia in 2009, left-hander Matt Packer's superlative 2010 season vaulted him into the Minor League limelight. The Tennessee native began the campaign with Class A Lake County, where he went 8-5 with a 1.60 ERA in 24 games (13 starts) before jumping straight to Double-A Akron in August. In six outings with the Aeros, Packer barely missed a beat, posting a 3.16 ERA.

Overall, his 2.04 ERA ranked second among qualifying Minor Leaguers. In 132 2/3 innings, Packer struck out 123 -- fifth-most in the Cleveland organization -- while walking only 22. He also kept the ball down, yielding seven homers (three of them in his six Double-A appearances) while inducing 2 1/2 times more groundball outs as fly outs. As he prepared for Spring Training, Packer spoke with about his strong season and hopes for the upcoming year. What have you been up to during the offseason?

Matt Packer: Not a whole lot, apart from working out and getting ready for the season. I've played a little golf, but mainly I'm enjoying just being home. It's often said that the jump from Class A Advanced to Double-A is the hardest for Minor League prospects. You skipped Class A Advanced altogether, going straight from the Midwest League to the Eastern League. Was that a surprise?

Packer: (Laughs) Yeah, it was a big surprise -- I was as shocked as anybody. I was just trying to fit in and prove [the Indians] right for promoting me like that. What were the biggest differences between the two levels for you?

Packer: I think the biggest difference was that Double-A hitters will pounce on your mistakes. If you make, say, five mistake pitches in a game, maybe in Class A you get away with four of them. In Double-A you might get away with two. You have to be that much sharper. The Indians have had you alternating between starting and coming out of the bullpen. Are you more comfortable doing one or the other?

Packer: I'm pretty comfortable doing both. I did both in college, though with more relieving. Being a starter is nice in that you can really get into a routine, though. What big leaguers did you look up to or model yourself after when you were growing up?

Packer: I wouldn't say I modeled myself after any particular player. I thought of myself more as a hitter when I was in high school. I enjoyed watching hitters like Frank Thomas and Mark McGwire back in the day and Albert Pujols more recently. As far as pitchers go, I liked Roger Clemens. (Laughs) I'll bet you get that a lot. Yeah, that's a very popular answer. When did you start to think of yourself as a pitcher?

Packer: Towards the end of high school it seemed like I was better at pitching and had a better chance of moving on doing that. You have outstanding numbers for a guy with just a little more than one professional season under his belt. In fact, your stats are slightly better as a pro than they were at Virginia. How have you made the transition so well?

Packer: In some ways, it's been easier for me to do my own thing as a pro. I can prepare the way that works for me and call my own pitches with the Indians. And so far, it's worked well. You played in the Cape Cod League in 2009. What was that experience like?

Packer: Oh, I loved every minute of it. I had a great host family, our team was full of great guys, and we made the playoffs. The only complaint I have was that the ocean temperature was too cold to swim. Do you have any superstitions or routines before you pitch, like a favorite food to eat or music to listen to?

Packer: I'm not really superstitious, but I do try to keep to the same routine, especially if I'm pitching well. Maybe by eating the same amount of time before the game, things like that. After pitching so well and making that leap to Double-A last year, do you have any goals or expectations for this season?

Packer: I'm trying to go into it with the same mind-set I had last year and just go with the flow. I don't have any specific goals besides working hard and pitching well.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.