Great Falls, MT-21-year-old Baldwin Park, California native Bernardo Flores pitched for the Great Falls Voyagers in his first professional season during the summer of 2016. The White Sox 7th round draft pick out of USC was part of a Voyagers staff that led the Pioneer League in several key categories. Flores finished with a 6-1 record and a 3.66 ERA in 11 starts. He struck out 45 batters and walked just 12 over 59 innings.
In 2017, Flores was assigned to low-A Kannapolis of the South Atlantic League. His impact with the Intimidators was immediate. As of June 8th, Flores was tied for second on the club in wins (5), and led the staff in WHIP at 1.14. He ranked ninth in the league in innings (60.2). The White Sox 19th rated prospect recently took some time away from the diamond for a Q & A session with gfvoyagers.com.
What was your reaction to being placed in full-season at Kannapolis, and is that where you expected to go before the season started?
I was excited when I found out the news. At the same time, that's where I expected to start the season after pitching last summer in Great Falls.
Were there any specific off-season improvements you wanted to accomplish?
I'm always looking to improve, off-season or otherwise. For me, it was to build off the success we had in Great Falls. For instance, to have command consistently on my curveball and being able to throw it in any count. The number one thing that I really worked on was fastball command. Having that fastball command is so important because it sets you up for success with your secondary pitches.
What kind of comfort level was there knowing that your pitching coach in Great Falls, Matt Zaleski, was going to be waiting for you in Kannapolis?
There's a great amount of comfort knowing that your coach from last season was moving up to the same level with you. He knows the style of pitcher I am with my strengths and weaknesses. Now, it just becomes building off what happened last year and touch up on those strengths and weaknesses. This season alone in Kannapolis, we've tried to improve more on just throwing the baseball with conviction on all my pitches. We're incorporating a new pitch in the mix as well, so that's something we'll continue to build.
What do you feel has led to the early success you've had personally with Kannapolis?
It's very heavily preached here that you have to be able to throw both sides of the plate and down in the zone. I feel like I've been doing that. Besides having that fastball command, it's important I keep pitching to my strengths. I've been able to command the inside half to righties and lefties. By doing so, it's allowed me to set up my other pitches and have the kind of success I did in Great Falls.
There are some really good arms in the starting rotation in Kannapolis right now. How much does the success of one starter carry over to the next guy?
Oh, it definitely pushes us every time we go out there. We always want to try and duplicate the success of the previous night's starter. There is a sense of competition to do better than the last guy, but at the same time we push each other to bring out the best of our potential. That doesn't just have to be on the mound, it could be in the weight room and during bullpens just playing catch. This is a very competitive group we have here, and I'm really excited to be a part of it.
You went a career-high 8 innings on April 27th at Lakewood in a 2-1 win while only yielding two hits with six strikeouts and one walk. You retired 12 straight at one point. What does it feel like when you're in a groove on the mound like you were that night?
When you're going good like that, everything just seems rhythmic and in sync. The mechanics are in check and everything becomes so clear and close to home plate. You feel that you can throw any pitch on any given count. Your mind becomes clear and it feels like no one can hit you. You don't think about who you're facing, or wonder who's in the stands. You're just locked in. It feels like you can even sing a song in your head to what you're doing and it's one big flow.
You try to stay very close to your high school baseball program in Baldwin Park. Why is that so important to you?
For me, Baldwin Park is home. It's where I learned everything that helped me reach pro ball. It's the heart of it all. It's a place for me to remember my roots, where I came from, what it took, and how hard I worked to get here. I also receive some inspiration from there. There have been some really good players come out of that place and that inspires me to do the same. I love trying to help those younger kids who want to follow the same steps as me. It's very humbling and rewarding to be able to go back there in the off-season and not only build my skills but to help others improve as well.
Is there any certain genre of music or song you sample in the clubhouse to energize you before each start?
I mainly favor classic rock. But, I also like old school hip hop. There is one particular song I like to listen to right before I head out to the field. Motley Crue's "Kickstart my Heart" is my go-to-jam.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.