Pittsburgh Pirates: Talking Spring and More with Geoff Hartlieb

5Mar 6, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Geoff Hartlieb (32) pitches the fourth inning during spring training at LECOM Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
5Mar 6, 2021; Bradenton, Florida, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Geoff Hartlieb (32) pitches the fourth inning during spring training at LECOM Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Geoff Hartlieb was gracious enough to take time out of his day to talk about Spring Training, his goals with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season and more

Spring is in the air and that can only mean one thing… baseball! Spring Training is almost at the conclusion for the Pittsburgh Pirates and there are many competitions taking place vying for the Opening Day roster. There is the battle in center field, shortstop, the starting rotation and last, but not least, the bullpen battle.

Today we are going to talk about the bullpen and, more specifically, a certain player in that bullpen. Geoff Hartlieb was very generous in taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me for the second time in both of our young careers and discuss a ton of subjects.

Ok, enough rambling, let’s get into this bad boy, shall we?

The first question I asked Hartlieb dealt with his family. For those of you who don’t know, Hartlieb and his wife are expecting a baby, and I wanted to know how the wife and pregnancy is going.

“She’s doing great; we’re around 29-30 weeks along. It’s coming up quick, and as each week passes, we start checking it off, and it’s starting to become more real. You see the stomach get bigger, and you start to feel it move around, and we couldn’t be more excited for this blessing.”

Now it was time to move on and see how the expecting poppa was feeling, both in general and in baseball terms.

“GOOD! I feel really healthy, and that’s the biggest thing, along with the mental confidence that brings along. You don’t have to be hindered and think about what hurts and what doesn’t feel right that day. Obviously, you’re still going to have those days where your body is sore, but in general, not having to worry about my foot, and I can honestly say now that I feel 100%. My arm is feeling great too, so I’d say I’m doing really good health wise.”

Spring Training is the time of year to work on either one thing or multiple things. Sometimes you may see a pitcher work on a specific pitch or even his delivery. I wanted to know what Hartlieb was working on.

“Kind of the same thing as last year and keep building off of last year, and I’d say the around the first two-thirds of last year. I want to work on that sinker/slider combo and work on hiding them well and play off of each other well. You could also call this working on tunneling my sinker and slider. I didn’t want to over complicate anything this offseason and add any new pitches. I wanted to work on matching my release points on my two pitches perfectly and go from there.”

Hartlieb’s sinker has been looking really sharp in the times I have been able to watch him pitch this spring. My question was simple, and I wanted to know if he was confident with that pitch.

“Oh, absolutely, it’s one of those things where having an identity in knowing what I want to do and what they want me to do gives me a confidence that can’t be underestimated. I never really understood it until I found that clarity in that I know what they want and what will do well for the team and me.”

I don’t know what it is about this year, maybe it sees these fresh new faces, or maybe it’s a culture change, but the atmosphere in the dugout and on the team seems electrifying. I wanted to hear from someone who is in it every day.

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“I think it’s really positive in the clubhouse. I think some of the guys we brought in, like Todd Frazier is one that comes off the top of my head. Todd is a loud, boastful, and fun guy to be around. People gravitate to him due to his energy and the fact he’s been in this game for a while now. Derek Holland was kind of that guy for us last year, but it’s different when that guy is a position player like Todd. I think it’s always different when it’s a position player as opposed to the pitcher because they are on the field every day.”

I must say that having another person talking about Todd Frazier is a testament to how impactful having a savvy veteran on the club really is. To have someone everyone can talk to and gravitate towards you is something a young club like the Pirates need. Anyways, let’s get into what Hartlieb’s typical workouts are like.

“I think COVID has changed a lot of things like now you have a specific show-up time. Once you get there, it’s an hour and a half until you start your stretch. You then do what you need to do, whether it’s hot tub or cold tub, and then you do some weights, throwing program, conditioning, maybe some PFP’s or covering first base. If you got to lift, you go do that, and then you go home. The idea because of COVID is basically to get your work in and get out.”

The bullpen this year has a ton of arms that have all looked very good. The competition level has to be at an all time high to win opening day jobs. I wanted to hear from Hartlieb himself and get a feel for how competitive it truly is.

“It’s crazy competitive, and I think that’s the best way to put it. They have me, Bednar, and Sam Howard throwing on the same days each and every time. There’s definitely some competition there, and I think it’s really fun. It’s pretty cool having a couple of guys competing for a few spots. I met David (Bednar) not that long ago, and he’s a good dude. We’ve all been pitching really well. It sounds cliche, but competition brings out the best in you.

“I think no matter who gets the initial spot on the big league team, you will still see a lot of faces get some playing time this year. Obviously, you want your name to be one of the 7, 8, 9 guys they take, but all I can do is what I can control. I want to continue to put 0s up there, and I want to make the decision extremely hard. I will say; however, the comradery is there, and I’m looking forward to working with these guys.”

Enter year two of the Shelton/Marin regime. I wanted to know from Hartlieb what they both bring to the table and what kind of relationship he has with the both of them.

“I think the biggest thing they bring to the table is, an outlook and a willingness to learn and teach the game as much as possible. They have an open mind of having an open dialogue with telling you what they see out there and what works and what feels right. Having that openness and a willingness to communicate and make known what they want from you makes your job a lot easier. Any way you can simplify things for the players is great, and I think they both do a tremendous job at that.”

“I work with Oscar a lot more just because he’s the pitching coach, and obviously, I talk to Shelty, but he’s got a lot going on with everything else as well. I really like Oscar and his approach to pitch design and the analytics. He doesn’t let the analytics take away from just the art and feel of pitching, but it’s a refined approach for him. His approach is like if it’s getting outs, then it’s getting outs we don’t need to tinker with it. That balance is very important, and I think he’s walking that line very well.”

Goals are what every human on this earth has; whether they’re broad or specific, they have them. Instead of asking the billions upon billions of humans on this earth, I figured let me ask one and figure out what his goal is for the season.

“The broadest goal for me is to be with the team the entire 162 and contribute in as many ways as possible and as many wins as possible. I know it seems broad, but that should be the main thing for every ballplayer. I would like to be considered reliable, I want to be THE guy or a guy who they can call upon, and you know what you will get every time. Whatever I’m faced with, I just want to do the job I’m told to do and do it consistently well.”

This spring we were treated to some very fresh, young and exciting arms. This includes pitchers such as Quinn Priester and Miguel Yajure. I wanted to know what it was like for Hartlieb to watch these two young guns pitch, knowing he was in the position not long ago.

“Guys like Quinn, he’s so young and so fresh. The way he throws the ball isn’t young and fresh, though. The way it comes out of his hand is special, to put it lightly. It reminds you of a guy like Gerrit Cole the way it explodes out of their hands. I think that’s what fans are looking for from a guy like him. He looks like he belongs even though he’s so young, he walks around and acts like he’s supposed to be there. It’s so cool to see those guys experience this, but it kinda stinks they can’t experience the full taste of what spring is like because of COVID.”

“Then you have a guy like Yajure and the way he throws the ball. It’s really neat to see him pitch. His English is really good, and it’s nice to see him let loose and dress the way he wants and do what he wants coming from the Yankees organization.”

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Last but not least, I wanted to ask about the sensation across the nation, and that is Ke’Bryan Hayes. I wanted to know from Hartlieb if he believes Hayes will win the National League Rookie of the Year.

“He’s got my vote. If he keeps doing what he’s doing and I don’t see him slowing down, I don’t see why not. Me and Will Craig were talking about growing up with him and playing with him throughout all the levels. You always saw how good he was defensively, and he always hit a ton of doubles. He’s a big league player, and it’s really freaking cool to see, and he always makes the play.”

Talking with Hartlieb is always a good time. As always, he was an incredible interview and an even better ballplayer and person. I truly hope that on April 1st, we get no pranks, and we see a bullpen with Hartlieb in it.