Left-handed reliever Matt Iannazzo recently was perusing a USA Today in the Cougars clubhouse. Little did he know how much that endeared him to Chronicle sports reporter Kevin Druley as a good “get” for the Weekend Chit-chat. Iannazzo, who had just finished scanning Baseball America when he spoke about his start to the season, joined the Cubs organization as a non-drafted free agent in 2012. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Druley:
I always see you reading [in the clubhouse]. Nice to talk with a fellow newspaper guy.
Yeah, I like to read. My parents are teachers. I went to college. Graduated from Pitt. I like to read and kind of get my information that way. … [My girlfriend’s dad] works with a media company in Rochester [N.Y.].
How was the journey from extended spring training to here?
There just wasn’t any room on any roster for me [to start the season]. I ended last year in [Advanced-A] Daytona and they sent me to extended spring this year because there was pretty much no room. I threw really well there, they sent me here, and I’ve had two outings here now [entering Friday], so I’m kind of getting back into the swing of things.
With playing the Eastern Division teams, how do you approach it knowing these are hitters you won’t see other than this series?
You know, since a lot of them are in Florida for spring training, too, they’ve never seen any of us really throw. So really, we kind of just go out there with our strengths to get guys out pitching-wise. We might know a couple things as the games go on, see a couple things from one of the hitters. At least for me, it will be continuing to do what I do best and then make adjustments from there.
This clubhouse, other than [left-hander and Crystal Lake product Michael] Heesch, comes from all over the country and globe. How much have you caught onto being on the edge of Chicago and the whole Cubs thing?
It’s cool. I mean, this is pretty much how far I lived from New York City [growing up in Norwalk, Conn.]. I’m used to kind of the suburbs and pretty close by-type area. It’s cool. We’re meeting a lot of cool people. A lot of people come to the games. Even though they’re so close to Wrigley, they kind of choose to come here, which I think is really cool. So we try and put out a good show for them.
What has anyone told you about the ball carrying here?
I’m mostly a ground-ball pitcher, knock on wood. So home runs really aren’t usually a problem the way I pitch. But, you know, if that happens, then we’ll deal with it accordingly and make sure we keep the balls down and go from there. Because solo home runs really don’t hurt you during games. It’s the two- and three-[run] and grand slam home runs which kill you in games. We’ve just got to keep guys off base.
What’s your pitch repertoire?
I’m a fastball, change-up, cutter, breaking ball guy, and I also throw sidearm. So I kind of do a bunch of different things to get guys out. I like throwing sidearm to lefties and a little bit to righties as a short-reliever type. … I’ll throw sidearm probably every, maybe, three or four pitches. They kind of want me to mix it in. They don’t really want me to do it a lot.
How did you approach sidearm coming through the ranks?
I started doing it in high school, just as a kind of joke of a thing, really. And then college, it was more of a trick. And now it’s something that I’m really harnessing to get outs that way.