Kurt Suzuki is one of the earliest to arrive each morning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. By 8:30 a.m., he'd already been in the batting cages, done a radio interview and taken care of some business matters in the clubhouse. Then he joined me for a candid conversation in the dugout. By 8:50 a.m. he was in a catchers' meeting, and then just after 9 a.m., he was on a shuttle van with his teammates heading over to Papago for his day to "begin".
Here is the full transcript of my 1-on-1 interview with Suzuki:
Kate Longworth: What was it like watching your starting rotation - and your friends - be traded away this off-season?Kurt Suzuki: It was tough. I mean that's the friendship side part of this game where you know guys come and go but you build relationships. The good part of it is you make new friends and so forth and so on, so I'm excited."KL: Any added pressure this spring as you try to get to know a new staff - especially with there being so many unknowns right now in the rotation? KS: I think we've got enough time to get to know each other. We have an idea who's going to be where, as you catch certain guys. Like I said, it's about building that relationship, and then I think everything will fall into place." KL: What are conversations like between you and Melvin as you catch some of these new guys who could fit into the rotations?KS: "We just talk about different things. You know, talk about who has what, have you caught this guy, have you caught that guy. He tells me the scouting report from what he gets from the scouts and the front office and what to watch out for. We talk a little about that, I mean nothing much... you can't really figure out what a guy's got until you catch him behind the plate. These first few weeks are going to be pretty important.KL: Take me through what you've seen from Brandon McCarthy over the past year.KS: I think he picked it up as the year went on, he started getting stronger. That just says a lot about his work ethic because that guy is working hard everyday. He's in the weight room everyday. I think he's kind of taken on that role of being one of the veteran guys, so it's good for the young guys to watch him and how he goes about his business because it's pretty impressive. His routine is pretty strict. I'm a routine guy also so I pick up on things like that. It's kind of cool to see.KL: Describe Brandon McCarthy...the player and the person.KS: Player, he's very focused, very determined and works hard, and he is committed to becoming the best pitcher he can be. I see him as just a laid back guy. I get along with pretty much everybody. He's got a dry sense of humor, but I like that. We have conversations...we never really joke around too much. We talk about baseball. We have some good conversations about certain things, but I think as the year went on we (formed) a better relationship, and it got better, better and better. This year, it's just about going in, and now we pick up where we left off.KL: Do you follow him on Twitter?KS: Smiling Oh yeah, oh yeah, I've got to! He's pretty witty!KL: How would you assess your comfort level at the plate heading into this season, knowing that last year you didn't always meet your expectations in that area and what roll do you see yourself in this year's line-up?KS: I just want to improve. I mean the last couple of years have been a little tough. I'm just kind of trying some things out, trying to learn myself a little bit better. You know, I'm excited about this year. I'm not putting any goals on anything, on any numbers. But I'm just excited to go out, perform, and show people what I can do.KL: Melvin said his message the next couple of days is that pitchers and catcher are one... a run scored affects you, as much as it does the pitcher's ERA. What did you take away from that?KS: To keep it short, it was you guys are one team, pitcher and catcher, you're a tandem. You guys need to work together, the better you guys work together, the better the team will be. That was basically his message here. You guys aren't individuals here, you guys need to work together. Basically reiterating how important it is to have that relationship. We all know, as being catchers, how important it is. But to hear that message again, being sent from Bob - the way he says it. Everything he says, he says it with such conviction and so much energy and positivity; you know you can't help but just to pick it up.KL: What it's like to watch Dallas back on the mound?It's just a testament to his toughness, his work ethic, and just his overall demeanor. The guy is a competitor. He battles. I'm excited to see what plays out because shoulder injuries are never fun and he's been out for a little bit now and I'm excited to see him come back. My expectations aren't going to be any lower than his, that guy is such a competitor out there! He's so fun to work with. I'm excited to see him back on the mound because when he's out there, it's fun to watch and it's good to play behind him because you get that energy from him, it's awesome.