MLBPipeline.com: It's your second Spring Training now. Last year, I'd imagine you came in a little wide-eyed, not knowing what to expect. There's new personnel -- player-development-wise -- this year, but how much more comfortable do you feel this year compared to last year?
Kolek: I think the biggest thing is, this year, I kind of knew what I was getting into arm-strength-wise. Last year, I came in a little too ready. I had been throwing a lot. This year, I built up more. We also have new personnel, and they wanted different things. I was more ready for the day, PFPs, everything you do. I kind of knew what to expect, which makes it easier.
MLBPipeline.com: Is it hard for a young guy to buy into all of that, especially since you've been able to throw so hard for so long? Was there a part of you that thought, "I can just blow the ball by people?" When did you realize it would take more than that to have success at higher levels?
Kolek: I think last year, after the All-Star break, I was throwing, and I think I sat 95-98 mph. I threw a ball 96, and it gets tanked. I thought, "I've thrown that 100 times and no one's ever touched it. I have to start working on stuff." From that pitch forward, I decided I was going to change my plan. After that, I started developing my changeup, and it's been a lot better.
MLBPipeline.com: With the new personnel in player development, there's sure to be a new system. Has this new group helped you, especially having a pitching guru like Jim Benedict here?
Kolek: They have helped me 100 percent. Right now, I feel way better this time than last year. My leg lift was kicking out a lot. I was wondering why my stride length was so long. I was having to push too hard. I was working against myself. Once I calm that down, it's just nice, easy and relaxed throwing. I can throw longer and harder. At first, it was a little difficult, not knowing how hard you're throwing. I'm throwing it easy, and it feels good, but I don't know what it's going to be. I know the big thing is velocity doesn't matter, but I want to know how hard I'm throwing. After my first outing, I realized it really is easier to do this. I'm all bought in now.
MLBPipeline.com: What does your ideal 2016 look like?
Kolek: I'd say that I want to work on walks. I walked a lot of guys last year. There were a lot of easy outs I could've gotten that didn't happen. I want to clean it up in terms of ball-strike ratio. This year, I'm going to have a slider, so I have more to work with. The fastball, I'm getting better command. I won't really know until it starts.
MLBPipeline.com: What is it with kids from Texas and throwing hard? It seems there are always young fireballers from Texas.
Kolek: Nolan Ryan. People look up to him. It's just Texas, the greatest state in America. I don't know, it's just kind of a thing, I guess.
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