Q&A with Matt Chico

Q&A with Nats lefty Matt Chico

No matter what Matt Chico did on the mound during Spring Training, Nationals manager Manny Acta always praised him for his poise. Nothing seemed to faze the left-hander.

That same poise has carried over into the regular season. The 24-year-old rookie, who leads the Nationals in innings pitched and strikeouts, hasn't let the bad games get the best of him. He's always taken time to talk to the media about his mistakes and what he has to do to get better.

MLB.com caught up with Chico recently to talk about his rookie season with the Nationals.

MLB.com: Of all the Nationals starters who were on the 2007 Opening Day roster, you are the only one who has not gone on the disabled list. Are you surprised that you are the only one left standing?

Matt Chico: It's a bit surprising. We have a bunch of great guys on this team. They are hard-working guys who are trying to get back. It's unfortunate they are down.

MLB.com: How have you managed to stay healthy?

Chico: I'm really trying to work on my mechanics. I'm trying to get everything in line -- not trying to use my arm as much. That is the biggest key. I'm just trying to use my lower half to take the stress off my arm. That's the thing we have been working on in the bullpen. It's not quite where I want it to be, but it's slowly getting in the right direction. It's still a work in progress. I'm still battling some things on the field and in the bullpen. I'm trying to find my strike zone. I'm really trying to get the ball on the ground. I've always been a fly-ball pitcher.

MLB.com: Do you realize that you are the organization's most consistent left-handed starter since Carlos Perez pitched for the Expos in 1997?

Chico: I didn't know that at all. It's an honor, but at the same time, it's only 15 games. I still have the rest of the season and hopefully many more [after that].

MLB.com: Teammate Shawn Hill has been your mentor. I noticed before and after every game, you are always talking to him. How much does he mean to you?

Chico: He has helped me out a lot, as far as what to throw in certain situations. He told me to learn the hitters. Being such a great pitcher, he is able to locate and throw certain pitches in certain situations. He has helped me out a lot with the mental game, as far as staying focused and learning what to do in pressure situations.

MLB.com: After you were hit hard by the Padres on May 2, Hill informed you that he had worse outings when he first came up to the big leagues. Could you talk about that conversation?

"It's an honor. He is a great pitcher. He is one of those guys who has been around the game for a long time. He is successful at it. I hope I can have half of the success that he has had."
-- Matt Chico, on being compared to Tom Glavine

Chico: I came into the locker room and he said when he first came up, he gave up a lot of runs. He said it was something I had to let go [of]. It's going to happen as a pitcher. It happens to everybody. If you start dwelling on it, things are going to keep spiraling down. You have to concentrate [on] what you are going to do your next outing.

MLB.com: How surprised are you that the Nationals are allowing you to take your lumps in the big leagues instead of pitching another year in the Minors?

Chico: It's something I'm grateful for. It's something I've tried to work on, as far as not having as many lumps. It's something I appreciate every day. I'm getting a chance to start my career now instead of pitching at Double-A. It's a big jump and a huge difference.

MLB.com: What did the Nationals see you in you to the point where you could take your lumps in the big leagues?

Chico: That's [a] hard question. I don't really know what I've done. The only thing I could say is, regardless of what happens that day, it's done, it's over with. I'm working on my next start. That's something I've done my whole life. It's a game. If you are confident in yourself, you don't need to be riled up or get excited. It's one of those things where I go out every day and do my best. As long as I know that I'm giving my best, then whatever happens is going to happen.

MLB.com: Have you figured what you are going to do differently in you next start? You were hit hard by the Tigers.

Chico: Yes. I threw the ball well. It's just that I left everything up. You can't do that, especially against a team like the Tigers. They are a great hitting team and you have to hit your spots. That's something I didn't do. I have to finish my pitches and everything else will come.

MLB.com: A lot of people like to compare you to Mets left-hander Tom Glavine. How do you feel about that?

Chico: It's an honor. He is a great pitcher. He is one of those guys who has been around the game for a long time. He is successful at it. I hope I can have half of the success that he has had.

MLB.com: You met Glavine early this year. What was it like to meet your idol?

Chico: It was pretty cool. He is a guy I watched [while] growing up. He is the reason I wanted to pitch. I talked to him for 20 minutes. He gave me some insight on how to pitch. He said, "Trust your stuff and everything else will follow."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.