This is the fifth in a series of interviews conducted by Steve Potter.
Minor League Spotlight : Sutter McLoughlin
Sutter McLoughlin was the Phillies 22nd round draft selection in the 2015 amateur draft from Sacramento State. He graduated from Rio Americano High School in Sacramento, California where he was named the Capitol Athletic League MVP after an outstanding junior season when he went 7-0 in 11 starts and posted 89 k’s in 60 innings pitched. He was named all CAL as a sophomore, junior and senior. At Sacramento State he became the school’s all time program and Western Athletic Conference ( WAC) leader with 33 career saves as well as the all time career program leader in ERA with a 1.93 ERA in 76 games ( 103 IP). He ended his college career having the fifth most saves among active NCAA Division One pitchers.
As a pro, Sutter began his career splitting time between the short season GCL Phillies and Williamsport and posted a 4-0 record with a 2.30 ERA in 20 games ( 27 IP) with 33 k’s and 4 saves in 4 opportunities.
Last summer he pitched at Lakewood. The BlueClaws were the best team in the South Atlantic League during the second half of the season and made a run all the way to the league championship series. Sutter moved into the closing role on the team during that run and recorded 14 saves in 15 chances with an ERA of 1.69 in 32 innings pitched with 31 k’s and just 6 walks, firmly establishing himself as an outstanding bullpen prospect.
Recently I was able to correspond with Sutter and ask him a few questions, following is our question and answer session.
I read you also played water polo in high school as a goalie, which sport do you prefer? Any skills utilized in Water Polo that translate to pitching?
” Baseball has always been my number one sport, but I grew up playing multiple sports as a kid and in HS. I think it’s important for any kid to play multiple sports to be a better athlete in whatever sport he/she specializes in. I was a competitive swimmer up until high school when I switched over to water polo because swim season is during the spring. So, I kept in shape playing polo in the fall. I thought I’d be good at it because I had the arm strength from baseball and it ended up being a great experience with a couple section championship teams my junior and senior seasons. Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do for your body. It’s great for shoulder and lat strength so it correlates to baseball strength.”
At Sacramento State you became a closer right away but you were a starter in high school, was that because of filling a need on the staff or were you recruited for the role?
” It was to fill a need on the staff. Going from a starter to a reliever definitely took some getting used to. There’s a different mentality to it. The closer spot was one a couple guys were competing for at the time my freshman year. I didn’t find out I’d be coming into the 9th inning until a day before we left for our first series against the University of Texas. It ended up working out for my whole career at Sacramento State and I’m always grateful I had that opportunity. It has lead me to become a professional, which I’ve always dreamed about growing up as a kid.”
When you were drafted how did you find out and what was your reaction?
“I was listening to the draft online. It was a stressful day, but when I heard my name go to the Phillies I was ecstatic. I just remember jumping out of my chair and giving my mom a hug, who was crying tears of joy. There’s a number of players in the organization from my hometown, so it was easy for me to feel comfortable when arriving for my first season.”
You were teammates with Rhys Hoskins at Sacramento State, did he give you any insight into the Phillies system after he was drafted?
” Rhys called me after he found out and we talked on the phone for a while. He told me it was a great organization and a lot of fun to play for. That was all I needed to hear from him and I’ve had those same feelings so far. It’s easy for us to keep in touch since we see each other in the locker room and on the field. It’s cool we can share this experience together and still be teammates after college.”
How is pro life as a ball player different from college life as a player?
“When you hear people say all we do is eat, sleep, and play baseball… they really mean it. Pro ball is definitely a process to get used to, but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing with my life than chasing my dream. In college, you play and go to school simultaneously, which can be tough to manage your time. You also have more of a social life in college. Only playing four days a week vs. everyday gives you that leisure. That was the biggest difference to get used to. Playing every single day and only a couple days off a month was the biggest challenge.”
What was your favorite team growing up? What have you heard about Phillies fans?
“Growing up in Northern California and being so close to the Bay Area, I’ve always been a Giants fan. It was my Dad’s favorite team, so I just took after him and I’ve always enjoyed watching them play. I’m a huge Bumgarner fan and love his attitude when he steps on the mound. I’ve heard Phillies fans are ruthless. I love fans like that because it shows they’re into the game and it makes you want to perform even better. Fans like that really make the game more enjoyable and I’m excited for the possibility of pitching in front of them one day.”
As a closer how do you prepare for each game? What’s a typical game day protocol for you?
” I don’t change a thing when preparing for a game. I’m not huge into the whole “routine” aspect of pitching. Instead of a routine, I think there’s a certain mentality all closers need to have. A short memory is a given for any pitcher and needs to be emphasized as a closer. Every outing is a new learning process and this game is full of mistakes. The way you bounce back from previous mistakes shows what type of caliber you have as a pitcher. I like to keep it loose in the clubhouse and have fun. Jokes are always a good way to start the game.”
This is your second spring training, having been thru it before is this year any different in regards to expectations or comfort with the process?
“I’m definitely more comfortable my second time around. Not as nervous coming into my second year. Being familiar with all the coaches and players definitely adds a comfort level to spring training. I try not to think about expectations because I can’t predict what level I start at or what’s going to happen in the future. I can set myself up in the best way possible for the present. All I can do is take the mound the same way every time and take care of business. My ultimate goal is to play in the Big Leagues. However long that takes I don’t care, as long as I get there in the end.”
You attended college in the same city you went to high school, what’s Sacramento like and what are some of your interests and hobbies?
” Playing for my hometown was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It gave me the opportunity to play for great coaches and have my family and friends in the stands every game. I knew my parents were happy when I signed with Sac state. Sacramento is a great place to grow up and raise a family. Besides a beach, it has everything to offer and is close to many desirable vacation spots. Being from CA, I’m a huge fan of anything water related. California has some of the best weather in the world and I would lay in the sand all day if I could. Coming from a swimming background, it’s hard to stay out of the water when the sun is out. If it’s at a beach, lake, or river I’m always down for some fun in the sun.”
Tell Philly fans what type of competitor you are, what should we expect when we see you take the hill?
” I have a very calm demeanor on the mound and don’t show a lot of emotion. I never get too high or too low, which is a good thing for baseball players in my opinion. I try to come right at the hitter from the first pitch. I don’t like to waste pitches. I’m not a fan of purposely throwing a ball to set up the next pitch, which some pitchers do on purpose. Every pitch I throw I intend to get the batter out on that pitch alone.”
Last year Lakewood had a spectacular second half of the season and advanced to the championship series, how fun was that? What was the difference between the first and second halves of the season for the club, e.g. what clicked in the second half?
“It was an amazing run. To even get to the championship series after the first half was an accomplishment in itself. It would have been nice to get that ring, but I think us getting there showed everyone what type of grit and determination we had. We opened up the second half with a winning streak that set the tone for the rest of the season. Winning is fun. The more fun you have with your team, the more wins you’re going to get. Our pitchers really clicked in the second half. Our starters seemed untouchable at times and the relievers all picked each other up. With our pitching staff doing what we we’re supposed to do, it was easy for our hitters to knock the ball all over the yard. Our hitters really came up clutch for us in the second half to get us to the championship series.”
What are your expectations this season?
” As I said before, I can control the present, not the future. I expect myself to pitch how I know how to pitch, and compete for my team. If everyone on the staff competes and picks each other up, it’s going to be another championship run team this season. This game is a lot of fun and I’m happy to call it my job.”
Sutter provides the Phillies a potential bullpen option in the back end innings of games as he continues to advance in the system, it will be fun to watch him compete this summer as he progresses on the road to Philly and hopefully wearing the red pinstripes in the not so distant future at Citizens Bank Park. Yet another young hurler for us Phillies fans to get excited about!
(Editor’s note: Sutter McLoughlin had been added to the Williamsport roster at the beginning of the season. He remained behind in Clearwater as part of eXtended Spring Training. I haven’t seen him pitch, but have heard he has begun throwing. I assume he has some undisclosed injury and that if he isn’t activated within the next 2-3 weeks, he will be added to a DL when short season ball starts.)
(Another editor’s note: McLoughlin underwent shoulder surgery and will miss the rest of the season.)