Q: Last season, Sports Illustrated tabbed you as the breakout pitcher in the AL. How did that make you feel?
Answer: I really enjoyed it last year, because I really wasn’t used to getting much notoriety because of the extreme talent we have around here. That’s still the case. A few people have said I made it on the radar a little bit more this year because of the season I had and the (victory in the) wild-card game. But that stuff doesn’t matter. The people who want respect from I feel like I have the respect of.
Q: Given that your season was interrupted for two months by a concussion, would you like the distinction again this season?
Answer: I actually kind of like flying under the radar for the most part. People don’t know who you are. I can walk around town and let David Price have all the attention.
Q: Some pitchers set goals for the amount of innings pitched or quality starts. What goals do you set for yourself entering a season?
Answer: I don’t set season goals. I set goals every night I get the ball, and that’s to go nine innings and not give up a run. If I fall short of that, hopefully at the end of the season I have some positive numbers. I think as long as I simplify things and don’t look too far forward and really just focus on that game and winning the game by myself, that’s it, everything will turn out well.
Q: You made two postseason starts last October: Was it fun pitching in the playoffs?
Answer: I don’t think fun is the right word. It was a level that I’ve never been to as a competitor. It was a time when every pitch mattered and a big growing moment in my career. I’ve had games where things were fast and loud and disorienting, but never to that degree in Cleveland when I went from feeling like I wasn’t even trying on the mound to the point where I had to ease back and slow my body down so much that it felt awkward. I feel like when you have that wide range, you allow yourself to have a huge growing moment and better understand yourself.
Q: Where you nervous during your first time pitching on that big of stage?
Answer: Absolutely. Going into that (AL wild-card game in Cleveland) and having a packed house and having people yelling at you and booing you and you throw a ball and the crowd sounds like you just gave up a grand slam, it can get to you. But I was very happy with the way I controlled my emotions on the mound and was able to focus in on the task I had and trying to relate it as much as possible to a normal regular-season start, as hard as that was.
Q: Looking back, how do you describe the experience?
Answer: One of the coolest moments in my career. Probably the coolest was when I was on the field postgame and us going to the ALDS and knowing I had a lot to do with it and hugging guys I’ve played with the entire season and to have had an impact on us going to play Boston was a feeling you can’t even dream of as a kid. Now that I have felt that I’ll do whatever it takes to get that feeling again.
Q: Did you have a favorite player growing up?
Answer: I have my roots in Boston so I really enjoyed watching (former Red Sox) Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra. I watched Kevin Brown pitch a lot with the Dodgers.
Q: You served as a part-time bat-boy for the Dodgers’ Class A team in Vero Beach while in high school. Did you learn anything that served you well when you reached pro ball?
Answer: I did learn from that how people carried themselves in the locker room and how to behave in the locker room, the baseball environment that most people don’t get to see. So when I did get into pro ball it wasn’t a shock to me. It was like I came from one level and was promoted to another.
Q: Do you have any talents outside of throwing a baseball past major-league hitters?
Answer: I realized I have a lack of talent outside of baseball, so I’m trying to branch out right now, so I started playing the guitar in the middle of January and I’ve been taking lessons. Hopefully by this time next year I can say I play the guitar really well.
Q: You played quarterback at Vero Beach High. Do you think you could have played at the college level?
Answer: Maybe. I could have played at a small school. I always said to myself if I didn’t make it in baseball I would have gone to USF or UCF and definitely gave it a shot.
Q: You proposed to your fiancée, Kelly, at Discovery Cove with the help of a dolphin. Can we conclude that you are a romantic at heart?
Answer: No, I’m not at all. And you can ask Kelly that. I try to surprise her every once in a while. It’s not an everyday thing because then it doesn’t make it special. I had some good moments in my career with that.
Q: What was the feedback?
Answer: She said yes. That’s all the feedback I needed.
Q: But it went viral. What was that like?
Answer: It was weird it got as much publicity as it did. We told Discovery Cove they could use it thinking it would be a small thing in Orlando and then I picked Kelly up the next day for a charity event we were going to, and she was not talking to me. We just got engaged, and I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ And she says, ‘The video is everywhere.’ That caught her off guard a little bit, and she didn’t know how the reaction would be, but it’s been great.