Blake Taylor was a key pitcher in Great Britain’s improbable run to the championship game of the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Brooklyn. The southpaw had only recently returned to the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. Drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 and traded to the New York Mets for WBC opponent Ike Davis (Team Israel), Taylor will look to take a step forward now that he is back to full health.
The former No. 19 prospect in the Mets’ system (2015) has strong numbers across three rookie leagues, putting up a 3.39 ERA and allowing opposing batters to hit a meagre .218 against him. Taylor got into five games at the end of 2016, and struck out an intriguing 12 in 8 2/3 innings before flashing excellent stuff for Great Britain against Brazil.
Taylor hurled four frames against the heavily favoured Brazilians, including two three-up, three-down innings. The lefty departed with a 3-2 lead in what would be a 4-3 win for Great Britain. This year, Taylor is off to a strong start with Single-A Columbia, striking out 14 in two starts with a 4.09 ERA. We spoke about the Qualifier and his season preparations before Taylor departed for the Fireflies.
Gabriel Fidler: You ended your season on a high, pitching in a huge game versus Brazil. What were your emotions like going out to the mound?
Blake Taylor: I was very nervous at the beginning. It had been over a year since I started and it was a very big game. The confidence my coaches and teammates had for me really helped me calm down which really helped me out.
GF: You’d only had a brief tuneup after recovering from Tommy John. How hard was it shaking off the rust?
BT: I had a lot of throwing for my rehab which helped get the rust off. The Mets rehab staff was a big part in getting me back on the field and helping me find my pitching again.
GF: What was it like to wear the ‘Great Britain’ jersey?
BT: It was an amazing experience to represent Great Britain.
GF: How did you prepare for this season over the winter?
BT: I continued to do all my rehab shoulder work to help my shoulder remain strong and hopefully have a healthy season. Also lifting weights was a big part of my off season to get my leg strength up.
GF: What did you do for fun this past offseason?
BT: I did a lot of hanging out with my friends and family. They all liked playing cards, playing pool, going to the beach, golfing, and bowling. At this point in time I feel like I’m ready to get out there and pick up where I left off.
GF: What did you work on in spring training?
BT: Pounding the strike zone with my fastball and getting more consistent with my changeup.
GF: Is there a certain player you model your game after?
BT: I would have to say Kershaw. He is a great left handed pitcher. But mostly I have heard he Is a great guy off the field which is really important to be.
GF: What part of your game do you currently feel is the strongest?
BT: I would have to say fastball command.
GF: Thinking back to this time last year, how do you feel like you’ve changed, sitting out most of the season?
BT: I got the opportunity to watch a lot of baseball and really learn the game.
GF: Do your teammates talk to you about your time with GB Baseball? If so, what sorts of things do they ask you?
BT: I was always asked how different it was to play for a country rather than a pro organization. I would always say it was one of the best experiences of my life to be a part of that and if they get the chance they should [too].
GF: Do you keep any GB Baseball mementos in your locker? If so, which ones?
BT: I am going to bring my GB hat and bag this year to put in my locker.
GF: What are your goals for this year?
BT: To remain healthy and move up a level.
GF: Thanks again! Hope spring training goes well.
Our next season preview will be with Jake Esch, who made his major league debut last year. We have already spoken with Michael Roth in our first GB preview of the season.
If you enjoyed hearing more from players a the national level, be sure to read our ongoing series of World Baseball Classic Retrospectives with players like Kenley Jansen and Andrelton Simmons (Netherlands), Robinsón Canó (Dominican Republic), and many more. Be sure to bookmark the official site of GB Baseball for more news on the team as it ramps up for the 2020 Olympics.