Kentucky is notorious for producing top pitching prospects. Corey Littrell was a phenomenal starter in his time at UK, and has continued to impress during his time as a professional. Littrell pitched for the Cats from 2011 to 2013. He was a Preseason All-American in 2013 and won the Gold Glove for the Nation’s Top Defensive Pitcher in 2012. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and has since been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. We caught up with Corey following his game Monday night.
Trey Huntsman: First thing, how has life been after leaving UK and what have been the high points of being in the minors?
Corey Littrell: Its been good, getting a chance to play baseball at the professional level is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was kid and now that I am getting the chance to do that is awesome! Being in the minor leagues is definitely a grind. A lot of bus rides and delivery pizzas for sure. But I cannot complain one bit because I am getting paid to play the game that I love. Some high points from the minor leagues for me personally are, one, getting traded. It was something that I had no idea it would happen but I think for my path to the big leagues it’s a step in the right direction. Not too many people get to say they were the only minor leaguer in a trade with 3 big leaguers. I’ve for sure had my ups and downs in pro ball but overall I am doing pretty well. Just trying to learn as much as I can and keep putting up good numbers so I can get to the big leagues.
Here is an awesome video on Corey living with former teammate J.T Riddle, who plays for the Jupiter Hammerheads of the Marlins’ organization. http://www.milb.com/multimedia/vpp.jsp?content_id=135258083&sid=t279
TH: To focus on the trade, how were you told and how was that process?
CL: I was on the way to the field and it was the trade deadline day. The farm director from the Red Sox was calling me and I thought it was kind of weird that he was calling me and I thought well there is only one reason he’s calling me (I’m getting traded), but I didn’t think that was a realistic possibility. I answered and he told me that I had been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals and my heart dropped because I was so surprised. He told me that I was in a trade with John Lackey for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig and that someone from St. Louis would be calling me soon. Then I called my dad and told him and he couldn’t believe it. The farm director from St. Louis called me and introduced himself and got some info and I was on a plane at 6:30 the next morning and I met the High-A team in Clearwater, FL.
TH: Since coming into the Cardinals’ organization, you have had some success and seen your ERA drop considerably. Are there any pitches you’ve been relying on or what has been crucial in this stretch?
CL: Yeah, I had some shaky starts at the beginning of the year. I had to look back at video from college and the Cape. I was able to make a few adjustments and it really helped me. I was moved to the bullpen a few weeks ago. It took me a couple of outings to get used to but I have since found a routine and things like that to help me. I really like my new role, I’m getting the chance to pitch more often and I don’t have to have the stress of starting. Plus, that is what they want me to do for them, so whatever gets me to the big leagues the fastest is fine by me.
T8 | yes, we're still playing and yes, Corey Littrell is on point. He's struck out 5 in his 3 IP, including the entire 8th inning.
— Palm Beach Cardinals (@GoPBCardinals) June 10, 2015
TH: With changes like that, how do you stay in a positive mindset?
CL: At first, I’m not going to lie, I was a little upset and kind of confused because yes, I wasn’t pitching that good but my previous start was one of my best starts of my life. But I talked to some guys like Scott Downs, Chris Rusin and then Jason Isringhausen and they all told me that it is going to be a great thing for me and I need to embrace it. That I need to become the best lefty out of the pen and thats what I have been challenging myself to do ever since. Hearing stuff from big league guys and plus my dad gave me a lot of confidence and knowing this is what the Cardinals want me to do was positive for me. There is no other choice than to be positive in this game that is filled with negatives.
TH: You’ve mentioned your dad a couple times. How has he helped you grow on and off the field?
CL: He has been very helpful both on and off the field. His experiences in pro ball helped me to understand what I was going to expect when I was drafted and just how minor league baseball is in general. His knowledge of the game also helped me from a very young age because he knew how to teach the game and teach it the right way. Not many player’s parents actually played the game so they had to go take lessons and go to camps and stuff to learn. Both him and my mom did an amazing job as parents and they continue to be.
TH: Changing the subject, what benefits did coming to UK have on you on and off the field?
CL: UK was amazing. Choosing to go to UK instead of signing out of high school (With the Washington Nationals) was one of the best choices of my life. I loved every second of it. Getting the college experience and being able to wear Kentucky on the front of my chest was so much fun. BBN is an honor to be apart of, I get fans all the time that come up to me and say go big blue or they went to UK and they are fans. I come back to UK and Lexington every offseason because I love it so much. Plus, I wear too much red during the season so I need my fix of blue haha.
TH: Top three moments in your time at Kentucky?
CL: Sophomore year being ranked the 1 team in the nation and starting off 22-0, winning a gold glove, and when we won the national championship in basketball, I had won the biggest game in UK baseball history the day before against LSU. That week was awesome
TH: Thanks a lot, Corey. Any parting words for the KSR readers and the BBN?
CL: Just want to thank everyone out there for all the support they give me! Go cats! And Go birds! (St. Louis that is, I’ll never say go cards!)
Want to follow Corey’s career game by game? Click here.