Tuomi is a polished lefty.
We sat down with Nationals' fortieth round pick, Kai Tuomi, for a Draft Day Q&A session. Find out who the left-handed pitcher from the University of Evansville approaches his game, how he feels being drafted by the Nationals, if he's looking to sign soon, and more.
CapitolDugout: What was your initial reaction to being picked by the Nationals and how have the last 24 hours been for you?
Kai Tuomi: It was very exciting; I'm still smiling, and the last 24 hours have been busy, lots of phone calls from family and friends, and just hammering out all the small details as far as when to report and all that.
CapitolDugout: So, I guess its safe to say you plan on signing then?
Kai Tuomi: Oh yeah, definitely. I've always just wanted to get my foot in the door, no matter how. I just want to start showing everyone what I can do.
CapitolDugout: When you heard what team you were picked by and what round you went in did it surprise you at all? What did you expect out of the draft for yourself?
Kai Tuomi: Well the Nationals is not one of the teams I had been contacted by, and with the season I had at college and being named a top 30 finalist for the Wallace award I was honestly expecting to go higher, being left-handed. But, all in the same I knew nothing was ever certain, so it's a thrill to be drafted.
CapitolDugout: At this point, have you done some of your own research on the Nationals and how they run things? What are your expectations of pro ball with them?
Kai Tuomi: I'm still new to the whole idea. I've talked to some friends I have in pro ball. I'm not exactly sure how the Nationals operate but I'm just going to go with whatever happens, and work as hard as I can and try to do the best I can do. I just hope that if I can put up results and help them win baseball games that I will get a chance to keep moving up and keep playing.
CapitolDugout: Now, if you would, could you describe your repertoire of pitches and velocity?
Kai Tuomi: Okay, I think my biggest strength is the ability to locate four pitches. I attack hitters, try to work ahead in the count, and then keep them off balance with a good mix. I have always trusted my defense, so I don't try too hard to strike guys out, just make them hit my pitch, something that has them off balance and swinging at a pitch on the corner of the plate. I can get my fastball up to 90 MPH but I am most effective spotting it right now at 86-87. I think that will continue to increase, and then I will throw a curveball around 70-72, a changeup in the mid-70's, and a slider around 78-80 which is really effective against lefties.
CapitolDugout: A lot of times teams pick experienced college guys like yourself as "polished players". Do you see yourself as a fairly refined pitcher with your mechanics and pitches?
Kai Tuomi: I think I have a good feel for all my pitches. My mechanics are very consistent right now, but I think there is room for improvement as far as using my lower half more. I'm hoping that is something that I will learn in the organization that will help me add velocity. As far as the mental approach and the focus, I feel that I have come a long way in the last four years, and I seem to rise to tougher occasions with my experience.
CapitolDugout: Did you have a favorite team or player growing up? And, is there someone you perhaps modeled your game after or would compare yourself to now?
Kai Tuomi: I was a Blue Jays fan. Being from Canada I enjoyed seeing them win the world series back-to-back. Right now I like comparing my game to someone like Tom Glavine. I really focus on outsmarting hitters and mixing pitches and throwing strikes.
CapitolDugout: Looking back at your career so far, what you say has been your best significant baseball moment and why?
Kai Tuomi: I think pitching and winning the Missouri Valley Conference championship game. It was on Fox Sports Net, and I have never been so nervous. But I ended up pitching one of my best games and we won 2-1. Knowing that I could pitch under that kind of pressure has really calmed me down, and now I know that I don't have to worry out there and I just have to trust my stuff, no matter what the situation. That led to me being very successful over the last summer and this spring.
CapitolDugout: Would you say that perhaps that is what put you on the radar among pro scouts, or was there something else in career that did that?
Kai Tuomi: I think my success against ranked teams this year helped a lot too. In three road starts against Wichita, Ole Miss, Oregon State, I was 2-0 with a no decision and a 1.40 ERA. So I have a track record of stepping up and winning big games. I think spending two years in the Northwoods League helps too because it is good preparation for that Minor League schedule.
CapitolDugout: Would you say there is anything particularly unique about what you bring to the table as a player that a Nationals fan maybe would find interesting?
Kai Tuomi: Um, I'm not too sure. I'm Canadian. I don't know if you have any other Canadians or not in the organization. I'll have to think about that more maybe.
CapitolDugout: There are a lot of guys who come into pro ball and really adjust their games due to the opposition being better, even the baseball itself being somewhat different. Do you envision yourself making any adjustments and how well do you think you can adapt if necessary?
Kai Tuomi: Well I am a fast learner, I know it is a game of adjustments. If you see a hitter adjust to something you are doing, you need to change your game plan to always keep him off balance. I'm hoping the way I have learned to pitch over the last year will help me stay ahead of these hitters and keep me out of trouble. But yeah I am willing to learn from everyone around me and I am open for changes because I know everyone will be trying to make me a better player.
CapitolDugout: Obviously Washington is a team that is trying to bounce back from some tough times. Is it encouraging to you to know that they are a team that gives players such as yourself a real chance to move up and make an impact?
Kai Tuomi: Oh yeah, that means a lot. I know some farm systems have a lot of dead ends and you have to sit and hope for a trade, but knowing I will have an opportunity will really encourage me to do everything I can to be successful.
CapitolDugout: When a Nationals fans sits and thinks "what type of pitcher is this guy exactly and what does he bring to the table." What is the first thought that should come in their head in your opinion?
Kai Tuomi: I want them to think, "this guy, he competes hard. He's going to give it everything he has every time out there, and his teammates are going to like playing behind him because you can really tell he's doing everything he can to help this team win."