Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Player Interview: Murilo Gouvea, RHP, Houston Astros (MiLB)

MAY 28th, 2013-With the introduction of the World Baseball Classic, there have been a number of memorable performances. On the biggest stage imaginable, players who many of us have never seen before have made amazing defensive plays, slugged moonshots against dominant pitchers, and carved up batting orders like your Dad carved the turkey at Thanksgiving.

On that subject (pitching, not Thanksgiving), one such pitching performance in this past WBC tournament was especially memorable for fans of the Lexington Legends. That performance came during a pivotal game in the qualifying round for a team who had yet to make it to the Tournament proper: that was Team Brazil, an emerging baseball power with a great deal of talent on its roster, already. Indeed, the Seattle Mariners have just signed Brazilian 17 year-old RHP Daniel Missaki to a minor-league contract (terms are thus far undisclosed), who pitched in the 1st round of the WBC vs. Team China. While he made only one appearance in the tournament, it was one in which he entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs. Missaki induced a ground-out from China RF Yanyong Yang to escape trouble (more on other Brazilian signees, later).

Gouvea brings it for the Legends
For you Legends fans out there, the big moment came in the qualifying round when RHP Murilo Gouvea hit the mound in relief against a heavily-favored Team Panama, who Brazil had already narrowly beaten in the first game of the round by a score of 3-2. In fact, Brazil was considered least-likely to advance beyond the qualifier, but strung together three straight victories against favored opponents to advance for the first time, ever.

Gouvea had already dealt properly with Panama once in the first game, when he went 3 1/3 strong innings, allowing only two hits and striking out three in shutting down Panama's offense entirely. He threw 29 of 48 pitches for strikes in this outing, recording 8 of his 10 outs on either grounders or strikeouts. In their second time around against the Panamanians, Gouvea held them scoreless for 2 1/3 innings, striking out two and inducing 4 ground-outs before giving way to to closer (and Mariners prospect) Thyago Viera, who allowed a single from Carlos Ruiz. This put runners on first and third for Viera, who had only made it so far as rookie Venezuelan ball in the States (this being his first pro season).

Viera then struck out Carlos Lee and Ruben Rivera to save the game, and push Brazil into the first round of the WBC.

Perhaps I should place as much importance on Viera's appearance as I do on Gouvea's, but I am admittedly bias toward Gouvea in this case. After seeing him here in Lexington in 2011 and 2012, I have to say that I think the Astros have a solid pitching talent in him.

However, every player will hit a bump in the road here and there. Gouvea has hit that bump this year; coming out of Spring Training, he has experienced some soreness in his pitching elbow which has held him back in extended. The team has worked with him to help him past this issue, recently ordering an MRI to rule out serious injury.

Murilo is, as Legends fans already know, a class act. He's shown that he can handle the pressure of world-wide audiences, as well as being an integral part of the success of his nation's team. It's my feeling that he will be remembered in Brazil (and by international fans, as well) for his contribution to a history-making year.

Murilo was kind enough to give me a few minutes of his time, yesterday, to update his fans here in The Lex on his recent injury, his experience in the WBC, and his most memorable moment in pro ball in the US:

Can you tell me about your latest progress? Just something about what you were doing before you got posted to Lancaster, and what happened before you were to report?

Well, I played on the WBC first , but after that I was just practicing normally in Spring Training, got to pitch in a few games and my arm started to hurt. I was supposed to go to Lancaster , but I stayed in Florida for rehab, then got better, started to pitch again and when I was about to leave my elbow hurt again.

Have they told you anything definite about what's going on with your elbow? Any official diagnosis? Or are they saying it's a strain?

Not yet. I had an MRI and I'm waiting for the doctor to tell me what's wrong and what's gonna happen.

Well, it's good that they're going to have an answer soon. About the WBC: what was the atmosphere like in Brazil when you beat Panama to qualify for the tournament?

It was an amazing feeling. Nobody expected that we were gonna beat Panama and Colombia, and it was really important for us and for the sport in Brazil to have the opportunity to play (in) the WBC.

Brazil is certainly an emerging power in the world of baseball, as they are in so many other areas. Playing the role you were in will be something many Brazilian fans talk about for years to come. However, how would you compare it to your time and potential future in American pro ball? Are there parallels between the two?

I think one helps the other....playing for my country on a big championship like the WBC can inspire other players in Brazil and also everybody (elsewhere), or every team here in the States can see me playing and I think that helps me to show them what I'm capable to do.

That's a smart answer. It's the biggest stage in the game, the WBC, and a precursor to a true World Series in the future. As for your time in the Astros system, what would you say has been your most memorable moment so far?

I would say when we won the NY-Penn League in 2010, but also last year, that I had more chances to pitch and in more pressure situations.

Who has made the greatest impression on you as far as coaches are concerned, so far?

Theres some of them...Gary Ruby was a good one when i was I in (Rookie League) Tri-City.

How do you like to pass the time when you're not on the field?

Getting some rest mostly of the times. Go somewhere to eat, or something like that.

Any favorite movies, books or music?

I like almost everything; I could say comedy and action movies a little bit more.

I'm a sci-fi guy, for the most part. Saw the new Star Trek recently. Two and a half stars, at most. Seen The Hangover Pt III yet?

No I haven't seen yet, but i really want to.

The first one was the best, I think. But supposedly the third is even better. One last question: If you had any one thing to say to future baseball stars in Brazil, what would it be?

Just , if they really want to play pro ball, keep working hard and they'll have their chance. And if there's anything I can do to help, I'll do it

You'd probably be a great coach, something I hope you consider doing in the future.


All the best to you, and thanks for taking time to do this!

Thank you and no problem...anytime.

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