Bobby LaFromboise has been in the Mariners’ organization his entire career. Drafted in 2008, he spent one season each with Everett, Clinton, Iowa, High Desert, Cal., and Jackson, Tenn. He began the 2012 season in Jackson before his promotion to Tacoma on June 14. Successful as both as a starter and reliever, he has pitched only out of the bullpen for the Rainiers. As of July 30 he has appeared in 17 games (24 innings). His record is 3-1 with two saves, 22 strikeouts and a 1.50 ERA. He has given up no homeruns. LaFromboise recently talked to Tacoma Weekly baseball writer Karen Westeen about his career.
TW: You were born in Downey, Calif. (near Los Angeles). Do you still live there?
BL: Yes, I still live in the same house I grew up in, with my parents. My only sister lives nearby in La Habra.
TW: After you graduated from high school in 2004 you attended a couple of colleges – Rio Hondo Community College (where you were named state co-pitcher of the year in 2006) and the University of New Mexico. Did you finish college?
BL: No, I have about a year to go for my general degree.
TW: Do you have a major?
BL: No. I’ve always wanted to get into architecture, but it hasn’t worked out with my baseball schedule.
TW: Did you have a team or player you followed when you were growing up?
BL: I was more of a player guy. When I was real young (LaFromboise is currently 26) it was the Mariners because of Griffey and Randy Johnson. When I became a first baseman (junior and senior years in high school) it was J.T. Snow. I was a huge fan of his. I liked the Angels and then the Giants when he was with them. After that I went local and liked the Angels.
TW: Before you were drafted by the Mariners, two other teams picked you – the White Sox in 2005 and the Diamondbacks in 2007. Why didn’t you sign with either of them?
BL: In 2005 I was still at home, and had not gone out on my own. I didn’t feel I was ready to go with the Sox. The second time was just a mix up with numbers. I didn’t feel what they offered me was adequate.
TW: So in 2008 did you expect the Mariners to take you?
BL: No, but I had a good idea I might be going, probably in the 10th to 15th round. I had a list of about six teams that I thought might be interested.
TW: Where were you when you found out you’d been drafted again?
BL: At home with my dog. My dad called me to say I had been drafted in the eighth round but I had not seen it.
TW: So you pitched and played some first base in high school?
BL: Yes. I pitched exclusively my sophomore year in high school, then I played first base and didn’t pitch at all my junior and senior years. I didn’t know that much about pitchers so I didn’t have a favorite, but liked Randy because of being a lefty and now I throw sidearm the way he did, which is kind of funny.
TW: You split your first three years as a professional between starting and coming out of the bullpen, then last year in Tennessee you were just a reliever. Was that your idea or someone else’s?
BL: It was not my idea. I wanted to start, but someone saw me throwing in the pen in 2009, dropping down sidearm and I didn’t even know I did it. It felt okay although I hated it the first year, but ever since I have loved it. I enjoy the pressure when I come in with runners on, in a tie game, being able to get out of situations like that. Now it’s more natural to be a reliever.
TW: Do you rely on the same outpitch in both roles?
BL: When I’m starting I have more to work with, more time during the game, one mistake won’t hurt as much, but when I go in when a lefty is up, I have to make my pitches. You’re not always going to have good days but you have to work with what you have that day.
TW: When you’re in the bullpen and get to watch the batters does that help you figure out how to pitch to them?
BL: Sometimes. Sometimes you already know what their tendencies are, or may have pitched to them before. It’s pretty much like a mind game. It’s fun to mess with hitters’ heads. The batters do the same thing. They see scouting reports and can make adjustments during the game.
TW: Do you have a set role here?
BL: No. In Jackson I did, when they needed a lefty to get a lefty out. I got to close a couple of games. Here, I go in whenever they need me.
TW: If the game’s not over, what do you do after you come off the mound?
BL: Well I don’t go back to the bullpen. I stay in the dugout at least for three outs. I watch our team hit if I have closed out an inning. If it’s late in the game I’ll wait until it’s over, or I might go in to get my exercise done.
TW: What kind of a pitcher do you think you are?
BL: I’m not a power pitcher (so I guess I’m) a lefty match-up guy. Deception is one of the big keys to my game. I have body parts going all over the place when I pitch.
TW: This year is the first time you’ve pitched for more than one team in a season. What was that like?
BL: It was very strange, and I didn’t know what to do when I got called up to Tacoma. I had Steven Hensley coming with me. It was nice to share that with someone. We had to pack up and leave early from Jackson, fly to LAX and then to Sacramento to meet the team there. I pitched that day. I knew a few guys on the team from spring training. (LaFromboise was 1-0 with two saves, no blown saves, and an ERA of 1.01 in 20 appearances with Jackson.)
TW: Last year you were named to the Southern League All-Star team. Did you play?
BL: Yes, I threw to one batter and threw one pitch for an out, but did not get the win. My coach told me I would get one out, and I told my second baseman (who was Kyle Seager) I would get the batter out on the first pitch and I did. The game was in Jackson, so I felt more comfortable.
TW: Have you ever been on the disabled list?
BL: Just once, in 2008. After throwing in college I was diagnosed with dead (tired) arm and I needed two weeks off.
TW: What are the highlights of your career so far?
BL: Making the All-Star team as a reliever and being one step away from the Big Leagues.
TW: What are your plans for life after baseball?
BL: Go back to school and get my architecture degree. I’d love to build houses, and my dream is to build a golf course, after I build my parents’ house. It would be pretty fun to coach somewhere but I haven’t thought much about that. Obviously if I have kids I would love to coach them.