Right-hander Logan Gilbert led NCAA Division I and set a Stetson record with 163 strikeouts in 112 1/3 innings en route to winning his second straight Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year award in 2018, but his velocity dipped while he was battling mononucleosis that spring. He sat out the summer after signing with the Mariners for $3,883,800 as the 14th overall pick, then returned with a vengeance last year. Seattle named Gilbert its 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year after he posted a 2.13 ERA, .198 opponents' average and 165 strikeouts in 135 innings while moving from Class A to Double-A at age 22.
MLB.com: Coming out of high school, did you have a lot of interest from pro teams or was it a pretty easy decision to go to Stetson? Were you heavily recruited?
Gilbert: I wouldn't say so. I guess there were a couple teams in high school, namely the Blue Jays, that was the only interest I had except for a couple of others. Even college recruiting wasn't too heavy, so it was a pretty easy decision to go to college because there wasn't a chance to get at least enough money or a high enough round to make it worth it out of high school.
MLB.com: Stetson has become known as a pitching factory with a pair of two-time Cy Young Award winners in Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom. When you become part of that program, do those guys ever come back? Have you interacted with them at all or run into them in pro ball?
Gilbert: I haven't talked to them, met them or anything like that. They didn't really come back to Stetson too much. Like you said, that's I guess the tradition now with the pitchers coming out of Stetson. I've heard a lot about them from the guys who are coaches and through my agency [Jet Sports Management], which has Kluber as well. I haven't met them but I've heard a little bit about them.
MLB.com: You had a great Cape Cod League and came into your Draft year projected to be one of the first pitchers taken, and then you wound up coming down with mono and your velocity decreased. When did you first realize you were sick? Did you understand why your velocity was down at the time or was that more baffling?
Gilbert: It was kind of weird, especially coming out of a good summer like that where my velocity was up. I go into the season and you can have mono for a while before you realize you have it. So I honestly don't think that's what affected me. It was in my body but I wasn't feeling symptoms or anything like that during the season. I think my arm was maybe kind of dead feeling, just tired, and my mechanics changed a little bit, which I think had more to do with it than the mono symptoms.
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MLB.com: How frustrating was it to not have the same stuff you had previously and over the summer? When did you feel like you were back to full strength?
Gilbert: It was weird. I was doing everything I needed to during the season numbers-wise but I knew the velocity just wasn't there. You need to get hitters out but you need to be throwing some high velocity and good breaking pitches and all that stuff, and the ball wasn't coming out as fast and it affected everything else. I think once I got through mono and rested that summer, I didn't play my first season, once my arm got going again I felt really good.
MLB.com: So you didn't feel like you were back to full strength until the next year?
Gilbert: I felt fine during my junior season because I had it in my system but I wasn't feeling the symptoms. I felt full strength during the season and then right after the Draft is when it hit me really hard. All of a sudden, I felt everything that had been in my system, I guess. After a couple months, I'd say I was back to full strength.
MLB.com: What were your expectations going into the Draft? Your stock was pretty volatile that spring because your velocity was down. You had been talked about as a potential top-five pick and at one point there was thought that you might go in the 20s.
Gilbert: It was kind of weird just playing the season and having all that in the background. I knew I was dropping a little bit and hurting myself but the last couple of starts, my velocity ticked back a little bit and I was just trying to figure something out to get the last little bit out of me and crawl back up there. I was playing fine but I also wanted to help myself out for the future.
MLB.com: Did you have a feeling the Mariners were going to take you? When did you find out you were going at No. 14?
Gilbert: I really didn't know until the day of. And actually, I'd say just a couple of picks before was when I heard from my agent and he said the deal was all set up with Seattle. I remember meeting with them and interest from Seattle, both ways, but I really didn't hear anything further until a couple of picks before.
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MLB.com: How hard was it after you get drafted and sign to not pitch that first summer while you were getting over mono? Were you hoping to pitch and the Mariners said, no, we're going to take it slow?
Gilbert: It was weird, especially when I'd come down there and then I don't actually get to go out and do everything I wanted to do when I became a professional. I think they wanted me to wait for good reason and try to be healthy, but I wanted to get out there as soon as possible.
MLB.com: After having gone through all that, how gratifying was your first pro season and the success you had? Did you have specific goals for yourself going into 2019 and did you accomplish most everything you wanted last year?
Gilbert: I think so. It wasn't as much numbers-wise or stats or anything like that, but just the player and stuff that I have, I wanted that to not only come back but continue to develop on it. I felt like I did that with my slider, with my secondary pitches. More than anything, it was just about developing and trying to take those next steps and becoming the best pitcher I can be.
MLB.com: How would you break down your repertoire? If you were a scout, how would you describe your individual pitches?
Gilbert: I think I have a good fastball. I pitch off it a lot and get extension with the fastball, so it gets on hitters pretty quick. That's how I try to get ahead, then from there I have a couple of different breaking balls. I have a big, kind of 12-6 slow curveball and then a slider around the low 80s. I'll usually use that when I'm ahead in the count. That's where I get a majority of my strikeouts, with my slider. That was a big focus we were trying to hit on last year. Then I have a changeup, fourth pitch I can go to when I feel like they're on something else, a different pitch. Against lefties, soft contact, where I'm not necessarily going for the swing and miss, I can go to changeup if I want to.
MLB.com: What do you need to work on? What's on your to-do list when this season resumes?
Gilbert: I think the biggest part of this season is probably the locations that I'm throwing to. Not necessarily throwing strikes or getting ahead of hitters. I talked about this with our pitching coordinator about trying to find where my pitches actually play the best in the strike zone. Instead of just trying to get nastier movement, we're trying to find the location that's going to complement the movement that I already have on my pitches.
MLB.com: How would you describe the difference between big league camp last year, when you got into one game and gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning, which in some ways was your pro debut, and this year, where you pitched four innings and gave up only one baserunner?
Gilbert: It was crazy, it was way different. When you hear the numbers, it tells the whole story. I'd say I was a lot more comfortable out there, that was the biggest difference. The first time out there, pro debut and all that stuff, I was a little jittery and the ball was kind of getting away from me. I got out there this year after getting a full season under my belt and I just felt comfortable, like I belonged out there. More than anything, it was the confidence and the pitches and the stuff came from that.
MLB.com: With the coronavirus, everything is in limbo right now. As a pitcher, it's probably more difficult to stay in game shape than it would if you were a hitter. What are you doing in terms of trying to stay ready while not knowing when you're getting back?
Gilbert: It is tough. I'm still trying to figure that out. I have weights and all that stuff on my back porch that I've been using. I have a homemade mound in my backyard that I can throw on. It's not glamorous by any means but I have all the stuff I need to at least stay in shape. Once I get a better idea of a date when the season starts, I can work backward from there and start building up my innings and facing hitters and all that stuff.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.