10 questions with Boston Red Sox pitcher Geoff Hartlieb

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 15: Geoff Hartlieb #40 of the New York Mets in action against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on August 15, 2021 in New York City. The Dodgers defeated the Mets 14-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 15: Geoff Hartlieb #40 of the New York Mets in action against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on August 15, 2021 in New York City. The Dodgers defeated the Mets 14-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Geoff Hartlieb is a 28-year-old relief pitcher who was drafted and signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 29th round of the 2016 draft. Owner of a 9.4 SO/9 and a 2.98 ERA across five seasons in the minor leagues, Hartlieb did not take long to ascend through the ranks and make his big league debut.

Just three seasons after being drafted, Geoff Hartlieb found himself on a Major League mound for the first time as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching against the San Diego Padres. While 2019 may not have gone as planned for the then-25-year-old, the following season saw him turn things around as he posted a 3.63 ERA across 21 games and 22.1 innings, striking out and walking 19 batters.

Claimed off of waivers by the New York Mets on July 9, 2021, Hartlieb made three appearances for the club and a total of seven split between New York and Pittsburgh, finishing the season with an 11.00 ERA in nine innings.

In September of 2021, Geoff Hartlieb was again claimed off of waivers, this time packing his bags and finding a home on the East coast as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Assigned to the club’s Triple-A affiliate upon his acquisition, Hartlieb appeared in a total of four contests for Worcester, registering a 2.45 ERA. Heading into the 2022 season, he has yet to see time on the mound in Boston.

The most interesting part of Geoff Hartlieb’s game is his ability to limit the long ball. In over 465 innings in his eight seasons as a professional, he has allowed just 32 home runs across 272 games. Some pitchers allow that many big flies in one single season. In the major leagues, eight of the nine home runs he allowed were during his down year of 2019. Since August 27, 2020, Geoff Hartlieb has not allowed a single home run, a stat that undoubtedly played a role in Boston’s interest in the right-hander.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Boston Red Sox pitcher Geoff Hartlieb and do a Q&A-style interview. Let’s dive in.

Q1: Describe the moment you received your very first call to the big leagues.

The first call to the big leagues was a special one. It was a little after midnight in Indianapolis and I was waiting up for my then-fiancé to get into town. She had just graduated with her Masters degree back where we live in Illinois and was, for the first time, coming to stay with me basically full-time. That, by itself, was exciting, so I was already pretty jazzed up. She got into town and maybe an hour later my phone rang as we were falling asleep. When I looked at it, it said Larry Broadway, our director of minor league baseball with the Pirates. I immediately knew it was an important call, whether good or bad and I turned over and said that to my wife. The thoughts in your head immediately after hearing the words, “Congratulations, you’re going to the big leagues” are insane. I could barely sleep that night with excitement, packing, trying to call my Dad, and just taking it all in. I’ll always remember that call and my first time walking out to a big league game. It was special.

Q2: You’ve been claimed off of waivers twice in your career. Can you describe the thoughts and feelings inside both of the moves? I’d imagine the claim by the Mets and joining your first non-Pittsburgh organization was much more emotional for you.

Being DFA’d is weird. It isn’t fun and there’s a ton of unknown. Sitting at your house waiting for someone to possibly claim you or you clear and get sent back to the team is brutal. It really disrupts your season and trying to get consistent work in. It happening to me three times this year was pretty miserable honestly. The first time, I got to drive from Indianapolis to Pittsburgh to pack up my apartment and then back to Illinois (in an 18 hour window) and be at home for a few days with my wife and son, which made it much better. But the next two times I was just sitting in a hotel room by myself for three to five days at a time with nothing to do, unable to leave.

My emotions towards leaving the Pirates were definitely greater than leaving the Mets. I was very excited and ready for a new start with a new organization, but Pittsburgh was all I had ever known. That being said, I was completely blindsided by the move. I didn’t understand it and thought I deserved a real shot to pitch in the big leagues last year with them, but was never given a real opportunity. I did know I did not want to go unclaimed and be sent back to the Pirates’ Triple-A in the slightest. That being said, I miss the guys I played with, some of my best friends are from my time with the Bucs and my wife and I really did enjoy being in the city of Pittsburgh. I will miss the views inside the park as well. PNC Park is pretty hard to beat.

Being claimed by the Mets and heading straight to New York to play against the Pirates was pretty crazy, a very different world from Pittsburgh for sure. I had a pretty crazy two months or so with the Mets. I believe I was called up and sent down seven times in that span and was on the taxi squad, not active, traveling with the teams for about 10 days as well. So not being able to pitch with any consistency was tough for me and it didn’t go well. I wasn’t surprised when they called me and told me I was being put on waivers again, but I was surprised by the reason it was happening. Turnover with the GM didn’t help my case since he had claimed me and was no longer there.

I wasn’t happy or sad to leave the Mets, basically indifferent. But I am excited with the opportunity I have with the Boston Red Sox. I’ve enjoyed working with a few people within the organization and will hopefully have some stability next year as well.

Q3: When was the last time you got butterflies during a game? Can be Major or Minor leagues.

I get butterflies damn near every time I pitch. When I stop getting them, I will probably hang it up. I wouldn’t always call them nerves necessarily. It’s just the anticipation of competition and the excitement of the bright lights. Pitching in the big leagues is freakin’ fun, man. The last time I got them was in Lehigh Valley to end the Triple-A season. It was a tie ballgame heading into the ninth, I believe. I always enjoy a pressure spot.

Q4: In your professional career you were never utilized as a starting pitcher. The “typical” path is for pitchers to move from the rotation to the bullpen, but you started in the bullpen. I’d assume that this was a decision made early on by the Pittsburgh system. Can you explain any further on how that shook out?

I was a bullpen guy from day one with Pittsburgh. That’s usually not a good sign for your career when they put you there in the lower levels, honestly. When I got to Bristol, they basically just told me that it was what management wanted, so it was all I had. But I took the opportunity and ran with it. I made my own luck and threw well to earn my promotions rather quickly through the system. Throwing hard, having a high ground ball rate, and being a little older when I was drafted definitely helped me climb quickly. I can’t speak on the Pirates having a plan for me. It certainly didn’t feel like they did at times, but I embraced the bullpen role and enjoyed it.

Q5. Have you at any point (or would you) consider playing overseas? With all the uncertainty in MLB right now, that seems like a very popular route lately.

I would definitely consider it. The money is solid over there and usually guaranteed, unlike here when you are up and down. Those guys taking advantage of the opportunity to go play is great, so good for them. If I was a free agent, we would probably be looking into it.

Q6. Where do you spend your offseasons? Part two to that question is how do you stay in the groove while you have a breather in between seasons?

I spend my offseason in southern Illinois. I grew up here and my wife and I bought a house here last fall. With having our son now and being close to family, I don’t really see us leaving the area. I stay in shape and prepare for the next year by working out at Turn2 Extreme Baseball and Softball Facility. They have one heck of a setup, plenty of space for throwing, plyos, a full weight room, and just a great atmosphere. There are a few pro ball guys who come in to train. I mainly train with my good friend and Pirates’ Triple-A pitcher, Matt Eckelman. I also work with a trainer named Jack Edgar who helps me keep my body right.

Dr. Arthur Langston of Integrity Joint and Spine is another key component to my offseason, I visit him for chiropractic needs quite often. Lastly is my pitching coach I have been with since middle school, Sam Weber. His knowledge of analytics and pitching is second to none and he has helped me endlessly since I got into pro ball.

Q7: As a relief pitcher, you don’t get many opportunities to swing the bat. Are you one that is perfectly fine with no at-bats or are you one that’s eager for the opportunity to get up there and swing it?

I want absolutely no part of swinging a bat. In High-A, they had us take batting practice one day before a game while coordinators were in town. They were making us do extra drills and whatnot and I tweaked my back. Ever since then, I avoid it as much as I can. I haven’t batted since I was a sophomore in high school and I am very okay with that. A universal DH just makes sense.

Q8. What sacrifices were the hardest ones you had to make on your path to the big leagues?

Some of the biggest sacrifices you have to make when playing in the minor leagues are your time. There just isn’t much time at home and around friends or people you love, so you sacrifice being able to see them. It can be hard sometimes but, in the end, for me at least, it was worth it. In the offseason, you also have choices to make when it comes to your preparation. I was a low round pick who didn’t get any money in the draft, basically $1,000. I worked in the offseason and drove an hour to train everyday for a few years because I wanted to take my opportunity as serious as possible. I knew how slim my chances were.

Q9. What is one TV show that you have watched all the way through more than once? My list is a long one. As a follow-up to this question, I love your Twitter bio. I spy an Office fan! (His bio has the iconic Michael Scott line “I’m not superstitious but I am a little stitious”)

Man, that is a long list. You have a lot of time in the baseball world to watch things. Flights, bus trips, hotel rooms by yourself, rain delays, the list goes on. My favorite shows I have watched multiple times through are, you are correct, The Office, Parks and Rec, The Last Kingdom, Narcos, Entourage, Game of Thrones, Friday Night Lights, Peaky Blinders, and Grey’s Anatomy. I watch a lot of shows.

Q10: You have been chosen as one of the writers that get to vote for the Hall of Fame inductees. If you had a ballot this year, who would get your vote?

1. Barry Bonds

2. Manny Ramirez

3. Scott Rolen

4. Sammy Sosa

5. David Ortiz

6. Andy Pettitte

7. Mark Buehrle

8. Tim Hudson

9. Roger Clemens

10. Jimmy Rollins

I think that would be my vote.

Next. Boston Red Sox post-lockout to-do list. dark

Thank you so much to Geoff Hartlieb of the Boston Red Sox for taking the time to chat with me. It was a pleasure. Geoff is part of the third installment of “10 Questions With” that I’ve started. With multiple former and current players in the queue, what kind of questions would you like to see asked to a big leaguer?