Angels Prospect Interview: Nick Adenhart

In fall, 2003, Nick Adenhart was universally regarded as a sure-fire first round pick. Then, in his senior year, he blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery. The Angels gambled on him and took him in the 14th round that year, and are reaping the reward now. We caught up the Midwest League All Star to discuss the last 15 months as a pro pitcher and his expectations for the future.

When did you feel like you were back to your old self:

Nick Adenhart: It was about midway through last summer. Once my pitch count got up I started to feel like the game was mine. They had me started off going two or three innings for the first half of the season. Once I was able to get into position for wins, I felt like it was mine. After I did that for a couple of weeks I really started to feel like I was back to normal. My velocity was back up above 90 to where it was before the surgery and it started clicking, felt good.

How was the experience of going to big league camp? Did anyone mentor you?

There was no particular player that took me under his wing. I was learning lot from all of them. I guess the most mentor-ish person that I encountered was pitching coach Bud Black. It seemed like he went out of his way to take time out for me and Tommy Mendoza – we were kind of there together; the two youngest there. We were just trying to stay out of the way and sit back and learn to see how everything is done at the big league level. He really took the time out of his day, almost everyday, to come over and talk to us and let us know what we needed to work on to get to the next level.

Have you been at all surprised by the success you have had so far this season?

You always have to anticipate yourself. . .I take it one game at a time and anticipate a win every time out. You have a game plan - plan your work and work your plan. Attack every inning and every pitch are very important and just take it one pitch at a time.

Since you have experienced success on the mound - the injury aside - how do you expect you will handle the challenge of failure?

I guess when you move to a certain level and you are just not fooling hitters, you have to reevaluate yourself and step back and say, ‘Ok, why I am I not succeeding at this level. I was succeeding before this. What is different? What do I need to change?' That would be the next roadblock but we will get to that when it comes.

What has been the key to your success this season?

Just throwing all my pitches for strikes, changing speeds and being able to pitch to pitch, feeding off the pitch before. I have been working a lot with the pitching coach – being able to throw my changeup in certain counts has really bailed me out a lot. I get behind in the count and it is a dead fastball count and I am able to throw the changeup for a strike and really screw some people into the ground.

It seems that you have been immensely successful against left-handed hitters. How do you change the way you approach them?

I feel that there isn't much difference between righties and lefties and really don't feel any difference but I guess with a lefty and not being on my arm side it is a lot easier to get to that outside corner. My two-seam works well against them and my changeup is a big out pitch. I can throw a lot of changeups and then still throw my curveball for a strike; it seems to really baffle them.

You have had some great control through the first half of the season but are tossing a lot of wild pitches at the same time; it really doesn't make sense:

I have asked myself the same question. You go over the stat sheet and I am happy with the control but then I see a wild pitch and that I am leading the team in wild pitches. I am not quite sure what is going on but – I have no idea. Just about one every game seems to sail over the catcher's head.

Do you worry about hitting a wall in August, pitching more than you have ever had to in your life?

I expect it. Maybe not hitting a wall, just a thick patch of grass. The legs get a little tired and you have to concentrate a little more on every pitch and working deeper. And then just keeping up with your running and conditioning between starts is a big thing.

Talk about working with Flip and Brett and how they have been able to assist you in your development:

They really understand what I want to do and there has been a lot of communication between innings, between starts, before the game, after the game. I really like to know what they are thinking. They have a different view of the hitters and usually know more than I would. It is also good that we are on the same page. I am not out there shaking [off] a lot and can throw each pitch with conviction.

Given that, Do you take control on the mound? Because, after all, the stats belong to you in the end.

Our pitching coaches in our organization are big on pitch commitment. If you are hesitant on a pitch, don't just shake yeah. It is almost better to throw the pitch you want to throw with full commitment and conviction to the spot you want than throwing a changeup in a spot you are not sure should be and you are not fully committed to it and leave it out over the plate. I will shake off, step off the mound and throw the pitch I want to throw.

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