Prospect Q&A: Steve Sharpe, RP

A's minor league reliever Steve Sharpe was 24 when he began this past season at Class-A Kane County and as an early birthday present, the right-hander earned a promotion to Stockton in late June. Combined, he posted an ERA just above two points for the entire year and put together his finest season to date since being drafted two years ago. Inside, Sharpe explains why.

Steve Sharpe had a break-out season in 2006, which he split between low-A Kane County and high-A Stockton. Sharpe was a closer for much of the season, making the Midwest League All-Star team before being promoted to Stockton. He finished the year second in the organization in saves behind Marcus McBeth with 19. Steve Holley chats with Sharpe about his successful season and the reasons behind that success.

Q: What were your thoughts on the year you had between Stockton and Kane County?

A: Well, I think it was a great year. I got into a new role in the bullpen. I really enjoyed it and being involved in every game as opposed to starting and being there once every five days. I just don't know if my personality fits that role. I like the urgency of the bullpen and moving up to Stockton was perfect timing. I couldn't have written it out better because I live with my wife, and they gave us a couple of days to drive out. I got to make it to the Midwest League All-Star break. Getting up here was a real treat, especially being here with coaches that helped me out last year. It was nice.

Everything has been going just right, both on and off the field. I can't really hit the nail on the head with one thing, but everything has been better both on and off the field. It's not that I've been really different as far as competing, but I got married and now I pray a lot more often. That gives me a lot of confidence when I head to the mound.

Q: How much importance does faith play in this game, and was that what you meant by the "off the field" comment?

A: Oh, yeah. My faith is a lot stronger and my work has been stronger. It makes me a lot more competitive and more focused. I put away some time each morning to spend some time with God. Those are my greatest days, and the more I do that, the better I am at everything; not just baseball, but with myself and with my wife, and where I need to be going. If I'm comfortable and focused on those things, I'm more focused on the mound.

I used to be an angry, adrenaline-type pitcher, and now my wife says all the time that I look so comfortable when I go out there and it's because I'm so comfortable under my own skin. There were a couple of times when I really got beat up on the mound and I come back and realize that I was slipping and that my priorities weren't really right. That's the main difference in this year and I have to attest to all of that because I'm not too differently physically. Mentally and spiritually, it's been a great year and I had so much more fun, too.

Q: What else can you tell us about moving from the rotation to the bullpen?

A: My first year, I started the whole season and then last year I did both. It was tough having to jump back and forth. My goodness, that's the toughest job both mentally and physically. This is the first year that I've been tried exclusively from the bullpen and in the late innings.

Q: You had a low ERA with the Stockton team, but gave up more hits than innings pitched. Is that alarming to you?

A: No, not really. I think that at Kane County, I didn't give up very many hits at all. Coming here, there are honestly a lot of hitter's ballparks. The infields are rock hard, and there are better prospects with better swings. They're going to hit some harder balls that are going to get through. I don't think it's anything that I was really worried about. I feel the approach with Oakland and the idea of trying to get contact early is great. The organization doesn't want you to pitch around the plate and out of the zone. I try not to get too upset about it, especially in the Cal League. I think that 90 percent of pitchers in the Cal League are over hits per innings. That's just part of it and it gets you more prepared for advanced hitters. So I'm not really concerned about it all.

The most important thing with me was walks. If those are down, that's something I can control. I can't control it if a guy gets a broken bat single or a hard-hit ball through the infield.

Q: That's interesting, because we hear so much about the A's philosophy of getting on base from a hitter's standpoint. By the same approach, wouldn't the goal of the organization's pitchers be to limit the hitters from reaching base by walks and giving up high on-base percentages?

A: Exactly. Big time.

Q: You also racked up 19 saves this season. With Marcus McBeth leading the organization in minor league saves this season and of course the number of innings Huston Street has logged in Oakland, has closing games been something the A's have approached you about?

A: I've never had that understanding. I don't think that's what I'll making a career out. Everyone has been telling me I'll probably be a setup guy. Although, the last two times they've told me that and I've been closing, so you just never know. I think it's just whatever the team needs and whatever the manager sees fit from the bullpen. I was closing some this year, but next year maybe I'll be back in a setup role.

Q: What kind of pitches do you rely on?

A: I'm pretty average; I throw everything I can at them. I usually work with a two-seemer and a slider. If I have a guy that has my number on any of those pitches, my changeup and curve are my next pitches, as well as my four-seem fastball. If I need a curve, I'll throw it. But honestly, if you watch me pitch five times, I'll usually only throw a curve maybe once.

Q: How fast does your fastball normally register?

A: We get clocked every game and I'm usually anywhere between 86 and 91.

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