Madsen On The Fast Track

After a somewhat disappointing 2006 season, Mike Madsen has been one of the best stories in the Oakland A's system in 2007. The right-hander has already been promoted two levels and will soon be making his Triple-A debut. We spoke with Oakland A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman about the progress of Madsen this season.

Since being selected in the 21st round of the 2005 draft by the Oakland A's, Mike Madsen has made it a habit to overcome adversity. He was selected as a senior out of Ohio State after being passed over in the draft entirely as a junior.

Scouts thought he was too small to start, so he went out and became a Northwest League All-Star as a starting pitcher for Vancouver in 2005. He entered the 2006 season with high expectations, only to struggle at High-A Stockton and in two starts at Double-A Midland.

Madsen had to further overcome adversity this spring when he was assigned to High-A Stockton to start the season, even though he had hoped to be in Double-A Midland. Like all those other times, however, Madsen has met that adversity head-on.

"He was really disappointed when he didn't make the Double-A club out of spring training because he had had a good spring, but he got off to a good start and was very successful locating his pitches," Keith Lieppman, Oakland A's Director of Player Development, said.

"He did so well that he forced us to move him to Double-A and the rest is kind of history."

That history includes a 5-2 record with a 2.76 ERA in 11 starts for the Midland Rockhounds. Despite spending most of April with High-A Stockton, Madsen was still impressive enough during his stay in Midland to earn a spot on the Texas League's South Division All-Star team. He was also recently named as the A's player representative at the Futures Game, a minor league prospect showcase that is part of MLB's All-Star Week festivities.

On Thursday, the A's rewarded Madsen with his second promotion in three months: this time to Triple-A Sacramento. Lieppman believes that Madsen's struggles last season will help him make the adjustment to the minor league's highest level.

"I think the adversity of last season really helped him because he's now gone through a tough situation. He's making another big jump now to Triple-A and I think that information will help him have a little more success when he starts to have those moments of failure that all pitchers are going to go through," Lieppman said. Lieppman points to Madsen's breaking ball and his fastball location as being two keys to his improved numbers.

"His breaking ball has been outstanding. He has really been able to use that as a swing-and-miss for him. He is also locating his fastball much better. Last year, he pitched mid-thigh and he got hit hard. He's learned to keep his velocity up while using his two-seam fastball to sink it and really stay down in the strike zone," Lieppman said.

"Location was huge for him. The use of pitches, sequencing and that sort of thing, he really matured from what happened to him last year because once you get to Double-A, he really struggled there last year, it's a big jump and if you aren't ready to handle it, it really can affect you. He came back and really worked hard in Stockton to improve."

Madsen's slight frame (he's listed at 6'0'', 160) is one reason that he has flown under the radar for much of his career. Many believe that because of his size, Madsen profiles more as a reliever in the major leagues than as a starter. While the A's have toyed with the idea of moving Madsen to the bullpen down the road, they have kept him in the starting rotation for his entire minor league career up to this point.

"In an ideal world, we'd like to leave him [in the rotation]. But a number of guys in the system believe that he has some value as a reliever, as well," Lieppman said.

"At some point, that is a consideration, especially if he continues to have success at Triple-A and there is a need at the big league level. He would have the kind of stuff to profile as a starter and a reliever, but it may be his quickest route to get there as a reliever."

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