Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Dallas Braden, P

PHOENIX – The 2007 season was memorable for Dallas Braden. After missing most of the 2006 season with a shoulder injury, Braden breezed through Double-A and Triple-A en route to the major leagues. His time with Oakland was rocky, but the Stockton native came through it wiser and hopeful that it was the start of a long big league career. We spoke to Braden about last season and his thoughts on 2008

Selected in the 24th round of the 2004 draft out of Texas Tech, Dallas Braden has been exceeding expectations since he turned pro. Scouts never expected Braden to achieve much in the minor leagues when he was drafted, but he proved them wrong. He quickly put himself on the prospect map by striking out 59 batters in only 39.1 innings during his pro debut season in 2004.

Braden followed that performance with an impressive 2005 campaign. He won 15 games and struck-out 135 batters in 150 innings. At the end of the season, Braden was named the A's Organizational Pitcher of the Year. Unfortunately, Braden developed shoulder soreness during that off-season and wound-up having shoulder surgery at the start of the 2006 season. After a diligent rehab, Braden managed to make 10 late season starts in 2006.

Going into the 2007 season, Braden was looking to re-establish himself as one of the A's top pitching prospects. He got out of the gate quickly, allowing only three runs in 12 innings for Double-A Midland before he was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento. After only a brief time with the River Cats, Braden was promoted to the major leagues in late April to step into the A's injury-ravaged starting rotation. Braden made his major league debut on April 24th in Baltimore and he earned the win.

That win would be the only victory Braden would pick-up at the major-league level in 2007. He was inconsistent during his 20 appearances (14 starts) with the A's, posting a 6.72 ERA in 72 innings. He struck-out 55, but allowed 91 hits and nine homers. Braden was shuttled back-and-forth between Triple-A and the major leagues for much of the season. He excelled with the River Cats, posting a 2.95 ERA in 11 starts. He had two complete games and struck-out a career-high 17 batters in a complete-game shut-out against Colorado Springs on August 22nd.

This spring, Braden has been one of the top challengers for the A's fifth spot in their rotation or a spot as the team's second lefty out of the bullpen. He has posted a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings this spring and has been named to the A's Japan roster. We spoke to the 24-year-old left-hander about his 2007 season and what he is working on for 2008.

OaklandClubhouse: How has Spring Training been going for you?

Dallas Braden: It's been going pretty good. The game plan that I had been wanting to execute this spring in terms of making adjustments has really come to the forefront. Pitch count is down, efficiency is up, and that was the main target.

OC: Did you learn a lot from your time in the major leagues last season?

DB: Oh, definitely. You learn so much not even just about the game of baseball, but just about life in general. Speaking more specifically about the game, you learn just how important certain things are, like efficiency. You learn how important your pitch count is in terms of keeping your team in the game and giving them a chance to win. You also learn that it is a lot harder to win at the big-league level than some people might think.

OC: Last year was your first year back from shoulder surgery. Were you surprised with how quickly you were able to recover and pitch at full strength?

DB: No I wasn't actually. I was just talking about this the other day. I think it is attributed to the workout regimen I had before I went in for the surgery and continued afterwards that kind of allowed me to maintain a level of strength. Last year, to get through the year nice and healthy, with never having a set-back, that was the real key for me.

OC: I spoke with Ron Romanick last season about your change-up and his desire to see you throw that more than the screwball. How comfortable are you with throwing that change-up more often and not throwing the screwball that often, or even at all?

DB: They actually won't let me throw [the screwball] at all. That comes from the fear of really not knowing exactly how the injury in my shoulder occurred. So I am concentrating on just being more effective with a couple of different kinds of change-ups and really focusing on getting the breaking ball – the slider – working. That is what I have been really doing this spring – not over-exposing the change-up. I think I threw two or three in three innings [on Saturday].

OC: You spent some time in the bullpen last season, but you have really been a starter most of your career. Are you comfortable in the bullpen if that is the role that you are asked to play?

DB: I'm comfortable in a baseball uniform. People always talk about trying to get to the big leagues. You want to stay here. Especially because, as fun as it is to get here, it's a lot more fun to stay here. Whatever role that might be in, it really doesn't matter, as long as I am on a ballclub and am able to help and contribute to a winning cause. That is what I want to be doing.

OC: Was your off-season a little different this year since you were able to make a little more money last year?

DB: Oh, definitely. [laughs] It was a lot different. I was able to take care of my grandma and kind of put her at ease. I did a lot of traveling. I went to Ireland and really enjoyed that. I was really able to kind of step-back and take a breath and not have to worry about making a car payment or paying the rent or if I was going to be able to. So it definitely set me at ease a little.

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