Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Mike Madsen, SP

PHOENIX -- Last season, Mike Madsen was one of the bright spots in the Oakland A's minor league system. After a disappointing 2006 campaign, Madsen rebounded in 2007 by going 11-5 with a 3.84 ERA in 147.2 innings. Along the way, Madsen moved up three levels and was named to the MLB Futures Game. We spoke briefly to the right-hander at the A's minor league spring training complex.

Mike Madsen was a prospect on the rise after the 2005 campaign. The right-hander was selected in the 21st round by the A's out of Ohio State in the 2005 draft. After signing, he was assigned to short-season Vancouver, where Madsen dominated the Northwest League. In 80 innings, Madsen posted a 1.69 ERA and allowed only 56 hits. He was named to the Northwest League All-Star team and twice earned league pitcher-of-the-week honors.

The 2006 season didn't go as smoothly for Madsen. He was sent to High-A Stockton to start the season, and he struggled with the Ports, going 6-11 with a 6.68 ERA in 121.1 innings. He also had a brief stint with Double-A Midland, and he allowed 15 runs in 7.1 innings for the Rockhounds. According to former A's minor league pitching coordinator and current bullpen coach Ron Romanick, Madsen left too many pitches up in the strike-zone in 2006 and "gave up more soft hits into the 6-5 hole than anyone in the league."

The A's gave Madsen another shot at High-A to start the 2007 season. Armed with a new pitch and a better sense of where to locate his fastball in the strike zone, Madsen found much more success with Stockton the second time around. In four starts with the Ports, Madsen posted a 3.75 ERA and struck out 20 in 24 innings. He was promoted to Double-A Midland early in the season and it was with the Rockhounds that Madsen really hit his stride. In 11 starts for Midland, Madsen had a 2.76 ERA and 69 strike-outs in 65.1 innings. He was so dominant with Midland that he was named to the Texas League All-Star game despite spending the first month of the season at High-A.

Madsen was given a promotion to Triple-A in late June, where he would spend the rest of the season. He didn't find as much success with Sacramento – posting a 5.09 ERA in 10 starts – but he went 5-1, held opposing batters to a .245 BAA and pitched well in the playoffs for the River Cats. Madsen was also given the honor of being named to the USA squad for the annual prospect showcase MLB Futures Game, which was played in San Francisco at AT&T Park. He finished the season with an overall mark of 11-5 and a 3.84 ERA with 129 strike-outs in 147.2 innings.

We spoke to Madsen at the A's minor league spring training complex where he is preparing for what he hopes to be another successful season.

OaklandClubhouse: What did you take from the success you had in 2007?

Mike Madsen: It was a great year. Obviously I earned my frequent-flier miles that year. [laughs] I learned a lot over the past year. In the off-season, I developed a new pitch. I took all of the hard times from that first year in Stockton and put it all together and came out with a good year.

OC: What was it like to be part of the MLB Futures Game?

MM: It was exciting. I saw a lot of familiar faces, saw some new guys and met a lot of people. Obviously, I didn't get into the game, so that was a little bit of a disappointment, but I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to go. I was privileged to represent Oakland in that game.

OC: Did you enjoy playing at AT&T Park?

MM: Absolutely. It was only my second time at that ballpark and first out on that field. It was a good time to be in that locker room and experience the big league atmosphere.

OC: What do you think was the key to your turnaround in 2007?

MM: I set out to try to keep my fastball down, and I was able to execute with that. The addition of a breaking ball – a curveball – was also huge for me. It gives me one extra weapon to go to in situations where I need something extra. That was it, pretty much. Mechanically, I stayed the same. I just made a couple of adjustments getting the ball down in the strike zone.

OC: Do you have any goals for this season?

MM: I want to get my walks down no matter where I'm sent to pitch. I'm not sure where I'll be sent, but no matter what, I want to get my walks down and attack hitters early in the count and hopefully get them out early [in the at-bat].

Also, hopefully, get to the big leagues this year. That is the number one goal. Whatever happens, happens, but basically I just want to have success getting the ball down.

OC: Having spent almost half a season at Triple-A, do you feel like you are right on the edge of being big league-ready?

MM: Yeah, I feel like I am real close. Seeing these guys come down from big league camp and see what they are doing, it has really helped me. It's nice to be on the bubble and be this close [to the big leagues], but the hard work continues. There is a lot of competition out there, so I just have to keep doing my thing.

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