Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Jason Fernandez, P

When the Kane County Cougars began piling up the wins during the second half of the 2007 season, their pitching staff was a driving force behind the team's success. Although Trevor Cahill and Henry Rodriguez might have received most of the ink on that staff, Jason Fernandez was just as effective as his teammates. We recently spoke to the right-hander, who was filling in at Triple-A Sacramento.

Jason Fernandez very quietly put together one of the best seasons of any pitcher in the Midwest League in 2007. The Louisiana native appeared in 31 games for the Kane County Cougars in 2007, starting 11. He went 8-2 with two saves and posted an impressive 2.77 ERA in 110.2 innings. Fernandez struck-out 99 and held opposing batters to a .209 batting average.

When the A's minor league spring training ended, Fernandez broke camp with the High-A Stockton Ports, where he was expected to fill a similar role with the Ports as he did with Kane County last season. However, before he could appear in his first game with Stockton, Fernandez was called upon to make some spot appearances for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.

Fernandez struggled in his two outings for Sacramento, allowing six runs in four innings. However, the right-hander feels that he learned a lot from his time in the most advanced minor league level. Fernandez is now back with Stockton, where he is likely to see his first action with the Ports on Thursday.

We spoke with Fernandez over the weekend while he still with Sacramento about his experience at Triple-A, his thoughts on his success with Kane County last season and his outlook on the 2008 campaign…

OaklandClubhouse: How do you feel your appearances in Triple-A went?

Fernandez made two appearances for Sacramento this season.
Jason Fernandez: They were good. It's obviously a lot tougher up here. These guys are a lot better [than in A-ball]. You are throwing to a number of veteran guys, some of whom may have been playing pro ball longer than I have been playing baseball. It's an experience. I have definitely had a good experience. I've learned a lot things during the last two outings, that's for sure.

OC: You didn't really get a lot of time with Stockton before you were called up to Sacramento, but what are your expectations of the type of role that you are likely to have when you go back to the Ports?

JF: I'm just here to do whatever they tell me to do. In Stockton, I was in a little piggy-back rotation with Jared Lansford. I'm sure eventually I'll probably go back to doing that. I'm probably going to get those starting innings in [with the Ports]. I was up [in Sacramento] to fill in a couple of slot roles. They had a couple of guys who were injured. But I'm just here to fill whatever role they want me to fill. I'm not a guy who is asking for one specific inning or anything like that. I feel like I can come in and get the job done in whatever situation they call me for.

OC: You spent time as a starter and as a reliever with Kane County last season. Which role do you prefer?

JF: Oh, man. I get asked that question a lot, which one I like to do the most. [laughs] As a starter, you get to eat up a lot more innings and you get some exposure out there. But I'm a guy that can get in my own head a little bit when I am starting. As a reliever, I just get my name called and I go out there and just do it. So I think I'd probably say relieving. I like relieving a little bit better.

OC: At Kane County last season, you guys struggled at the start of the year, but really put it together at the end of the season. Did it just take the team awhile to gel last year?

JF: The team added a couple of new players at the end of the year and that was kind of a pick-me-up for everybody. At the beginning of the year, we just couldn't find a way to win. Towards the end of the year, we couldn't find a way to lose.

I think the starting rotation really came together towards the end of the year. With Trevor [Cahill] and Henry [Rodriguez], when you throw behind guys like that, they are going to push you. Then if you can go out there and pitch as well as them, they go out and try to match you. I think that starting rotation really pushed each other a lot last year and we did a good job with that. Then the hitters just absolutely went off towards the end of the year and put up a lot of runs. That always makes pitching a lot easier.

OC: How did your spring training go?

JF: I feel like spring training went really well. It was really hot. [laughs] But it was good. I felt like I threw well. To break camp with a team was something I really wanted to strive for, and I got to do that, so I was pretty satisfied.

OC: What pitches are you throwing right now?

JF: Right now, I am throwing a sinker, a four-seam [fastball], slider, curveball and a change-up.

OC: Are any of those pitches ones that you picked up since college?

JF: Since college, I have turned more into a sinker guy. I didn't really throw that many sinkers in college. I really just tried to throw everything by guys in college and I learned pretty quickly that you can't do that in pro ball. [laughs]

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