Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Vince Mazzaro, SP

Over the past 12 months, one of the biggest stories in the Oakland A's system has been the emergence of 2005 third-round pick Vince Mazzaro. Mazzaro had a breakout 2008 campaign with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds, winning the Texas League Pitcher of the Year award and ERA title. We caught-up with Mazzaro in Sacramento over the weekend…

Anyone who had ever seen Vince Mazzaro pitch before the 2008 season likely came away from the experience with the feeling that it was only a matter of time before he emerged as a top pitching prospect. The right-hander flashed plus stuff during his first two professional seasons, but he was inconsistent with Low-A Kane County and High-A Stockton, posting ERAs in the 5.00s in each of those two seasons.

It all finally came together for Mazzaro in 2008. He opened some eyes during minor league spring training last year and was promoted to Double-A Midland to start the year, despite his inconsistency with Stockton in 2007. Mazzaro responded by becoming the Texas League's top pitcher. In 22 starts for the Rockhounds, Mazzaro went 12-3 with a 1.90 ERA. He allowed only 115 hits in 137.1 innings and had a 104/36 K/BB ratio. He also only gave up three homeruns.

In August, Mazzaro made his debut with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. He wasn't able to duplicate his success with Midland, posting a 6.15 ERA in 33.2 innings, but a 27/9 K/BB ratio portend better things for Mazzaro at the Triple-A level in 2009. He was solid during the Pacific Coast League playoffs for Sacramento, going 1-0 with a 3.97 ERA in two starts in helping to deliver the title.

Mazzaro was invited to major league spring training this year for the first time in his career. The 22-year-old was the talk of camp in the early going, as he reeled off 8.2 scoreless innings to start the spring. He stumbled in his final two outings with the A's before being sent to minor league camp, but the impression he left on the big league team was that it was only a matter of time before he would be in the major leagues for good.

Mazzaro got the Opening Night nod for the River Cats last Thursday and he responded with an outstanding outing. Limited by a pitch count, Mazzaro was only allowed to throw four innings. He didn't allow a hit in those four innings and walked two while striking out five. Mazzaro is scheduled to make his second start for the River Cats tonight at Raley Field.

We caught-up with Mazzaro on Sunday to get his thoughts on his progress as a pitcher, his experience in spring training and more…

OaklandClubhouse: You obviously had a strong spring with the big league team for most of the time. Did you learn a lot from that experience?

Vince Mazzaro: Yeah, I learned a lot from a few guys. Dallas Braden I talked to a lot and Dana Eveland. Just talking about baseball and how different it is from the minor leagues to the big leagues and the different things that I had to work on. When I got sent down, I took all of that stuff with me and I have been working on it ever since and have taken it into the games.

OC: Your first start of the year, you left after pitching four hitless innings. Was it disappointing to be on a pitch count when you were throwing like that?

VM: Yeah, but I'm going to have my shot again. I have plenty starts left this year. They have me on a pitch count right now coming out of spring training and that's fine.

OC: You got to travel with the big league club to the Bay Bridge Series. Was that fun?

VM: Yeah, that was exciting. I had a great time there playing in that stadium. It was really nice. I got to meet a few guys and watch Tim Lincecum and Randy Johnson pitch, which was pretty exciting.

OC: What are the things that you are going to be working on this year?

VM: I'm going to go at it with the same mentality I had over the past four years. I am going to concentrate on pumping strikes. My change-up has gotten a lot better and so I will continue to use that and try to get early contact and keep the team in the ballgame.

OC: Was the change-up what you thought the big key was for you last year in the Texas League?

VM: I think that helped me out a lot. You can use it to get further into the game with less pitches on you and it is a lot easier on the arm. I think that helped me out a lot. I got a lot of groundballs with it and I think it is going to be key this year.

OC: How was it to get the PCL championship ring [on Saturday]?

VM: It was exciting. It is a nice ring. It is the first time I have ever won a championship, so it was great.

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