Mitch Atkins Q&A

Having led the Cubs' farm system with 13 victories and posting a 2.41 ERA a season ago, Mitch Atkins knew the importance of proving that last year was no fluke.

The 21-year-old right-hander did just that, getting off to a strong start with Class A Daytona and posting a 1.88 ERA in his first 10 starts of 2007.

Atkins would earn Florida State League All-Star honors and a late-season promotion to Double-A Tennessee, finishing up 9-8 with a 3.57 ERA in 141 innings combined. He struck out 106 and walked 42.

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You've had a good amount of success these past couple of years. Does your success this past season mean anything more than that of a year ago?

Mitch Atkins: I would say so, just because I got a promotion toward the end of the year, and knowing that having one good year and not having a bad one proves that (last year) wasn't a fluke.

The promotion from High-A ball to Double-A seemed to come a little later than what most expected with the numbers you put up in the first half. Were you surprised that it took until August to get moved up?

Mitch Atkins: I knew I was playing good enough to get called up, so I didn't really worry about it too much. There are some things that you really don't have any control over, so you can't really worry about them.

What did you view as the biggest difference in the competition between High-A and Double-A?

Mitch Atkins: The hitters were a little more patient and they hit the breaking ball a little better. They don't fish as much, as there were a few more free-swingers in Daytona. There were a lot better hitters in Tennessee.

You had a rough start in Double-A once you got there, but you tossed seven strong innings in one start afterward. How much did that help ease you into the new level?

Mitch Atkins: It showed that I could compete with them. I know I can compete with them. It was pretty up and down. When I first got there, I felt that my stuff wasn't as good as it's been. Toward the end of the season, I turned around and felt a little more comfortable and was throwing the ball better.

What did you spend most of the year working on with your pitches? Early on in the year, you had talked about just repeating your game and carrying that with you into this season. But what were some of the new things that you tried?

Mitch Atkins: I tried to work on a two-seamer and I started throwing a cutter toward the end of the season. I think that's going to be a pretty good pitch for me in the next couple of years. Toward the end of the season when I was in Tennessee, I was throwing around the night before the game. I was just messing around with it and threw it a couple of times during the game and got some outs with it and some groundballs. I think it will be a good pitch for me. I've been working on that because it feels a little inconsistent for me. When I throw it right, it's a good pitch for me. Other than that, (it was) just throwing my off-speed stuff when I got behind in the count.

Are you pleased with the development of your off-speed stuff (curveball, changeup)?

Mitch Atkins: Yeah, my curveball seems to be getting a little better. The changeup and everything seems to be making gradual progress. It will never be as good as I want it to be or I probably wouldn't be playing in the minor leagues.

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