Lambert Focused on Fastball Work

With one of the better curveballs in the Cubs' system, Casey Lambert is shifting his focus this season toward working off his fastball. The sixth-round pick from Virginia last summer put together a strong showing across the board a season ago between Class-A Boise and Peoria, where he posted a 2.61 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .176 average against in 41-plus innings.

They say the first spring training for any pitcher is always the toughest. How have things gone for you since arriving in Mesa this spring?

Casey Lambert: I'm throwing well. For the most part, it's been what I expected. It's definitely a grind. When they tell you to come back in shape, they mean it because if you're not, there's pretty much no way I could see getting through it. It's a grind, but it's good because you get to know a bunch of new guys.

Are you happy with the way you came into camp?

Casey Lambert: Yeah, definitely. They give us a kind of workout to follow in the off-season and I did the best I could. I was pretty comfortable coming in and being able to show them I didn't just slack off in the off-season. It's definitely been tough, but it's nothing I can't handle.

Are you pleased with how your first pro season ended up?

Casey Lambert: Yeah, I was. Anytime you start out with a club and you get called into the manager's office and they tell you that you've been promoted, it's a great feeling. I feel like I had an up and down year. It was my first time playing that kind of schedule after a college season. I think it kind of wore me down toward the end and I had a couple of outings where my control wasn't what it needed to be. But overall, it was where I wanted to be at the end of the season. I wanted to learn the ropes and start working my way up the latter a little bit.

I was asked a question about your velocity and if it has changed since you were drafted last summer. Where do you typically sit right now?

Casey Lambert: I'd say it's about average. I'm anywhere from the mid to upper 80s. It's nothing that can really blow anybody away, which is why I'm thankful for being a left-hander. I'm just really focused on trying to make pitches and mixing speeds the best that I can.

What other parts of your arsenal are you looking to polish?

Casey Lambert: Really what I'm doing is trying to perfect locating my fastball on both sides of the plate. At the higher levels, you start to realize that if you throw a fastball on the outer half of the plate, the good hitters will hit line drives. I've been trying to pitch inside a lot more. Most guys maybe know that I'm a breaking ball guy. I'm hoping my fastball will maybe sneak up on them a little better, so mostly I've just been trying to work off my fastball instead of pitching backwards like I've done sometimes in the past.

How much are you working on your third pitch right now? When we spoke last summer, your changeup was the pitch that was still coming around.

Casey Lambert: I had a month during Instructs last year where I was solely working on throwing fastballs and changeups. I also worked on it (changeup) in the off-season. I'm completely confident in the pitch now and have been getting results with it in spring training. I'm just going to take that into the season and be more of a complete pitcher this year.

Your curveball is your out-pitch. Can you go in-depth about it for us?

Casey Lambert: I felt that in college, it was a bigger breaking ball. Now, it's still a curveball, but it's pretty hard and can get up there around 80 (mph), so it's not one of those looping breaking balls. I still call it a curveball. If somebody asks me if I threw somebody I slider, I'm sure to correct them.

What group have you been with this spring?

Casey Lambert: When I got here, I started out with the Double-A group. About a week ago, I got bumped down to Daytona and that's where I've been ever since. I've had two outings with them and it's looking like that might be where I stay.

But that's a good thing, right? You're still moving up a level.

Casey Lambert: Yeah, definitely. That's how I'm looking at it. I'm looking at is as though they've seen what I've done and they'll reward me on my performance. Starting out in the warm weather isn't going to be too bad, either. I played in a game in Appleton (Wis.) toward the end of last year and it was colder than it had been in awhile. I can't imagine what it would be like in the beginning. I heard horror stories from the (series) there (early) last year.

Has there been any inclination that you may become a starter?

Casey Lambert: No, there haven't been any signals pointing in that direction. They haven't really said anything to me and to tell you the truth, I've gotten so comfortable in the bullpen that that's no problem for me at all. I'm comfortable here, but if they ever want to look at me as a starter, I'll do my best in that role as well.

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