Thomas Oldham: One to Watch's Joe Kaiser had a chat with M's left-hander Thomas Oldham. The Creighton Blue Jay product was 10-9 with a 3.01 ERA and an organizational-best 188 strikeouts in 158.2 innings last season. So the season's been over for about two months now, what are you doing with yourself during these winter months?

Tom Oldham: Right now I'm working at a financial corporation in Omaha, Nebraska during the days, then working out at night. I recently got engaged and took a vacation to Colorado Springs which has been the highlight of my offseason so far.

ITP: How much are you missing the mound, the clubhouse, and the baseball life?

Oldham: Getting back home happened so fast I didn't have time to really think about the season ending. We lost game four of the second round, said goodbye to everyone in the clubhouse, got back to our apartments to pack, and then sleep for three hours in order to get up for the 4:30 am bus for the airport. In less than 9 hours after the game I was home. Once I got back it was nice seeing everyone and being back, but then the itch starts to come back and I'm ready to get back out there again.

ITP: How long did it take for the itch to return?

Oldham: Once I realized the next six months would be spent standing in front of a copy machine! So only a few weeks.

ITP: Lets talk about last season... a breakout year for you. Were you surprised at what you did out on the mound? (6-6, 2.93 ERA at Wisconsin, 4-3, 3.21 ERA at Inland Empire)

Oldham: At the start of the season, (Timber Rattlers pitching coach) Brad Holman and I figured out that I needed to make a change in how I approached the mound mentally and emotionally. I needed to become a more rational pitcher, than emotional. So I started to read up on it, and make the necessary changes in my game out on the mound. I was pleased right away with the results, but it was such a continuing process that I never got caught up with numbers or anything like that. Every game, every bullpen was just pitch to pitch...did I execute it or not? So, I wouldn't say surprised, just fortunate to find a huge change in my pitching that helped me to learn more about myself out on the mound.

ITP: How much of pitching is confidence, and trusting your stuff?

Oldham: Confidence is one of the biggest assests a pitcher can take to the mound. Al Leiter once said, "Three years ago, if I had runners on second and third with nobody out, they're both scoring. Just through lack of confidence. And that's just the difference between having a good year and a bad year."

ITP: What pitches do you throw? What is your bread and butter and what is a pitch you are developing?

Oldham: I throw a fastball, change-up, curve, and slider. I would have to say my changeup is my best pitch cause it helps to set up all my other pitches, and I'm developing a slider.

ITP: If you could be any big leaguer, who would it be and why?

Oldham: Johan Santana. The why would be because of how he attacks hitters with all of his pitches, keeps them off balance with his changeup, and the poise he brings to the mound every game he is out there.

ITP: What's your favorite play in baseball? Set the stage and describe why it's your fave?

Oldham: Definitely when an outfielder throws a guy out at home plate. As a pitcher you love this. In the back of your mind, you want to strike the hitter out, but this is the next best thing because of the suspense. Ok, fly ball, you know its gonna be caught, but now your wondering if the throw will be online, is the runner gonna get a good jump...all these things run through your head...but it all happens so fast.

ITP: If you could take a certain pitch from one guy in the M's organization and put it all into one person (ie: Felix's fastball, etc) who would you take from for each pitch?

Oldham: Can I just say Felix Hernandez for all of them? … I would take Felix's fastball (obviously), Nageotte's slider, Huber's curveball, and Blackley's changeup… or just Felix for all of them.

ITP: And for command?

Oldham: Bobby, who else? Bobby Livingston for command.

ITP: When you step on the mound in the first inning, take us through what is going through your mind? Are you in a zone? Do you feel sick? Are you nervous? What's in that dome of yours?

Oldham: When I'm listening to the National Anthem I just try to think about nothing...I just follow the song and I've found that helps to calm my heart rate down. Once that is over, I just focus on thinking small and just executing. I've really tried to become completely involved with just taking it pitch by pitch, from the first inning to the last. So my mindset in the first is the same as in the last inning I throw.

ITP: What do you want to get out of the 2005 season? What goals do you have?

Oldham: My goal is to build on last year and keep moving forward in developing every aspect of pitching. Baseball is a sport where you are judged on "what have you done for me lately," so you have to move forward and keep progressing.

Special thanks to Tom Oldham for putting down the baseball long enough to conduct this question and answer session.

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