Padres Prospect Interview: Mark Hardy

San Diego Padres prospect Mark Hardy dominated at two levels and was rewarded with a spot start in Double-A San Antonio near the end of the season. His ability to change speeds confounded hitters.

What're you working on when you go there between starts?

Mark Hardy: Well, when it is just the second day after so it's just a light side pen. So it's about 15-20 pitches. Just working on mechanics and staying loose and fluid. I'm just focusing on fastballs and changeups to both sides of the plate.

The guy who always sits in front of the plate in that first session, does that carry over where now when he steps behind the plate you kind of go it's even lower? Everyone always talks about down the zone for the pitcher. You get in front of the plate you're hitting the target. Take it back a step and you're working down.

Mark Hardy: For the light side, you don't want to strain your arm too much – just nice and fluid getting on that good angle down the plate - so then tomorrow when I feel my full side it'll just be straight downhill and the catcher will be back, and it'll just be strikes down the zone.

What's been the difference in the two leagues for you? You came up from Arizona to Eugene.

Mark Hardy: The middle of the order guys have a bit more power – you just have to be a bit careful. Not really that much – guys just trying to get hits and I'm just trying to get outs – the same as baseball. I find that in pro ball, though, a lot of guys are swinging early in the counts and being really aggressive so first pitch you can't just let it go out there. You have to make quality pitches early on.

Everybody talks about first pitch strikes. When you see a guy who's aggressive are you trying to get it off the plate a little bit?

Mark Hardy: Well, not get it off, but if you hit the corner first pitch and maybe he's swinging you'll get an early grounder or something like that.

Talk a little about your repertoire - what you throw and the speed you throw at.

Mark Hardy: I throw fastball, curve, change, and slider. Slider's probably my out pitch, but I like to use all four. Any count - I just like to keep hitters off balance.

It's pretty rare to find a guy who's able to throw both a curve and slider. Usually somebody wants to pick one or the other. Has that been the case yet?

Mark Hardy: Not really. I always used to throw curve but then in college my coach gave me the slider. That's actually my "go to" pitch, but I find that if I mix in my curveball sometimes (I only throw it every so often) it's nice to have the speed difference because my sliders I can throw a bit harder than my curveball.

How do you attack left-handers versus right-handers differently?

Mark Hardy: I like to go more sliders on lefties and changeups on righties.

As a left-hander, everyone talks about how you've got to get those left-handers in!

Mark Hardy: Yeah, I love facing lefties because my slider and curveball combination is pretty good.

Is there deception in there too?

Mark Hardy: Yeah, I don't throw overly hard so I have to have some sort of deception. I don't have a good windup. I just like to hit my spots and make the hitters get themselves out.

Have people said that they can't see the ball?

Mark Hardy: I don't think it's not seeing the ball, I think it's the movement on the ball. My ball moves pretty well.

They say movement is better than speed, right?

Mark Hardy: There you go. That's what I'm hoping for.

You've been to two levels. If you could take one pitch from one of your teammates, what pitch would you take, why, and from whom)? You could put it into your own arsenal

Mark Hardy: Adys Portillo's fastball at 95 wouldn't be too bad, I guess. Probably that.

Give me one hitter that you're glad is a teammate of yours – maybe he rakes, whatever it is about him (maybe you don't want to face him)…whatever!

Mark Hardy: Probably Rico Noel. He's a good leadoff guy. He takes a lot of pitches so the pitcher has to throw a lot of balls to him and in later counts, he always seems to get the bat on the ball and finds his way on because he's pretty fast.

What's the off season going to be like for you after? You don't necessarily have to go back to school, right?

Mark Hardy: I actually am going back to school. I'm finishing up my degree at the University of British Columbia, so I'll go there and in the winter just take time off, work out, and probably start throwing again in January or February.

Hockey fan?

Mark Hardy: Yeah, I guess you could say that. Yeah I am, but compared to other Canadians, not as much.

Who's your team?

Mark Hardy: Canucks, obviously!

It's a great city, by the way. So what're their chances in the coming year?

Mark Hardy: We're always hoping! They're getting better and better, they're just not really great in the playoffs. That is a fact!

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