So far it seems like a pretty good decision.
Last year in his first full season the 6'9" 275 lbs. Lollis rose faster than any pitcher in the San Diego system in recent memory starting in extended spring training and finishing off pitching in the playoffs for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm.
Despite a 4-7 record with a 5.33 ERA, he has pitched better than his record indicates with 102 strikeouts in 101.1 innings against 40 walks. His biggest problems have occurred in some of the "homerdomes" that the Cal League is famous for as compared to his record at home.
The organization has moved him to the bullpen as they are trying to limit his overall innings. We caught up with Matt at the end of July.
What has been the biggest change from where you were last season to where you are now?
Matt Lollis: I've learned a lot from last year, especially going up to Fort Wayne. Going to big league camp also really helped me this spring. Getting a chance to talk to Mat Latos, Aaron Harang and Dustin Moseley helped quite a bit. Seeing how they worked and go about their business. This year I've had some problems with my delivery but I am trying to work through it in games and in the side sessions.
Both Latos and Harang are tall pitchers like yourself. Did you work on anything really specific to pitchers that are your size?
Matt Lollis: Not really. It was just about on what they do between starts, how they approach hitters and how to get ready for games.
Your secondary numbers are pretty good. The big numbers that are up with you this year are your walks and the number of home runs that you have given up. You have always been the type of pitcher that pounds the zone. Have you ended up throwing a few too many strikes over the plate?
Matt Lollis: Earlier in the year I was making a lot of mistakes over the plate and I can't do that as I move up.
I always have trouble dinging you guys too hard for mistakes. I know its baseball but if you throw 100 pitches and makes mistakes on 10 - that is still an "A" if you are giving letter grades. How do you deal with that?
Matt Lollis: Its a game of failure. You have to approach it by trying to learn from your mistakes and build on what you are doing well.
You moved to the bullpen recently. Is that because of an innings limitation or are they thinking of it becoming a full time move?
Matt Lollis: Right now its just strictly because of an innings count. They have me pitching every fourth day out of the bullpen so keep me in rhythm. Less innings and just trying to stay in there.
Hopefully in late August I will get back in the rotation.
Is it tough getting used to pitching out of the bullpen as opposed to starting?
Matt Lollis: No when I was first signed I was coming out of the bullpen in the AZL and I usually warm up pretty fast. I play catch with the outfielders between innings to stay loose and they give me about an inning heads up; and I'm fine.
Do you see your velocity kick up because you are in there for such a short burst?
Matt Lollis: A little but that is when I get in trouble because I try to do too much. I do much better when I approach it as a start and focus more on pitching as opposed to just trying to throw it as hard as I can.
You always seemed very focused on throwing three pitches or less to get the batter out as opposed to going for the strikeout. Its kind of a rare quality to find in a young pitcher.
Matt Lollis: Strikeouts are good but they are also going to move your pitch count up. I like getting strikeout but I would rather go deep into games. But that is also where I get in trouble sometimes by trying to pound the zone to much.
I really like to get our guys on and off the field quickly. Not give the other pitcher a chance to rest too much and keep things moving.
Are you still throwing the curve and the slider?
Matt Lollis: Right now out of the pen they just want me throwing the slider. I still work on the curve when I'm playing catch, just to keep the feel for it.
You talked about the experience in big league camp, mainly about preparing for games. What is the one thing you are doing now because of that experience that you weren't before?
Matt Lollis: Its not only what they do on the field but also off. Maybe one time they will go out and get a little extra running in or throw a little more. Just do a little extra to get prepared.
I think it will help me down the road especially as you get older. You just can't turn it on and off like you can when you are younger.
You know you are not going to be 21 until September right?
Matt Lollis [laughs] Hey, I said 'when I get older.'
Matt LollisHarang really does a lot of work in the side sessions. Some days he will go short, other days long. He plays catch with all of his pitches and really works between starts.
There was some questions about your physique last year and you look like you are in good shape. What have you been doing to stay in shape?
Matt Lollis: Watching my diet, trying to cut some foods out. Maybe eat a little less, run a little more. I'm still getting stronger in the gym, but losing more fat and replacing it with muscle.
Not anything really drastic, just trying to get better a little at a time.