MadFriars' Interview: Zach Herr

LAKE ELSINORE: Zach Herr, 24, was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the thirty-eighth round of the 2008 draft out of the University of Nebraska. Herr left Nebraska fourth all-time in appearances with the Cornhuskers and in his senior year he struck out 49 batters in 34 innings pitched against only 13 walks.

Despite his collegiate success 5'9" pitchers tend not to get scouts too excited. However Herr has pitched well since joining the Padres organization and was one of the mainstays in the bullpen on the championship TinCap team in 2009 with 80 strikeouts in 56.2 innings pitched.

Last year his ERA went down in Lake Elsinore from '09 but his walks were up and strikeouts down.

This year Herr has returned to the form he showed in the Midwest League in '09 with a 3.22 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched against only 27 walks.

When you compare what you are doing this year to last, your walks are down, strikeouts are up, hits per inning are down - and you had a good season last year. What has been the reasons for your success?

Zach Herr: I don't know. I've been doing the same things that I did last year, just attacking the zone. Its not trying to work any harder or doing something different, its just sticking with how I've always pitched - attack the zone.

Last year they put the ball in play, this year they are too. Maybe I'm just hitting a few more spots a little better.

Can we go over what you throw again? You have a two-seam fastball, curve and a change?

Zach Herr: I throw two-seam away and a four-seam glove side in addition to a curveball and slider.

How about the velocity?

Zach Herr: High 80's to low 90's. It really varies.

Your manager Phil Plantier made a point, which is what you have said that a big reason for your success is your aggressiveness. Now as someone who doesn't do this for living like you do - how are you able to pound the zone as much as you do without having a huge fastball? Do you have that much confidence?

Zach Herr: Its all about trusting what you throw if you can't do that you might as well go home [laughs]. If you believe you can hit the spots and execute the pitch, then that is all you can do. Its what I've been taught and its also what the Padres preach.

Whatever happens is what happens.

Phil also talked about your ability to place all of your pitches at any time in the count.

Zach Herr: I can say that last year I was good with my fastball but my curve and change were not as consistent. This year all three of my pitches have been working.

The secondary pitches really start to develop the more you play and work on them.

Last time I spoke with you was in Fort Wayne in 2009. Going into your third year as a professional how much have you learned and how different is it from college and high school?

Zach Herr: Its rough and it takes a toll on your body. I've had my fair share of injuries on my shoulder and elbow - its a grind. You really have to mentally prepare yourself, and in college they try to help you with that, but when you get into this and there is only an off-day once or twice a month.

And you are in the pen, its not like you can take four days off to get your running in.

Zach Herr: Yeah [laughs]. It really becomes mental and that is what you really learn after being here for awhile. I've been lucky to have some great coaches all the way that have rally helped me out along the way.

After watching you pitch a few times, you are not only aggressive in the zone but you are a fairly aggressive fielder too. The other night you ran a guy down on the basepaths.

Zach Herr: Well I was taught there are no small things in baseball. I take everything seriously. I made a few errors in a game against Visalia and I came out here early to work on my fielding.

I've always thought you were one of the more underrated pitchers in the organization. Coming into the year what were your biggest goals other than staying healthy and being consistent?

Zach Herr: One of the biggest things for me is being consistent - and I know I wasn't supposed to say that [laughs].

In the past I would have a bad game and let it affect me too much. The key is to just keep doing your thing, just keep working and hopefully things will work out.

Last question, what has been your most improved pitch?

Zach Herr: My curve ball came back. In Fort Wayne I had it, last year I didn't. I just couldn't get guys to swing at it last year or throw it for strikes. This year I can.

12-6 curve?

Zach Herr: Yup and my changeup has definitely progressed since I've been here. Got to even talk to Trevor Hoffman a little in Tucson and Lake Elsinore and he thought I had good stuff.

Really great guy, very down to earth and gives some pretty good advice too.

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