MadFriars' Interview: Matt Lollis

PEORIA, AZ: Matt Lollis was the 2010 MadFriars' pitcher of the year. At a staggering 6'9" 250 lbs., he looks more like a center on a basketball team than a professional pitcher. Like most players that have been gifted with abnormal height, Lollis takes full advantage and uses it to make his repertoire more imposing.

After being drafted by the Padres in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, Lollis did not make much of an impression on fans when he went 0-0 with a 5.19 ERA in 6 G in AZL.

Despite the lack of domination, Lollis was given a spot in a very talented Eugene rotation that included the likes of Keyvius Sampson and Adys Portillo. In spite of a lack of hype, Lollis put up the best numbers on the staff and earned a promotion to Fort Wayne.

In nine starts with Fort Wayne, Lollis put up even better numbers going 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA and doing enough to earn the coveted MadFriars' pitcher of the year award.

After exploding on the prospect map, Matt wasn't able to duplicate his stunning performance from 2010.

In 2011 he went 4-8, with a 5.35 ERA. He struggled so much that the opening day starter for the Storm was relegated to the pen; partly because his mechanics were slightly off and to keep his innings down.

Determined to rebound in 2012 we caught up with Matt during spring training in Peoria.

What was it like being named the opening day pitcher for the Storm last year?

Matt Lollis: It was a lot of fun. I got to return home [from Riverside], and pitch in front of my friends and family.

It was actually the first time I broke camp with a full season team, so being named the opening day starter was quite an honor. Seeing everyone excited for baseball to begin again just made me excited and grateful to be the opening day starter.

Obviously the season did not go the way I wanted it to go, but I took a lot away from it and know what I need to improve upon to get better at my craft.

What do you think was the reason for your struggles last year?

Matt Lollis: Obviously the Cal League has a reputation for having some of the best hitters parks in all of baseball. I will not use it as an excuse, but I made some mistakes mainly with leaving pitches up in the zone, and hitters made me pay for it.

The hitters are older and smarter, and you will not see nearly as many players swing wildly. They do not get fooled as often, and can make adjustments mid at bat.

You can really begin to see that baseball is a game of constant adjustments. I wish it could have gotten better, but it is what it is and I can only look back and try to improve.

What did you do during the offseason to help you make those improvements?

Matt Lollis: I ended up working at a golf course for most of the offseason. Gave myself a few weeks to relax and reflect back on the past season.

I had a chance to visit family and friends, which while fun and relaxing will hopefully help me get back my mindset that helped me do so well in previous years.

Some of the problems might have just been a problem of thinking too much, and then trying to be too perfect.

When the New Year came I went down to San Diego, and spent the rest of the time working out and getting prepared to come into camp both mentally and physically prepared.

I came out to Peoria as soon as I could and have been working with the coaches .

What have you been working with the coaches on?

Matt Lollis: The past few weeks I have really been working on throwing my curveball harder. I feel like it got away from me last year.

This year I have been working on throwing it very similar to my fastball, and give it a free and easy spin that will give it more of a break. It also has allowed me to command it a bit better.I have been able to move it around the zone better than I was last year.

I am also getting back my two-seamer. When I went to the pen I didn't need to throw as many pitches, so since it wasn't working for me in the Cal League I didn't throw it as often. Now it feels as if it is back, and will hopefully be another weapon for me moving forward.

What was your favorite moment of last year?

Matt Lollis: Winning the [Cal League] Championship. I know we had a good team coming out of spring training, and like most players I knew anything could happen if we made the playoffs. It was a great experience not only to end up making the playoffs but winning it all.

We had a great group of guys last year who all worked really hard to achieve their goal.

What was it like being asked to go from the starting rotation to the bullpen?

Matt Lollis: I didn't mind it at all. I actually enjoyed it as I had already done it before in junior college.

The atmosphere of being a bullpen guy is completely different from being a starting pitcher.

You have to be ready at all times for the call, and unlike starting you can come into a situation with runners on. While you want to do well, you also want to pick your teammate up. It is a different challenge but something that I didn't mind.

Was that the biggest difference between starting and relieving?

Matt Lollis: With starting you pretty much know what days you are going to throw, and can have a routine to know what you need to do get ready.

With the bullpen you have to be prepared to get called up at any time, unless they tell you before the game that you have the day off. If not you have to be ready to go at any time for any situation.

Do you feel your size allows you to intimidate some of the smaller players?

Matt Lollis: Ya I think it can be a big help. Especially with the little speedy leadoff hitters.

A lot of them try to bunt for a base hit, but think twice when they see me charging towards home or down the first base line.

It also gives me a better angle with my pitches allowing for more movement which is always a good thing.

What are your goals for 2012?

Matt Lollis: Main thing is to stay healthy and work on being more consistent with my pitches. It doesn't matter where I go [San Antonio or Lake Elsinore], I just want to be able to help my team win.

Do you want to be back in the starting rotation?

Matt Lollis: They asked me at the beginning of spring training what I wanted, and I told them I will do anything they want me to.

If they want me to start one day and then pitch from the pen the next I am fine with it. I will do whatever the coaches want that will keep me pitching.

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