MadFriars' Interview: Cody Hebner

FORT WAYNE --- RHP Cody Hebner was taken in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the San Diego Padres out of Green River Community College in Auburn, Washington.

Hebner, 21, after a stellar sophomore year with the Gators that saw him strike out 95 batters in 82 innings with a 1.44 ERA, decided not to accept a scholarship to Arizona State and start his pro career.

After a solid pro debut with Eugene he has arguably been the best pitcher on a very talented TinCaps staff with a 2.35 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 42.2 innings pitched.

The first thing you notice about Hebner is at 5'11" and maybe 170 lbs. after stuffing himself at a Golden Corral buffet line, he doesn't look like the man that is behind his numbers.

Throw in some long multi-toned hair and the demeanor of a Pacific Beach surfer, and you have Cody.

However if you watch him pitch or spend any time talking about pitching with him you will also find out that there is quite a bit more than is on the surface.

You have a unique motion by turning your back to the hitter and twisting your back to get leverage.

Where did you learn to throw that way?

Cody Hebner: Pretty much growing up I've always thrown like that.

I think the first pitcher that I saw that I really like was El Duque [Orlando Hernandez, who mainly pitched with the Yankees] who had the high leg kick. I've always been really flexible so it wasn't difficult for me.

Later on when I was working with my Dad I started to try to get more leverage and learned to torque with my body. I really had to work on controlling all of it and not going to fast.

Its a big thing for me. I'm kind of undersized so I need the leverage and the speed that I get when I do that.

I've read that the big comparison to you is Tim Lincecum, which is great.

Do you also do the type of unique arm exercises that are a little different than other pitchers?

Cody Hebner: I stretch a lot and try to stay as flexible as I can. I really work on my lower back because the separation I get from my lower and upper half is where my velocity really comes from.

If I am not really loose I can overwork my arm. Also I really try to play a lot of long toss, at least three times a week.

You sound like you have a pretty solid understanding of what you need to do. How does this work with Coach Blair here and the Padres' pitching coaches in general?

For example how do they approach you, who is around 5'10" or 5'11" and 170 lbs. with the guy that is 6'5" and 230 lbs.?

Cody Hebner: They come up and ask me questions. They want to know what am I thinking and what I did on a particular pitch.

They will pick up a lot of things that aren't that obvious to most people, like you didn't pick up the target early enough with your eyes.

So it really doesn't matter the size of someone. They will notice if I am pulling off of the ball which causes it to sail up high. They see flaws in everyone.

Its really helpful to guys like me because they understand what type of pitcher that I am while at the same time are able to see things that everyone needs to work on.

I've been doing this for a long time and I've never known any pitcher at this level that can break down his mechanics like you can. What is the biggest improvement that you have seen in your game since you became a pro?

Cody Hebner: I'm keeping the ball down in the zone better and hitting my spots more consistently.

In college I was always trying to throw it by everyone, not that I don't enjoy trying to do the same thing up here from time to time, now I'm trying to stay over my back side so I can get that downward angle.

Its really important for me because at 5'11" I don't have that much of a margin to miss compared to some guy that is 6'5", so that has really helped. You have to conscious of staying back and being on top of the ball and not letting my arm drag.

I really focus on my mechanics so I can really maximize my ability.

What do you throw?

Cody Hebner: A four and two-seam fastballs, slider and a curve.

In the past few years they used to make guys pick between throwing a curve or a slider.

Cody Hebner: Last year I just threw a slider. In the off-season I worked a lot on my slider and curve and showed them both in spring. They still need a lot of work but I take pride in how they are developing.

I want to be able to spot it up in any zone. If I keep my mechanics the same and don't speed up my arm action they will be good pitches.

My slider is around 78 and my curve is around 78 to 82.

What is your fastball topping out at?

Cody Hebner: I think in the spring it got up to 97 once but I'm not sure. I know I've been at 96 a few times. I usually sit at the 92 to 94 range.

I assume the biggest thing you are working on is fastball command?

Cody Hebner: Exactly. If you can command the fastball it can take you places.

What is the biggest change now that you are a full time professional?

Cody Hebner: Obviously I love it. A complete focus on baseball. Its not just something that I do for my school. Its my passion and I really love the game.

The best thing is my baseball uniform is my suit and tie. That is the outfit I wear to work.

Its really cool to work on trying to get better whether its during the season or in the off-season. It can be all sorts of things and a big part of it is mental.

How to pitch to certain batters, how to read swings, how to deal with adversity. Everything there is just so much.

Right now I'm really working on learning how to read swings from pitch to pitch and make adjustments.

I also like to throw with a purpose. I try to make my bullpens as realistic as possible. I like having a guy stand in the box so I can work on keeping the ball low. I really don't want the guy to swing, but it helps me out.

I've been around you guys for a few days and you all seem to get along pretty well. I don't recall ever seeing another team with as many different and unique hair styles.

What caused all the hair dying? Just getting bored on the air?

Cody Hebner: [laughs] You got to switch things up when things aren't working. Donavan [Tate] came up to me, and I'm a pretty weird laid back guy, and asked me if I wanted to dye his hair and I said sure.

I threw a streak in mine that came out a little bigger than I thought it would and right now I'm just going with it.

You are only young once and its all eventually going to go gray on you anyhow like mine.

Cody Hebner: [laughs] Exactly.

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