MadFriars' Interview: Kevin Quackenbush

LAKE ELSINORE: Kevin Quackenbush was taken in the 8th round of the 2011 Rule IV draft out of the University of South Florida. At USF, Quackenbush set a school record with a 0.80 ERA in 2011, where he was named All Big East and led the conference in saves.

Since being drafted, Quackenbush continued right where he left off with the Bulls. He appeared in 35 games between Eugene and Fort Wayne in 2011. In those games he managed to post jaw dropping numbers of 0.64 ERA in forty-two innings pitched with a 71/12 K/BB ratio while holding opponents to a .172 batting average.

In 2012 he has continued his success in the Cal League with Lake Elsinore. He is sporting a 0.98 ERA and has more strikeouts than innings pitched, 67 strikeouts in fifty-five innings, and is leading the league and organization in saves.

On the mound Quackenbush, 23, is an imposing figure with a delivery that combines deception and power. We caught up with Kevin to talk about moniker madness, closing and his success.

You reached the semi-finals for "moniker madness." What is it like having your name plastered all over minor league baseball?

Kevin Quackenbush: I guess it is nice being recognized for my name. I have always had a pretty unique name. It's cool.

Do you think you have a shot at winning?

Kevin Quackenbush: Yeah, I guess. It doesn't really matter to me, but why not.

Have you always wanted to be a closer?

Kevin Quackenbush: Yeah, I was asked during my sophomore year in college to move to the closer's role and I haven't looked back since. It's a lot of fun, and I don't think I would go back to starting.

What are the differences you see between starting and closing?

Kevin Quackenbush: For me, it was difficult at first.

The most difficult part of it was the uncertainty of when you were going to pitch. Even as the closer, you have to be ready at any time. You never know when the eighth inning guy will struggle and the manager wants you to come in early. You don't have the time that you do as a starter to get ready; it is just warm up as fast as you can and go in. Once you get used to it though, you build a routine, and it gets easier.

Some people believe that a closer has to have a certain mentality to do a good job closing out games. Do you believe this?

Kevin Quackenbush: I think everyone coming out of the bullpen has the same mentality. Get outs! I've really only closed, but as far as I know closing is really the same as any other spot in the pen.

Is it different coming into the game when it is tied?

Kevin Quackenbush: It is pretty much the same no matter when you enter the game. At the same time though the closer the game is the more pressure you feel. If it is a one run game you want to pick your team up and close out the game. You still have that sense when the game is tied as you want to give it back to your offense to win the game, but it is slightly different. It is hard to describe.

What has the Padres' coaches done in the year you've been with the team to help you on the mound?

Kevin Quackenbush: They haven't done anything with my delivery. Mostly it is learning new pitches. My slider has improved and I throw a curveball now. Just tweaking my pitches here and there to give them more movement or make it more consistent.

A year ago you were just being drafted by the Padres. Now you are already up in High-A, what is the biggest difference between last year and this year?

Kevin Quackenbush: Definitely playing a whole season. Getting used to the grind everyday, and making sure you stay healthy and consistent during long stretches in the season without a day off.

Is it more mental than physical?

Kevin Quackenbush: Physically it definitely takes a toll on you, but for the most part it is a mental grind.

Has the hitter friendly parks in the Cal League affected how you pitch at all?

Kevin Quackenbush: To some extent. You know when you are in a hitters park you have to be more careful about keeping the ball down and away from the middle of the plate. If you mix up your pitches, and keep the hitters off balance though, it doesn't matter where you pitch, you can be effective.

When scouts describe you they always start by saying you have a "big fastball." What does that mean to you?

Kevin Quackenbush: I use my fastball to set up my other pitches. I can control it both up and down and left and right. It doesn't have to be triple digits to be effective.

You have a sub 1 ERA after 2/3 of the season. That is virtually unheard of in the Cal League. What has helped you be so effective every game?

Kevin Quackenbush: I don't think I have done much differently from last year. Outside of working on the new pitches, I have been really trying to cut down on my walks. No free passes. I am want to force them to put the ball in play.

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