MadFriars' Spring Training: James Needy

Peoria, AZ -  James Needy, 23,  was a star quarterback and pitcher for Santana High School when he turned down the University of San Diego to sign with his hometown team that drafted him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft.

In his first two years he fought through injuries before finally getting back on the mound for a sustained period of time in 2012.  Last year in Lake Elsinore, where he was the MadFriars' Pitcher of the Year for that level, Needy had his best season making 27 starts and finishing with a 10-5 record and an impressive 10-5 record in the hitter-friendly California League.

At six-foot-six the big right-hander's game is about is about throwing the ball on a downhill plane which adds depth to his two-seamer and sinker. When he's on hitters to pound the ball into the ground early in counts. He's not going to lead the team in strikeouts, but he is a good candidate to lead the staff in innings pitched and starts, which he did last year for the Storm.

We caught up with James at the end of spring training just before he left for San Antonio to talk about being healthy for the first time, what he was working on in the off-season and facing a professional fastball as a batter.

You pitched more this past year than you ever have before in your carer. How did your arm hold up?

James Needy: After I got home from Texas [Needy was added to the Missions' roster for the Texas League playoffs] I don't think I touched a ball until Thanksgiving.

It wasn't so much that I was worn down, because the season is going to wear you down, but my arm was lagging a little. It was just throwing over 130 innings is going to tire you out some.

That had to be huge for you because in the past you have so disappointed about not having the opportunity to show what you can do.

James Needy: It was big because I had the knee surgery after my first year and then the next season I didn't throw much because I had some problems with my back. In 2012 I was mainly a reliever, so it was nice to get back in the starter role and get 27 starts and have some success. That goes a long way when people start talking about durability.

James Needy: Yeah, I kind of like "Innings Eater" {laughs}. When it comes to starting pitching you have to love that one.

So what was the biggest thing you took from last year that you tried to bring into this season?

James Needy: Just staying consistent. Me and JJ [Jimmie Johnson, the San Antonio Missions' pitching coach] have been working on not to do extra. For example, when I have two strikes on someone I need to work on just making another quality pitch and not trying to do a perfect one.

Just because you have two strikes doesn't mean you have to do something extra, just make another quality pitch. Also staying down in the zone. The higher up you go the better hitters there are and they can crush stuff when you miss locations up.

You changed your mechanics around slightly last year, correct?

James Needy: A little bit. I did some things with my hands. I am a bit of a tinkerer so I've gone back to old mechanics.

In season you make adjustments to get results. In the off-season its about the long-term. I went back to the old way because I thought I could get behind the baseball better.

That is tricky because there is the talk that guys that are "tinkerers" can do too much but at the same time when something isn't working you have to make adjustments. How do you balance that?

James Needy: It's tough. JJ tells me that there are a lot of things that go into changes. The key is knowing when and where to do it. What the situation is and how big a change you are attempting to make.

Since you are a bigger guy it can take awhile to get all the mechanics down.

James Needy: There is a lot more moving around and a lot more to keep consistent. I've noticed it in my career, just getting the muscle memory down is a challenge.

How much time did you spend in the batting cage this off-season in preparation for AA?

James Needy: I spent a little time but you know I haven't hit in a few years and never seen 95. {laughs} Right now I am a little more scared to bunt than to hit.

Even in high school I wasn't a good bunter. I could swing it a little, but man that was a long time ago.

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