MadFriars' Interview: Zech Lemond

EUGENE - Zech Lemond, the Padres’ third round selection out of Rice University this year, is the type of pitcher that the San Diego organization has been targeting in recent years - a physically big pitcher with a big fastball.

The six-foot-four, 200 lbs.Zechariah, he prefers the nickname of Zack, threw three years for Rice where he compiled 155 strikeouts in 162 innings for a 12-3 record in a career that saw him as both a starter and as a closer for the Owls.

Lemond, 21, may have been picked higher if not for a mid-season elbow inflammation that sidelined him for five starts. However, former Padres’ Vice-President of Scouting and Assistant General Manger Chad MacDonald, who ran San Diego’s draft this past year, didn’t seen any lingering concerns and stated that he had “big league quality pitches.”

At Eugene, he got off to a bit of rough start but has settled down since moving into the starters’ role. In 29.1 innings as a starter he has a 1-1 record with a 3.68 ERA and a 20/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19.1 innings.

How did you end up at Rice?

Zech Lemond: I actually went to their camp in the summer after my junior year and they offered me a scholarship afterwards. So that was pretty cool.

You bounced back and forth between the pen and as a starter at Rice, correct?

Zech Lemond: I started one time in my sophomore year and twice in my freshman year. This past season I started four or five games but the rest was coming out of the pen.

How big a difference was there for you between the two roles?

Zech Lemond: To be honest it wasn’t too much. Because even in relief I was going three innings at a time. In either role you have to get outs and if you prepare yourself, you will get outs. The guys I know that see it as a big adjustment like the pen because if you have one plus pitch and one so-so pitch you can make it. As a starter you have to have at least three pitches to be successful.

I am guessing you have at least three?

Zech Lemond: I throw three pitches, fastball, breaking ball and change-up. If you can hit with your fastball it makes everything better and that is all it really takes in my opinion.

For your fastball is it both the four and two-seamer?

Zech Lemond: Typically I throw mostly two-seamers. My last start I threw a few four-seamers for the first time - well, I really can’t remember. I like to throw the two-seamer because the run on it allows me to get a lot of ground ball outs.

I’ve always thought with pitchers it would be the opposite; you would throw the four-seamer first because it is easier to control than the two-seamer.

Zech Lemond: If you get in the pen and work on it, it’s not that hard. All it takes is some hard work.

How does the two-seamer run?

Zech Lemond: To right-handers if I throw it inside it will come right into their hands. If I want it on the outside I start it there and it catches the outside part of the plate.

To lefties it is just running away from their bat the whole time. For both, it just misses the barrel and creates a lot of mishits when its on.

I always enjoy talking to pitchers who come to Eugene because all of you guys enjoy talking about how much you enjoy breaking bats.

Zech Lemond: [laughs] Oh yeah, they mishit the ball and it snaps right there when you throw it inside.

What do you throw for a breaking pitch?

Zech Lemond: A spike curveball, which is really more of a slider for me. It has more of a tight spiral of a slider but has a a much later break than a pure slider and has more of a downward action.

Basically, it just moves the other way of my two-seamer.

How about the change-up?

Zech Lemond: My high school coach made me live and die with it. I had it down pretty well when I got here. It is like all pitches, if you work on it, it improves.

What is the toughest part of throwing a change-up?

Zech Lemond: The change-up with these balls is a little easier. The seams don’t sit up as much as they do in college. I maneuvered my grip a little bit, so that was a bit of an obstacle coming into pro ball but it is working fine now.

Is it a little easier for you to pitch here even though the competition is much better?

By that I mean hitting with a wooden bat is so much harder because the margin of error is smaller than with an aluminum bat.

Zech Lemond: I’m not sure anything is easier or harder than the other. For me its about hitting my spots. The more accurate you are, the better you will be and the sooner you are going to be in the major leagues.

The money and the fun are in the big leagues.

You seem pretty relaxed in that you just worry about things you can control.

Zech Lemond: [laughs] Its funny because our coach at Rice just preached the serenity prayer. Control what you can control and if it’s out of your hands don’t worry about it.

As a pitcher if you can’t control something, don’t worry about it.

What has been the biggest adjustment for you since coming to pro ball?

Zech Lemond: Just a little faster bounce-back because it is five days instead of seven. You have to make sure the next day after a start you get your running in so you are ready for the pen. Then two days off and then its time to go.

The Padres have you starting but coming out of the draft it was unsure whether you would start or relieve. Do they have you as a starter now?

Zech Lemond: I am assuming they have me as a starter because that is what they have me doing. I’m fine, I love it. I just really enjoy competing.

I’m assuming you will say the same thing as everyone else, “whatever gets me to the majors the quickest.”

Zech Lemond: Exactly. If they want me to close a game for them now, I would be happy to do that too [laughs].

What are your plans for the off-season?

Zech Lemond: Physically, I would like to put on a little more weight, around 15 pounds.

In terms of baseball I want to increase my focus level so I can hit in any part of the zone with all of my pitches.

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