Others like Matt Stites, Brad Brach and Trevor Gott this year have been used to fill other team needs in trades. In short, San Diego seems to know what it is doing in finding bullpen arms.
This year the Padres seemed to have struck again with Ryan Butler out of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the seventh round, who has been very good with Fort Wayne in the closer’s role and Seth Lucio, 21, who was taken in the twelfth round from Tennessee Tech.
At only five-foot-ten he bears a resemblance to Stites in the sense that both of them rely on fastballs that come in around the mid-90s despite not being blessed with the traditional pitcher’s height.
In three years with the Golden Eagles he struck out 161 batters in 131 innings against 58 walks with 22 saves. The athletic Lucio was also all-league in Locust Grove High School in Georgia as a pitcher and shortstop, hitting .450 his senior year.
So far in Eugene he has been on the same path with 43 strikeouts in in 25.1 innings against only 18 walks.
How did you get to Tennessee Tech?
Seth Lucio: I tried out for this thing called the “Georgia 100” in high school and if you make it you go to play in this tournament which is a type of showcase with scouts and college coaches. The coaches from Tennessee Tech saw me there and then saw me in high school and gave me a call.
I loved it on my visit and decided to go there.
You played three years at Tennessee Tech and struck out quite a few guys per inning there, like you are doing in Eugene.
Before we get into that, what do you throw?
Seth Lucio: A lot of four-seam fastballs. I also have a curve ball and a change-up. When I want to throw something other than a fastball, I usually go to my curve.
You throw in the low to mid-90’s and touch around 95. No offense, but you are not the prototypical six-foot-five, 205 lbs. pitcher that you would expect to generate that type of velocity.
Where does it come from?
Seth Lucio: [laughs] None taken. Mainly my legs and god given ability. The Lord gave me that ability to throw and do it consistently. Not many people that are my size can throw as hard as I can.
I’ve even touched 98 MPH a few times too.
A lot of people when I come to a new team are kind of shocked that I can bring it. When I faced Boise earlier this year I touched 97 and the guys on that team told me they really weren’t expecting that.
It’s great to throw that hard but one thing that kind of gets lost with guys like you is that you can also put it pretty much where you want it too, which is a big part of your success.
Seth Lucio: Definitely. I can work the inside and outside parts of the plate. Placing it is a big part of what I am trying to do.
Have you always a relief pitcher?
Seth Lucio: My freshman year in college I started a few games. My last two years I was the closer for Tennessee Tech.
So I take it you prefer being in the bullpen?
Seth Lucio: Oh yeah. I definitely prefer it to starting. Too much down time.
I’m always amazed how difficult it is to pitch in the middle innings. You can come in during the sixth or seventh inning, maybe the score is tied with runners on third and second with one out and you pretty much have to get the strikeout.
So to me that is why the number of strikeouts per inning is such a big statistic for relief pitchers.
Seth Lucio: If you get called in that point, it’s always pretty clear what is expected of you. I like the pressure and tend to do better when it’s on as opposed to when it’s not.
I like being in that role where I have to shut the door and strike somebody out.
All of the college guys when they first come to the Northwest League really enjoy snapping off some guys new expensive bat after enduring years of pitching to aluminum. Are you like that too?
Seth Lucio: laughs] Yes, it is a lot of fun. If you don’t hit it right with a wooden bat it’s not going anywhere - and if you get them inside it’s going to snap. I love it.
It seems that the most natural adjustment is for you guys, the college relief pitchers. You get to throw to wood instead of metal and you already are used to pitching a few times a week.
Seth Lucio: When I was in college I sometimes threw three times a week is not that big a thing for me here, because it is kind of the same workload.
Now you have had a little taste of pro ball, what is the biggest part of your game that you are going to try to improve in the off-season?
Seth Lucio: Working out, but not like I’m doing now. I need to get my legs a little stronger, make them look like tree trunks. Do some more running and put on a little more weight. During the season you just don’t have the time you need because of the games.
It is also hard to maintain the right weight because you are eating out every night and really hone in on the type of diet that you need to grow.
I was guessing if you can throw 98, the Padres are going to really hammer into your head that you need to develop a better change-up.
Seth Lucio: I have been working on it a lot because in college I didn’t have to throw it a lot. Now I am throwing it enough in the pen, I am gaining more confidence so I can throw it to lefties and it will run away from them.
It’s becoming a pretty good pitch for me.
What is the toughest part of learning the change-up for you? Is it maintaining the same arm speed or the grip?
Seth Lucio: For me it’s the grip. I’m trying to figure out how to hold it, you don’t want to do it to hard or too loose. I left a change-up up the other night and the guy nearly took me over the wall the other night.
So it is still a work in progress.