Jerry Espinoza

MadFriars Interview: Padres Prospect and Cal League All Star Colby Blueberg

Colby Blueberg was a 24th-round draft pick in 2014 out of the University of Nevada. He was the closer for Nevada and has continued to close in the minors for the Padres. He was the top reliever last year in Fort Wayne, and named an organizational All Star.

This year Blueberg has continued to close, going 10 for 11 in save opportunities while holding batters to a .185 batting average and an ERA south of 1.  These numbers led him to be a mid-season All Star for the first time in his career.  We caught up with Colby before he threw a scoreless inning in the Cal League All Star Game. 

How does it feel to be named an All Star for the first time?

Colby Blueberg: It feels really cool.  Although I was technically an organizational All Star last year.  That really just means they give you some thing to tell you that you did really well that year, even if you weren’t named to an All Star team during the season.  I should have been named to the MidWest League All Star Game last year, but as it was explained to me, I did not have enough innings to qualify for a spot.  Still, finally being named an All Star during the season is a pretty cool experience. 

Your dad was a Cal League All Star. How does it feel to follow in his footsteps?

Colby Blueberg: He was an All Star for two years back in 1988 and 89.  He had Griffey Jr on one of those teams, and being named to the same All Star team as him, has always been something my dad was proud of.  It makes me wonder if there are any Griffeys on this All Star Team… More importantly I think being named to this All Star team in particular was great because now I can say I made the same All-Star team as my dad.  In fact when they first announced that I made the team my family was ecstatic, and I know a bunch of my family are coming down from Nevada for the game. 

Have you had any problems with the Cal League heat?

Colby Blueberg: Being from Nevada, which is a desert, I am used to dry heat.  Its actually been really nice here so far this year. I am not looking forward to going to High Desert and Bakersfield in July/August, but you know temperature is just part of the game, and as long as you remain hydrated the heat isn’t a bad thing. 

Last year, you already had a low walk total averaging just over two walks per nine innings.  This year you have more than halved that, walking just three batters all year.  What have you done differently this year?

Colby Blueberg: I think the biggest thing has been just going after hitters.  Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in any sport, so I figure why am I going to help them by throwing them balls?  It makes me throw more pitches and helps them so no real reason for me.  I would rather make my pitch, throw it for a strike, and if they get a hit off of it, I tip my cap. 

The three walks this year I can actually remember vividly.  The first one came on the first day of the season and I was mad at myself for it.  Then a few weeks later I pitched in my first back to back game of the season.  I know throwing on back to back days is just something that you do as a reliever, but during spring training and the first part of the year they were only having us go once every few days.  So that first game you have to get warmed up and pitch on back to back days I think your body isn’t as ready for it.  I walked two batters that game, and I was just dropping explitives everywhere I was so mad at myself.  I actually loaded the bases in that game before Javy (Guerra) made a nice play to get me out of the jam. 

I have noticed you are pitching inside a lot more this year.  Is that a goal you had coming into the season, or just something that has happened?

Colby Blueberg: It is definitely something that has changed this year.  (Pitching Coach) Glendon Rusch has really worked with me on throwing inside this year especially with my two seemer.  For almost any pitcher their favorite pitch is a fastball or slider low and away as it is the hardest pitch to hit.  Usually you get those nice swing and misses or an easy grounder.  For a lot of pitchers, myself included, we worry a bit about throwing inside because if you miss with location, even a bit, it tends to get hit really hard. 

Rusch has really been explaining to me that if you pitch high and inside with a fastball the pitch is really hard to hit as most hitters don’t have the bat speed to catch up to it.  You also can keep them from lunging out at that low and away ball, and most of all you get the hitters respect.  If they know you can and will throw it high and inside they are more likely to back up a bit which makes the fastball low and away that much more difficult to hit.  It is still not something I am completely comfortable with, but I am definitely using it a lot more this year. 

You were a closer in college and now here with the Padres.  Have you ever wanted to be a starter?

Colby Blueberg: Being a reliever was something I picked up at the end of high school.  I really like it, and it will never be something you hear me complaining about.  But I think most relievers would love to be a starter where they can be out there for longer.  I actually got a chance to start before my junior year of college.  I had two starts in preseason.  I am not going to lie I did really well, but I got tendinitis in my arm and had to be shutdown for a few weeks.  By the time I got back they had already set up their rotation, and Coach just told me that I could help the team the most as the closer, and they didn’t want to risk me getting hurt again.  It was disappointing, but I am happy being a closer, the Padres like me in this role, and it is tough to complain when you are an All Star.

You were a home run champ in high school.  Do you still have the itch to swing the bat?

Colby Blueberg: Of course, I think I could still go out there and hit a few over the wall.  I actually got to be one of the players that tested out the USS Midway for the home run contest.  I wasn’t the best, but I still hit a few.

One of the things I really like about coach Rusch is that everytime we get a shutout he rewards us by letting us take batting practice the next day.  Usually every time we do we have our own home run contest, or see who can at least get it off the shortest wall.  It is all for fun and as a reward but we love it.  If Coach Nady ever needs a pinch hitter though, he knows I am available.  

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