Padres Prospect Interview: Brad Baker

When the Mobile BayBears, a Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, have the lead, mark the win in pen. That is because they have the Southern League's hottest closer, Brad Baker. Baker has allowed just two runs on the year, both coming in his 17th outing of the season. He entered the game a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities. Pitching against Huntsville, the streak was broken. <br><br> "The hardest part is how I let up the two. It was a disaster," Baker says with a laugh.

Like any good closer, Brad Baker has to laugh about the game. Having the mentality to let it go is important as a closer, but it does not mean he didn't take something from that loss and use it to grow with on his quest to make the Majors.

. "It was a game that when I got home that night I just laughed," Baker quipped. "'What just happened?' I would have rather got clobbered, giving up hits. But I walked a couple of guys. That wasn't me out there. Just a bad night.

"I felt like I had good stuff. I walked the leadoff hitter and as a closer that is one thing you definitely don't want to do, especially when you have a one run lead. That first out is the most important."

Baker walked Richie Weeks, listed as one of the top prospects in any organization, to open the ninth inning and Weeks moved to second on a wild pitch. An Anthony Gwynn single brought in the first run. After Gwynn stole second, and a ground out advanced him to third, another wild pitch brought Gwynn home. Baker eventually took the loss.

What made Baker so mad was that he beat himself. First the opening inning walk and then two wild pitches. It was a lesson he learned well last year when he was sent down from Double-A to High-A Lake Elsinore.

He had walked 36 batters in 50.2 innings pitching for Mobile and after working with pitching coach Charlie Hough, cut that down to 14 walks in 44.2 innings for the Storm.

He was understandably disappointed by the demotion, but accepted his role and grasped what the real problem was. Call it a reawakening of sorts.

"Last year they sent me to Elsinore halfway through the year," Baker confirmed. "At the time I was disappointed but it made me realize that at the Double-A level I wasn't getting beat by hits. The hitters weren't beating me. I was beating myself by walking guys.

"When I went down there I had a chance to work with Charlie Hough. He put a lot of things in my mind to focus on. It started from the second half last year. The walks decreased tremendously and I hadn't really changed a whole lot mechanically. I think it was more mental in how I go about the hitters and it carried over into this year."

And the mastery has indeed continued this year. In 18 innings this year he has walked six. He had a streak of 16 straight appearances spanning 16 innings to open the season without allowing a run. During that time frame he allowed just seven hits and four walks. His WHIP, (walks plus hits per inning pitched) a miniscule 0.69. His ERA on the year is a single number, 1.00.

Baker also struck out 19 batters and had a stretch within the streak where he got 11 of the 12 batters he faced by way of the strike out.

And it was a feat he was well aware of.

"Every pitcher wants that first pitch strike," Baker said. "That is where it all starts. Once you get there then you have a lot of options. I was lucky at that time as guys just swung through the ball. Sometimes they are right on it. It just felt good during that time period."

A new streak has since begun. One inning pitched. Check. One inning pitched and his 11th save. Check. And as a closer that is all that Baker looks at. One inning at a time and the saves continue to pile up.

Denis Savage can be reached at

MadFriars Top Stories