Padres Prospect Interview: RD Spiehs

R.D. Spiehs came from the hated San Francisco Giants organization in the deal that sent Matt Herges north. A former 33rd round pick in the 2001 draft, Spiehs has finally come into his own as a member of the San Diego Padres organization. He has been with the Mobile BayBears and he holds the bridge between starter and closer.

R.D. Spiehs has the luxury of knowing when he will get the ball. His name is not called when the sixth inning rolls around and it isn't until the stretch in the seventh that he begins to warm up. His role rarely changes. He is the man who takes the eighth inning mound when the BayBears have the lead.

It wasn't always that way for Spiehs. As a member of the Giants organization his role varied. He would see action in a smattering of innings, mostly late in the game, and even did some closing. It wasn't necessarily that different, but he was not the same pitcher back then either.

"With the Giants I was eighth inning and I closed, a few saves last year and in '02 as well," Spiehs said. "Basically it has been the same. It has been a smooth, easy transition coming over here. The organization has been on the same page.

"I have never started in pro ball, been a reliever, the seventh, eighth inning guy and when I came over here they had a pretty good idea of what I needed to improve on pitching wise, mechanical. They are pretty similar, laid-back west coast organizations – at least what I have heard guys talk about from spring training."

When he was with the Norwich in the Giants system, Spiehs walked 29 in 60 innings of work. In the six of the ten appearances he allowed a run Spiehs also issued a walk.

This year he has given up runs in 12 appearances and issued a walk in just three of those games. His worst outing came on August 2 when he walked three batters for the first time this year. Those three walks represent a fifth of his total on the year in 53 innings of work.

"The biggest thing I needed to work on was being mechanically sound because my walks weren't where I wanted them to be," Spiehs confirmed. "I had walked too many guys. I didn't tweak with any of my pitches. Gary Lance over here said ‘hey this needs to be your thought process. Mechanically you just need to be sound to stay injury free and to stay consistently low in the strike zone.' That has probably been one of the biggest differences and helps for sure."

With his walk totals so high, there was no way he could have entered the game in the eighth inning. It was a potential disaster in the making. Whatever Spiehs changed, however, has enabled him to fulfill the Akinori Otsuka role perfectly.

He doesn't need to throw 97 as Otsuka, but a low 90's fastball coupled with a slider that rolls down and away on right-handed hitters and a changeup that musters in the high 70's are enough to keep hitters off balance.

And if Mobile has the lead, Spiehs simply needs to bridge the gap and get it to his boy Brad Baker who has been as sure as anything to pass this way in a long time. The only changeup thrown his way is when the game is tied and he gets late inning duty to keep the game together until the Mobile bats wake up.

Off the five games he has lost on the year, two have come with the game tied and two have come with Spiehs playing the role of closer – situations outside of his comfort level.

"I think mentally you are more in tuned with when you are going to have to throw depending on score and the situation in the game. It's an enjoyable role for me at least. You try to get it in the hands of Baker who has been almost flawless all year. Definitely a role I like having."

A comfortable role and one he has been quite effective in.

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@Sandiegosports.net

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