MadFriars Interview: Clayton Hamilton

Clayton Hamilton has won his last six starts with the Fort Wayne Wizards and on Wednesday went eight innings, allowing a run on two hits and two walks. The key to his longevity has been working in his fastball more and relying on a strong defense.

The general rule of thumb in Fort Wayne has been a pitch count that sits between 80 and 90. If a pitcher is on, they will extend it a little but the Wizards have held by that rule.

To extend the outings of their starters, the emphasis has been on throwing fastballs in every count and working in the secondary pitches to keep hitters off balance.

"With our staff, we want to be a fastball heavy staff," Hamilton explained.

That means the catchers, Colt Morton and Matt Lauderdale, have to play with the spotting of the fastball. Each has his own way of utilizing a pitcher.

In Clayton Hamilton's case, he has been caught by Morton four times this year and by Lauderdale on three occasions. And he has not faced the same team with the same catcher yet.

"It is like they are seeing a different pitcher out there," said Hamilton. "They mix it up. I think Lauderdale has caught me three and Morton four. It works as an advantage for me. They have different gameplans. One likes to work in more with the fastball and one likes working out with the fastball.

"Both guys mix in pretty well. Everyone is here to learn and seeing how they view the game has helped me look at different aspects of the game and get better."

In Low-A, getting into the eighth inning is an accomplishment, despite the conditioning that Hamilton works hard at keeping up. But striking out eight in an outing pushes a pitch count up. The goal is to get through an inning with three pitches.

Obviously that is rare and Hamilton hasn't relied heavily on his slider, what he terms his "out pitch." Everything they do comes back to the fastball and working off that.

"My slider is my out pitch," Hamilton conceded. "This year I haven't struck out as many guys as I have in the past. Even with a lot of two strike counts we go to the fastball."

The reason they rely so heavily on the fastball is their defense. While pitchers can't exactly pitch to the defense, there is an underlying confidence that plays will be made if they hit their spots.

"Knowing you have guys behind you who are going to make the routine plays and some of the non-routing plays give you confidence," Hamilton said. "Our defense is the best I have ever had behind me. (Matt) Bush and (Sean) Kazmar up the middle and (Brett) Dowdy at third. Make them put it into play and keep the ball down in the zone so they hit it into the ground."

Hamilton has been the beneficiary of the defense and leads the Midwest League in wins with six. His WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) stands at 1.16 for the year and batters are hitting .222 against him on the year.

Despite allowing two runs or less in five straight outings, Hamilton views consistency as his biggest battle.

"My goal is to be more consistent," he said. "I have a couple of good starts and I want to try and eliminate the big innings."

With an ERA of 2.40 and experience at Double-A – he had one start with Mobile last year – Hamilton would seem to be an ideal candidate to move up the chain.

While he admits that is the obvious, he also knows the reality of the game and knows it will come with time and continues success each time he performs.

"I am not looking at what everyone else is doing," Hamilton said of others being promoted ahead of him. "You can worry control what you control. It is partly paying your dues in the minors. There is no one that is going to skip levels unless you are a superstar."

The way Hamilton is pitching these days, it may not be long before the Padres consider him their superstar.

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