MadFriars Q & A: Mike Ekstrom

Mike Ekstrom has been arguably the most impressive pitcher in the Padres organization through the first two months of the season. After Wednesday's seven inning, five hit, one run performance he has run his record to 7-1, dropped his ERA to 1.43 and given up just one home run, and 13 walks, in 69 innings pitched. MadFriars caught up with Ekstrom to talk about mechanical adjustments, moving up in the system, and the key to his success this season.

MadFriars:  It's just your second year of pro ball, and you're dominating, are you anxious to get tested at a higher level?


Mike Ekstrom:  I would like to move up, yeah, but I'm doing alright here, and whatever the guys in the front office think is best, that's what I'm going by.


MadFriars:  When we talked before the season, you said you preferred starting, you've gotten your wish, and been even better than advertised, was there even more incentive than usual for you because you wanted to start?


Mike Ekstrom:  Well they never really went back and forth, last year they told me I'd be in the pen some because I'd thrown a lot in college.  I was just there because I was piggybacking one season onto another, but they told me I'd be a starter when this year started.


MadFriars:  One question early on was about stamina, but you answered that with back to back starts going eight innings, then seven innings, and then you threw a complete game.  Is that a focus for you as well, going deeper into games?


Mike Ekstrom:  Yes, it's a pitch count thing.  I was on an 80 pitch count, now it's 90 pitches, the last couple starts my bullpen's been tired so I've really been trying to get deeper into games, but I'd throw 110 pitches in college, sometimes even 120, so 90 is no big deal for me.  It doesn't really change my approach, I'm still just keeping the ball down and in the zone.


MadFriars:  The one sort of bad outing you had you gave up six runs, but only three of those were earned.  How easy has it been for you to shake off a day like that when the team doesn't seem to have your back?


Mike Ekstrom:  Not hard at all, our defense has been real good all year and I'm not a strikeout pitcher, so I need those guys, and I don't worry about that.


MadFriars:  Last season when you go to Fort Wayne you struggled a little.  What's the biggest difference for you between the end of last year at Fort Wayne and this year at Fort Wayne?


Mike Ekstrom:  Just being fresh, I was at 170 or 180 innings last year [between college and the pros] when I got to Fort Wayne, so this year I'm fresh, I'm more relaxed, it's just easier.  I'm not tired or pressing, I'm just pitching.


MadFriars:  Do you still think it was a good thing to go to Fort Wayne last year when you were so tired?


Mike Ekstrom:  It definitely gave me motivation this year, to make sure I didn't throw the way I did last year.   


MadFriars:  There was a lot of shuffling in the minors last week, and I know your name came up more than once, were you disappointed you didn't get moved?


Mike Ekstrom:  Not really, we all expected Clark Girardeau to be the first to go, I'm just planning on staying in Fort Wayne for awhile, and pitching well here, and if I get moved up that's great.


MadFriars:  Last time I talked to you the change up was a focus, how is that pitch feeling?


Mike Ekstrom:  It's doing good, getting better every week.  Right now what I'm working on is just making that pitch consistent.


MadFriars:  Any other changes they've been working with you on this season?  Mechanical/mental?


Mike Ekstrom:  I changed my mechanics after my fourth start, I come over my head in my windup now.  When all the coaches are telling me to do something, I figure I'd better do that.  It was a change, because I'd never done it before, and in my first two starts I'd bring my hands up and then a couple hitters later I'd sort of forget and start throwing the way I used to again, so it's been a little different, but I'm having success.


MadFriars:  What's the one thing you've been impressed with, and disappointed in about yourself about this year?


Mike Ekstrom:  I'm happy that in all my starts I've made it at least five innings, I want to keep that consistent.  I'd like to strike more people out, and my walks are high, but I also don't want to always go deep in counts, because if I can get a guy out 2 or 3 pitches that means I can stay in the game longer.

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