Padres Prospect Interview: Cesar Carrillo

MOBILE -The prospect that many believe is the best player in the Padres' system is starting pitcher Cesar Carrillo. Carrillo was the Padres' number one pick in 2005 and had the most successful debut of any pitcher selected in the draft, and maybe anyone the Padres have ever chose.

In his contract negotiations, Carrillo requested an assignment straight to Lake Elsinore, bypassing Eugene and Fort Wayne where most college draft picks start. The Padres agreed and Carrillo didn't disappoint. After being promoted to Mobile when the Padres needed another pitcher after trading Travis Chick to the Reds for third baseman Joe Randa, Carrillo won four out of the five games he started. He held batters to a .203 batting average and only allowed 23 hits in 30.2 innings. Carrillo consistently throws in the 91-94 mph range, with a very hard curve, developing change and was dominant in one of the toughest leagues in the minors.

This year, Carrillo has put together a string of impressive outings, but has been done in by insufficient run support with a 1-3 record. Every other statistic, however, indicates Carrillo is near the top of his game with a 2.95 ERA, walking ten batters in 39.2 innings. The only real downside of Carrillo is that he is a very efficient pitcher who sometimes gets a little too much of the plate as he has done in his two most recent outings.

Last year you came out of the University of Miami and had a great debut. Is there any reason why you had inserted in your contract that you wanted to start off at Lake Elsinore [High Class A], which is fairly high for someone starting pro ball?

Cesar Carrillo: I believe that the higher you are the quicker you are going to get to the majors. I just wanted to get started with my career and forget about the amount of money that I might get out of the draft. I didn't want to wait until next year to start to pitch. If you prove yourself you can make your money when you get to the big leagues.

Obviously its an honor to get drafted in the first round, but I was thinking when you get to the big leagues and earn your spot things will fall into place.

Getting drafted in the first round was one of my goals in college, but getting that first pitch in the big leagues will be even better.

Its impressive that you started out in the California League one of the best hitters leagues in the minors, then you came up here and were even better going 4-0. Why didn't you have some period of adjustment when starting your professional career?

Cesar Carrillo: I don't know [laughing].

Many people have written that a lot of top college pitchers have trouble pitching inside, which leads to problems in pro ball. Did you experience any of that?

Cesar Carrillo: In college I always worked with my pitching coach [J.D. Artega] on my two-seamer which is my big pitch when I go inside. So it is a lot more effective with a wood bat than an aluminum bat, I'll tell you that.

If you are a pitcher in college, it must be a little more fair that batters really have to square up to hit the ball in pro ball instead of a squibber off of the end of the bat.

Cesar Carrillo: Exactly, the changeup also is more effective at this level. It feels like its coming around a lot better than last year.

Could you go through the pitches that you throw?

Cesar Carrillo: Two fastballs, low 90's, change and a 12-6 curveball.

The change is one thing that the Padres wanted you to work on more this year?

Cesar Carrillo: Obviously you always want to work on all your pitches, but yeah the change up was the main one. When you get that opportunity to pitch in the big leagues, you want to have all your pitches working for you.

You want to make it there and establish yourself, you don't want to go back down. Hopefully when I get up there, I will be staying up there.

Is it tough getting used to throwing the changeup when you have all the adrenaline going in a big moment?

Cesar Carrillo: At first a little bit, but now its natural. You just think about throwing the pitch, its all about the grip the arm speed is the same.

One thing I noticed when I got to see you pitch is that you are really efficient with the number of pitches that you are throwing. It doesn't seem like you are going for the big strikeout all the time.

Cesar Carrillo: No, not me. You want to get the strikeout, but really just want to make a good pitch and put the ball in play. Don't give them a good pitch to hit. The less pitches you throw the further in the game you can go.

One of your more impressive statistics is that you have only issued 10 walks in nearly 40 innings, especially after your first two starts.

Cesar Carrillo: In my first couple games I was a little rusty because I'm just used to pitching a lot more at the University of Miami. Going to big league camp in spring training was great, but it was tough to get in all my work. The older guys had to get in their work, but I'm just starting to really find all of my pitches a lot better right now.

The other night [April 27] I had a lot of 0-2 counts, but I just wanted to get them out. Once you start messing around trying to get strikeouts you can put yourself in a bad position.

How come last year your arm didn't fall off last year? You threw a little over 175 innings last year? It seemed at the end of the year you got a little tired during the playoffs with Lake Elsinore.

Cesar Carrillo: I got a little tired, its just natural. The whole grind of the year going to the regionals with Miami and pro ball. I had a good workout program at Miami which is pretty much what kept me in tune, the running, squatting, weights; not really trying to gain, but just keep it maintained.

Are you trying to put on any weight? You're about 6-foot-3, 180-pounds?

Cesar Carrillo: Yeah that is right. I feel like as you get older you are going to put it on naturally, so why rush it. I could get injured doing it, so I'll just let nature take its course.

There has been a lot of talk about you coming up to the Padres. Has it been difficult to focus?

Cesar Carrillo: A little bit, you know the minor leagues is the minor leagues. Everyone wants to get to the big leagues. If someone tells you that they like it they are lying. Sometimes you will be thinking about it at home, it just makes you work harder for your next start.

You want to make it up there, but you got to put in your time. You have to think that someone is always working harder trying to take your place.

Two weeks after this interview Carrillo was promoted to Portland in Triple-A to fill the spot in the rotation vacated by Mike Thompson and his ascension to the big leagues. It also opens a roster spot for Jared Wells who will come off the DL. But a lot was based on his success and ability to throw strikes.

Carrillo pitched better in Mobile than his 1-3 record in eight starts indicate, especially in April. He's struggled a bit this month with a 0-2 record and a 3.57 ERA, but has still struck out 23 batters in 22 innings while only walking four.

All three of his pitches are working, the one criticism of him is that he sometimes is a little too efficient giving the batters too much to hit when he is ahead in the count. The Pacific Coast League and PGE Park very much favors hitters as compared to the Southern League and Hank Aaron Stadium, so it will be a good test for him.

Stats through Wednesday

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