Padres stress changeup in Eugene

EUGENE-- Working on the changeup is the motto of every young pitcher in the San Diego Padres' system. Perfecting it and spotting the fastball are tickets to higher levels. And the pitching staff is making it known that the changeup is a must just weeks into the process.

Bob Cluck, a long time baseball presence, was in Eugene this past week to offer his assistance. "Old School", as he was called by several members of the staff, admitted the he has a different approach than many of the rovers since his job is predicated on his own time and is actually a "part-time" gig.

What that enables him to do is detach himself from the emotional intrigue that is often found in helping young players and give an honest assessment. While a lot of rovers sit in the dugout during games, Cluck sat directly behind the plate so he could get a better sense of what the pitchers he saw were doing right and wrong.

Because he provides a objective view, he also doesn't do much of the instruction, whispering in Wally Whitehurst's ear to have the pitching coach drive home the point.

Stephen Faris and Nate Culp worked with pitching coach Whitehurst on the changeup. Both have gotten a better grasp under Whitehurst's tutelage but the coach admitted "they throw it too fast."

Working on slowing it down isn't as easy as it sounds because the pitcher is expected to use the same throwing motion as with a fastball.

Faris has somewhat of a violent delivery while Culp looks to have a repeatable motion but does have extension problems on some of the balls he releases.

The introduction of the changeup is new to many of these players who are used to skating by on a fastball and breaking ball.

Whitehurst remained encouraged, "They are making great strides. Both came in not having thrown the pitch. It will take time."

On Tuesday in Eugene, it was pitcher's batting practice, a reward to the group for hard work put in thus far in Eugene.

Ben Krosschell and Ernesto Frieri were named team captains and picked from the group remaining. With pitching coach Wally Whitehurst the official and minor league field coordinator Bill Bryk on the hill, the nine-inning game was on with hoots, hollers, taunting and laughs.

With Bryk throwing sliders to the better hitters and fastballs to the not so adept pitchers and Whitehurst yelling "double play" it made for a test of wills.

Krosschell provided the highlight of the day with a laser over the left field wall, a solo homer.

"That is the misconception," Krosschell said in regard to his XX frame. "I was a pretty good hitter in high school."

Perhaps the funniest moment was when Frieri was tagged with a pitch. "He was crowding the plate," Bryk said.

And it seemed the game was well in hand with a commanding 5-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth for Team Krosschell.

But Team Frieri rallied to tie the game and sent it into extra frames. And in the 11th inning it was all decided when Aaron Breit of Team Frieri singled in a run to win the game.

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