Padres Prospect Interview: Stephen Faris

Stephen Faris is never at a loss for words. And given his four-pitch arsenal, he is never at a loss for what to throw, tossing changeups in fastball counts and working to keep hitters off-balance.

While many had questioned whether he would sign as a junior out of Clemson, Faris did just that but kept his priorities in order, registering for fall classes in case the Padres allowed him to return to begin finishing up school – something that was important to him and his family.

As the season winded down, Faris was allowed to leave Eugene and return to Clemson to continue towards his degree. He will be back with the Padres for spring training, that much closer to his goal of obtaining a degree.

We caught up with Stephen Faris just before he left Eugene.

Let's talk about the decision to leave Clemson. There were some people who thought you may end up going back to school.

Stephen Faris: Yeah, it was a tough decision. It took me a little while to get here but I was just making sure I was making the right decision. I wanted to think it through and not rush anything. When it came down to it this was what I wanted to do and the Padres and I came to an agreement and it worked out well. I felt I was ready to move on.

Clemson was great. I had a great time. I talked to the coaches, we are still on good terms. I am welcomed back any time. It was real nice to be able to do that and I am glad it happened like that and am happy to be here. I am ready to move on with that whole new beginning. It is what I always wanted to do. Now that I am here I have to prove to everyone that it was for a reason and try to move up as quickly as I can.

Is there a certain lure to going back to school to be that weekend starter?

Stephen Faris: There was. But a Friday night guy my sophomore year and ended up being the Friday night guy last year with Saturday, Sunday and all mixed around. We had three Friday night guys and it just depended on matchups and who was throwing better at the time. It seemed like someone was throwing better than others even though we all threw well or some teams have more lefties or whatever it was – it is tough. The program in general is tough. Scouts came to me out of high school and everyone was wondering what I was going to do (signing to go to pro ball). I said, ‘Clemson is a great school. They have great coaches. I have people that I know there. There is history that I know. Obviously, it is going to take a lot of money to sign out of high school for me.'

It was tough but at the same time by taking my time and not rushing anything or going for going for no reason or staying for no reason it took a little longer than I or maybe the Padres thought but it all worked out for the best.

Talk a little about the storied history of Clemson baseball. Khalil Greene came from Clemson, Michael Johnson, many others and the list keeps growing.

Stephen Faris: To me it shows – we have always been well represented with the World Series – but it is not just from there. It so happens that the Padres have been picking up our guys and I don't know if there is any sort of connection or the coincidence that it is but there are certain things I know from talking to guys, talking to Khalil, not that you can get a whole lot out of talking to Khalil, but they say it has been good (to be in the Padres' system), it has been hard but you have to do what you have to do and I am glad I am here. I am glad he has ridden the path and I am just trying to follow him. At the same time draw my own path. It might take a little longer. Khalil obviously moved up quickly and had some great years and he did come back for his senior year. That worked out well for him and it made him that much better of a player and the Padres got a chance to take him. I am a different person. Pitching, I felt like I did a lot and could have gone back and done a couple more things, maybe even broke a couple of records – great. But at the time, now, I felt like I am not getting any younger. I am old – I am 22 – not old but looking at next year and there were certain things I had to look at and when it came down to it – money is always a question but it came down to what do you really want to do and I was ready to move on and start my career.

It is a new experience for me. I have never been out here. It has been fun. The people have been great. The stadium – I didn't know what to expect. It is an old stadium. It has history. It almost reminds me of college because there is so much to it. People have played here for many years and it is an honor to be here.

You mentioned the decision out of high school to go to college – how have you grown from then to now as a baseball player?

Stephen Faris: In every situation on and off the field. Off the field – I hope to finish up school soon and I am educated. I have gone to school and learned many new things. I have picked something I want to do if this doesn't work out. I have a backup plan. Out of high school you would have had to give me a lot of money because I didn't want to miss the college experience. In my family, education has always been important and school has always come first. Baseball wasn't close.

Knowing I had three years under my belt – not knowing about Instructs – I wanted to go back in the fall and take classes in the fall and maybe somehow, I am working towards and busting my tail to someday finish that. The Padres have talked about it. I don't feel now that I am gone it is over.

Was it a tough sell on the family then?

Stephen Faris: Not really. That is great that they are going to pay for it now and the scholarship money isn't great. But that has never been a huge problem. We were ready for whatever situation I made that it never would have come down to money. Everything was what I decided we were going to go with and it was my decision and don't let anything but your gut and what you want to do be the main factor. That played a little role but you know what I have three years down, one to go, a huge internship I have to do but that is fine. I can get that done in the near future. I already had it all setup. If I do go back I have an apartment and everything setup already. I have to figure out I will be a little late. First week isn't too bad but the second week is tough. It is something I knew I would have to do. That is fine. I have to deal with situations that come to me.

Now that you have signed and made it to Eugene, what have you learned from a guy like pitching coach Wally Whitehurst?

Stephen Faris: I have learned a lot – the first day I came here just talking to him, talking about the game of baseball, talking about life out of college. It is all about me and the team. It is all about what am I going to do for me that is going to help the team win. Not to sound selfish that this is all about me but they are not going to make you always get in a group and do things. It is more independent. That is a better word. I am going to have to do things on my own and make myself better on the side. It is not going to be someone always in your ear. You ask for help you will get it and if you don't well…

What are you going to do to get better? What are you going to do when nobody is here? What am I doing before the game or tomorrow when I run? Am I just doing it because people are out here watching? Just being out here, talking to guys and being around the coaches that come in. They say, ‘Take everything in. Question things.' I use those resources and go up to them after I throw to say, ‘What do you think? What do I need to work on?' Anything and everything about pitching and the game of baseball I will ask about. So far, they have answered some questions. Some things have been good and some things I have to work on. Great, thanks for telling me. Now I know instead of just going out there and not always knowing. Different viewpoints from different guys who have been successful in the big leagues. Wally has been great.

Constructive criticism. That is what is going to make me better and that is why I am here. Build from that.

Talk about your repertoire and the speeds you pitch at.

Stephen Faris: I am not blowing it by people. 88-90, 86 on the low side and some days I hit 91. Movement. I felt like going to Clemson and working with our pitching coach who worked in the minors with the Twins and half the stuff he has already told me I have already known. They look at percentages first – first two pitches for strikes, batting average. Every ten games at Clemson we looked at it. Some guys are batting .120 against me (when I have a first pitch strike) and when I haven't guys are batting .250. That is not great but the percentages show. It is something I have been working on – first pitch strikes. This is just beating it more into my head and it is something I have done every day.

PFP. Pitchers fielding practice. I have done this – I have nightmares at Clemson on how many times I have heard my coach yelling at me. It is great that I had those three years to do that.

To get back on track, I throw fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. I have thrown all pitches, any count, it doesn't matter. In tough situations throwing a changeup in a fastball count, throwing the batters off. Having that confidence to do that helped me out all year at school and it will help me out here. It is location, movement and velocity is last. That is the first thing I learned at Clemson. My coach told me, ‘I am going to tell you one thing and you will remember this for the rest of your life and you will hear it for the rest of your life if you stay in this game. Location, movement, velocity.' And that is what I base everything on. Everything is about the location of the pitch and if you do that you will be successful. Having good movement helps and velocity is great and that is what everyone wants. If you have it great but if you don't you have to do what you have to do with it. 88-90 is not bad and it has worked out for me so far.

How comfortable has it been working out of the pen one day and then the starting rotation the next?

Stephen Faris: I haven't always been just a starter. It is not like I never relieved in my lifetime.

I have always started an inning. I haven't come into a situation – they are not working me as more of a reliever. It is me starting a new inning. It is almost like I am being a starter. Once I worked back up they put me in the starting rotation. I am fine with that and worked my way back in.

Is there any difference for you being in the windup versus the stretch?

Stephen Faris: Not really. We practice both. It is part of the game. There shouldn't be any difference. Holding guys on, knowing your game. You should be confident at both and if you are not you are not going to be very successful. You are not going to strike everyone out and it is not the way it is. I feel like I have been better out of the windup than the stretch and it is something I have to work on. That is something you have to learn to do.

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