Padres' Prospect Interview: Mike Ekstrom

A quick glance at the numbers may keep some from realizing how good Mike Ekstrom was this year. He was so good we named him our Pitcher of the Year for 2006.

Talk about your time in Lake Elsinore and the solid season out in the California League:

Mike Ekstrom: I had one really bad outing, otherwise nothing too bad. A couple of good outings and one really bad one. It was easy to pitch there. The setup was great, the front office was great and the coaches were great. We had a really good defense too – and that is all you need for pitching.

Over your last few games in Lake Elsinore it seemed like everything was clicking. Was there something specific that was working?

Mike Ekstrom: It was definitely going good. I don't necessarily know what clicked but I was confident and aggressive and I knew where my fastball was going. I was keeping the ball down and getting lots of ground balls. That is what I am trying to do to let my defense work for me.

Did you feel that a specific pitch was working for you during that time?

Mike Ekstrom: I think just fastball commmand really. I was throwing lots of fastballs, getting contact early in the count and getting lots of ground balls. I think in the complete game Skip Adams had ten or 12 balls hit to him at shortstop and he made all the plays. There you go.

Do you feel that your Double-A record is not truthful – and how did it wear on you over the year?

Mike Ekstrom: It definitely did in my first few starts. I think I had been shutout three games in a row on offense. It was getting frustrating but there is nothing I can do about it. I just have to go out and keep the team in the game and wins will come if I pitch well most of the time. That is how you have to look at it – but I was staring down 0-10 for a little while.

But you won last three starts.

Mike Ekstrom: I chucked out my record and concentrated on ERA and keeping it close and not having – anytime if I felt like I kept the team close and still took the loss than I could take some positives from it. I took some losses too where I got hit around. Those happen too. You pitch good a few games in a row and don't have anything to show for it, it definitely gets a little frustrating.

You had finally got off the schnide with the stick, knocking two doubles as your only hits to end the year and three RBI's.

Mike Ekstrom: I was hitting either in my first seven losses. If I had maybe gotten some RBI's I could at least help myself out. It was definitely nice to get some hits before the end of the season. I did not want to come into the off-season 0-for-20. I ran into a couple of fastballs.

I got them pretty good – at least as good as I can get them.

What has the off-season been like for you?

Mike Ekstrom: I came back to Oregon and last week I worked 36 hours on the farm. Driving tractors, driving bulldozers, cutting down trees, getting dirty.

I am getting into the workout program, adding some muscle but pretty much just working out here on our tree farm and doing the workouts and stuff.

Why so specific as to gain muscle?

Mike Eskstrom: After both my seasons they told me to put on a little weight so I can last a little longer. Definitely in my Fort Wayne year I got tired. This year going into August I hit a little lull where I had three bad outings where I was aching pretty bad. If I can get rid of that little stretch by being in a little better shape or conditioned a little better than I mine as well do that.

But after a three game stretch that wasn't your best you came back and threw a complete game shutout. It doesn't jive.

Mike Ekstrom: We went down to one bullpen between the starts and it made a huge difference. Instead of throwing two short sides we threw one and it was a big difference where I felt a lot better going into the start.

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