Bradley sets the tone for young pitchers

With pitchers coming out of college there is a prevalent ideology that says you don't mess with them too much – let's see what they offer. When they enter Low-A and met Tom Bradley of the Fort Wayne Wizards things began to change – but the underlying philosophies remained the same.

Coming from the Toronto Blue Jays system do you see pitching philosophies being the same as in the San Diego system?

Tom Bradley: They are very similar. We are not reinventing the wheel. The importance of the changeup – that is very, very important. Being able to throw that, especially for the starting pitchers, is much emphasized on that one ball, one strike pitch along with the 2-2 pitch.

At this level, are you still seeing that you have to continually develop that changeup or are some of these guys coming to you with a more advanced feel for the pitch?

Tom Bradley: When you draft a college player, many times there changeup is fairly well developed. An example would be Wade LeBlanc, our number two pick. His changeup is outstanding. He fits right into our mold of a starting pitcher with an already established changeup.

All of our starting pitchers that I coached this year we tried to get them to throw 15 percent changeups out of their pitch count.

It depends on the age. Most of the guys we have drafted our college guys so for the most part there changeups was already a part of their repertoire.

Based on that, how much tweaking are you doing with each of these pitchers?

Tom Bradley: The first year you have a pitcher normally you let them play the season out. You don't really worry about changing their arm angle, their arm slot, or giving them a new pitch or something like that. That is something usually the pitching coordinator, Grady Fuson, would get involved in. It is not my place to really want to change – give them a new pitch or change their arm slot. We kind of let them play the season out and help the pitches they have to improve upon the pitches they have. We emphasize three pitches – fastball, changeup and one breaking ball.

Let's take a guy like Steve Delabar as an example. He has been around the system for two years now and struggled with some walks this season. Is he a guy you can make more dramatic changes with?

Tom Bradley: We changed him around a little bit and I would say yes since he has been in the organization for a couple of years. Mike Couchee, our pitching coordinator, any time I would want to do something like that I would clear it with Mike. I am not just going to all of a sudden decide, ‘let's change his arm angle.'

We tried to get Steve to tweak his delivery and mechanics a little bit where he was separating his hands a little sooner so his arm could get up and work better and be in the zone a little bit better.

With Steve it seemed like if he was in the zone he was unhittable – it was just the big walk totals.

Tom Bradley: I think all pitchers at one time go through mechanical problems. I think Steve did a pretty good job. He knows what he has to do and now he has to just do it more on a consistent basis. When he was in the zone and down he was very good for us. Of course, he walked a few people here and there.

He will get it. He will figure it out.

You mentioned Wade LeBlanc and the boost down the stretch that he gave you. What else besides the changeup impressed you about him?

Tom Bradley: The fact that he played at a big time college and pitched in a lot of games – big games – he has a lot of experience. I like his competitiveness and focus. He pitched very well the last three games especially.

He throws four pitches, a fastball, changeup, cutter, and curveball. He needs to work on movement of the two-seam or four-seam fastball – movement. Being able to pound that fastball down and away to right-handed hitters.

That is a pitch I forgot to mention is very much emphasized. The ability to throw down and away to right-handers and down and away to left-handers. Being able to command your fastball to that part of the plate.

His secondary pitches are fine. Obviously his changeup is a plus pitch. His cutter was a little bit inconsistent. He has four pitches and with a winters rest I think he will come back strong. I think he will have a good year next year.

Nathan Culp seemed to take the pitch to contact approach well in his short time there.

Tom Bradley: He has four pitches also. His changeup – he didn't throw it a whole lot in college but worked real hard on it and it did improve some. It is still a little bit too hard but he knows what he has to work on.

His fastball runs good. His two-seamer runs down and away. He has the moving fastball and pitches in to right-handers pretty good with his four-seamer. He has a cutter, a curveball which is pretty good and he needs to work on developing his changeup. He will spend a lot of time on it this off-season.

Greg Burke did a nice job moving to the rotation and was a nice piece to be able to move here or there as needed.

Tom Bradley: Greg pitched very well. He lost a tough game that last ball game when it was 1-0 through six innings and gave up a couple of ground ball base hits for their only run. He pitched very well. He is a fastball, mostly a sinker ball because when his fastball runs it sinks, and his slider is pretty good to right-handed hitters and his changeup came along. He improved dramatically from the start of the year.

I remember in spring training some of the other pitching coaches were working with him because he was on the Lake Elsinore roster. A lot of the pitchers you work with you are not going to have throughout the season. It is just kind of the way spring training is setup.

I was over there one day and Greg picked up the changeup quickly so we shelved throwing the forkball/splitter and his change came along good, especially towards the latter part of the year.

Greg was very consistent. He kept us in most of his games he was in and did a good job.


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