Padres' Ayala is golden

Ask around and the San Diego Padres will say that Manny Ayala probably shouldn't have been in Lake Elsinore after spending the previous year in the Golden Baseball Leage. They had originally tabbed him for short-season Eugene but injuries and Ayala's success ensured he would never touch the Northwest League.

Talk about the season you had, splitting time between a number of cities and ending up in Lake Elsinore.

Manny Ayala: I didn't know what to expect. I was a little disappointed getting stuck in extended. I didn't really know what they had planned for me. I heard I was supposed to be in Eugene but never ended up getting there.

I went to Fort Wayne and didn't really get a chance to prove myself. I kind of sat on the shelf and pitched mop up innings there.

It is funny because Randy Ready said when I got sent back to extended, ‘Hey, you never know. You might just skip us and never come back here.' I was like, ‘That doesn't look so good.' I came back and went to Triple-A on borrowed time because they needed an arm. Going up there and seeing the competition and going back to where I was supposed to be gave me a mental edge. I got to taste it and went back down. I felt like this year the cards played out pretty nice.

When you went to Lake Elsinore you started out in the relief role before becoming a starter. How tough is it to get back to throwing multiple innings.

Manny Ayala: It is more of a physical thing. When you are in the bullpen you are conserving energy because you never know when you might be called on. In the rotation it is about building stamina. It is not how fast you can run but how long you can run. Jumping on the treadmill and doing conditioning and doing cardio. Once the physical is there it ties in with the mental and it all comes together.

When you look back on your season, specifically in Lake Elsinore, how do you assess it?

Manny Ayala: To be honest with you, I felt like I could have done better. There were three starts, two in Lancaster and one in High Desert, where I was cruising and ran into three bad innings that blew my ERA up, way, way up. I think I ended up at 4.00 and it could have been in the 2.00's. All in all, I will take it. Twenty-one years old in the rotation at Lake Elsinore I will take that.

Do you look at in this kind of way since it was just a few bad innings – you aren't used to having guys on base versus you? Working from the stretch becomes harder?

Manny Ayala: I am not used to it at all. Once they are on it is, ‘Geez, what do I do now?' When I am on the mound, especially being a starter, I feel much better out of the windup. If I can stay in the windup I will go and retire 12 in a row. I definitely like finding a groove and trying to stay there.

Is there something specific that you were working on down at the Instructional League in Peoria?

Manny Ayala: I am specifically trying to get my breaking pitch, my slider, up to par so my repertoire isn't just a change-up and a fastball and occasionally, whenever it is on, my slider. I am trying to get it to be more consistent.

What are the steps you can take to get that pitch up to snuff?

Manny Ayala: Pretty much it comes with time. I think I started exactly a year ago here – I was a curveball, changeup, fastball guy, and they said they wanted me to throw a slider so that was that. With anything, it is just time. I think from last year until now it is a lot better. I have more feel for it. I will continue to get better at it.

I am real short-armed so that is why my changeup – it is easy for me to throw it. The slider is more of an extension pitch. Being a short-armed guy I really have to tell myself to get further out and finish it.

What is the off-season plan after the Instructional League?

Manny Ayala: I don't know. I am still debating whether I am going to go home and take a month off but I am one of those guys who can never put a ball down. I go home and am back at the high school I went to helping out there, helping out coaching there with the pitchers and throwing – keep the feel there. One of my biggest fears is losing control. That is one of my best assets. I limit my walks. I definitely want to keep the feel for the ball, even if it is just playing catch.

After this past season of interesting circumstances, do you have any expectations going into next year?

Manny Ayala: Worst case scenario, I am hoping, is starting in Lake Elsinore. Not being a bonus guy or top round guy they are not going to push me. That is logical. Hopefully get a shot at the rotation in Lake Elsinore next year and hopefully I can earn a spot. Something happens and I find my way into Double-A, hopefully, by the end of the year.


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