Padres' farm is a "Web" of relief

The Lake Elsinore Storm sported one of the best bullpens in all the minor leagues last season. With the San Diego Padres love for relievers it should come as no surprise that they are grooming their own. We caught up with pitching coach Steve Webber to get his thoughts on the subject.

On the relief side, Ryan Klatt led the organization in holds. He was a pretty good bridge to the closer.

Steve Webber: I have had Ryan parts of the last two years. He is a guy that is always trying to make subtle little improvements. The biggest improvement he has made is come up with a split-fingered fastball that is very good. It has good late depth to it and has really helped him as a put away pitch, especially against left-handers. We discussed last year that I would like to see him use it but he has gone the extra mile with tinkering with it and getting it right. Again, it is not by accident. He has worked hard on our flat ground program to come up with a grip and it works.

I am real happy for him. That was one of the things he needed to do to progress and improve. I think he is the kind of guy that it wouldn't surprise me if he made it. He is that kind of guy who is going to rise to the occasion. He is going to figure out a way to do it.

Neil Jamison was steady all year long as the closer. What is working for him in that role?

Steve Webber: He is very much accustomed to the closer role. He did that in college and last year. He is a guy that is very accustomed to the close, late game situations. He just throws strikes. He can move his fastball around and his slider he can vary with a sweep and one with slightly more depth. But I think the main thing is the command of his fastball.

He led the league in appearances and had four or five in Fort Wayne so that was a lot of outings. He withstood the grind and the rigors of being that guy who went out 61 times. He has done well to hold up under that heavy workload.

Another guy who has been great all year from the bullpen is Kyle Stutes. Yet, he isn't hitting 85 on the radar guns, he just misses bats.

Steve Webber: They don't seem to center his fastball for one thing. And there is deception in his delivery that his pitches get on the hitter a little sooner than they think it is going to get there.

He has three distinctively different secondary pitches – a larger breaker curveball to a short cutting slider and a changeup. So he has four pitches and he can throw all of them for strikes. He is another guy that is tough, is not afraid to throw any of his pitches and throws them all over the plate.

The complete staff, including the relievers, really showed the ability to throw their fastballs and play off of that with some quality changeups. Was that the objective coming into the year?

Steve Webber: That is our philosophy, to be able to command the fastball and command it down and away in the strike zone. Pitching away from the hitters strengths. Disrupt balance with your off-speed stuff. Basically that is our philosophy. Pitch ahead in the count. Pitch to contact. That is for everybody. It doesn't really differ from pitcher to pitcher. It determines whether you are successful or not – command of the fastball and change speeds to keep hitters off-balance.

I would rather they concentrate on their strengths.

Josh Geer was a light switch, either on or off. When it was working it was really working. And when it is not working…

Steve Webber: He is a ground ball pitcher, a sinker, changeup guy, and when he elevates his pitches it doesn't work too good. Belt high fastballs don't sink much. He logged 160 innings and started to show the wear and tear.

With him it is all about finishing his pitches and getting out over the front side and keeping the ball down in the zone to get the action that he needs on his fastball and his changeup – he has an outstanding changeup – to be successful. He has been inconsistent. When he is on and throwing his two-seamer down in the zone, he gets a lot of ground balls and does a terrific job of changing speeds. That is two important aspects of pitching.

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