Your velocity was down a little last year – have you seen it come back with rest and how do you feel now?
Ernesto Frieri: I feel pretty well now. I'm working hard so I feel my arm is stronger. Last year, my velocity was a little down, but this year I come in a more strong like I said. I'm working hard and I've been doing my job.
Did you feel you put too much pressure on yourself last year?
Ernesto Frieri: Yeah, I think that was a big problem for me last year. But this year I feel a lot more relaxed. I try to be fine on the field. I try to do everything that I can do.
You got behind in some counts last year – how important is that first pitch strike to your success?
Ernesto Frieri: That first pitch strike is the best pitch in baseball, because if you start working ahead in the count you can work with the hitter. You can throw a breaking ball; you can pitch inside and outside.
You have a good changeup – do you feel like you have used it enough?
Ernesto Frieri: Last year I didn't use it enough, but this year I want to try. That's a good pitch. It makes (the hitter) off balance. You throw a fastball in the upper 90's, then you come with a changeup, that's good.
You mentioned having to work hard last year – did your off-season preparation change?
Ernesto Frieri: In the off-season I played in my country, winter ball. I was working hard. I worked on my mechanics and my delivery. Now I come more ready. My strike zone is better. My command with my fastball is better. I bring a good slider, too. So I think that this will be my year.
Right-handers seemed to get good looks off you while you were extremely successful against lefties – how do you approach them differently.
Ernesto Frieri: I think that, for the minor league, you just need to throw strikes, you need to be an intelligent player. You need to know what's important for you. You have to learn something every day. It doesn't matter if you are a lefty or a righty, you just need to do your job.
Huff went 4-1 with one save and a 3.15 ERA for the Arizona Rookie League Padres. In 34.1 innings, the left-hander struck out 38 and walked just seven – a centerpiece of the bullpen for the Championship squad. He received a late season call up to the Eugene Emeralds.
Talk about your pitches and the speed you throw each at.
Matt Huff: Yeah. I'm not an overpowering guy with the fastball – upper 80s, sometimes I'll touch low 90s. I'm trying to throw four pitches for strikes. I've got a fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. And out of the slider and curveball, I'd say the curveball's the best. It's a 12-6 on the clock. I'm real comfortable throwing it for strikes and throwing it where I want.
Is the curveball the go-to pitch to get outs?
Matt Huff: Yeah, it certainly is.
You were a leader on the AZL Championship squad last year – talk about helping mentor the younger guys and did you feel like you needed to be pushed more because of your age?
Matt Huff: Obviously when you come out of college, four years, you've got that experience. I felt like rookie ball – I know I learned a little bit from the youngsters and I'm sure they learned a little but from us. We gelled really well. Obviously, coming out of college, I played four more years of baseball than then they have, the guys coming out of high school. I think my job is coming out and throwing strikes, and being able to get us out of some jams and help those guys out was pretty key.
You were a starter in college, what is the difference coming in relief?
Matt Huff: It really is a whole other ballgame. Coming out of the pen, you've got to be ready to come in throw strikes right away. Whereas if you're starter, you have a little bit more room for error early on in the ballgame. My key at Regis was just throwing four pitches for strikes – you know, working a whole game that way. Then you come here in the bullpen, and the hardest part is getting four pitches ready to go out in five minutes. You don't have as much time to warm up, and the heat out there was getting to you. It was a combination of things, but at the same time it was a great learning experience, and I'm glad I got to experience it.
Do you approach lefties and righties the same or is there a particular pitch you use against one and not the other?
Matt Huff: With the lefties, I try to use more of the changeup than the curveball or the slider, just because it's something that's moving away from them, down and away. I hopefully get a ground ball out of that. Versus the right-hander, the changeup is something I'm going to show quite often, but I'd rather go to the slider or the curveball. Working in to lefties I find easy: in with the fastball, away with the changeup. Sometimes I'll break them off with a curveball every now and then. But the changeup, having them roll over that is pretty key to having success against the lefties. Righties, I just throw the whole kitchen sink at them – whatever I've got.