A win-win for Nathan Staggs

To play near home in front of family and friends or to go on the road and up a level. No matter what the Padres do with Nathan Staggs over the next few days he sees it as a win-win situation.

From where you began in spring training last year, signed as an Independent League pitcher, till the end of the season it seemed that your delivery has been toned down and not as violent as when I first saw you. Is that a fair assessment?

Nathan Staggs: Not only myself but everyone that saw me during those two different time periods would probably agree with you. The truth is it is tough during the season, throughout the course of the game or the year – your number one objective is to go out there and get outs. Especially as a reliever, I don't have a chance to throw bullpens or stuff like that so most of the work I did during the season was on off-days and you get back into the game and revert back to old habits.

Instructs especially, part of me was frustrated because they were trying to clean me up so much that I was doing nine different things in my delivery. I have never really overanalyzed things and there I am worrying about six different checkpoints in my windup. Certainly as the season went on I made some progress in that area for sure and it was a direct result of some of the success I had later in the season. I wasn't as herky-jerky and was a little crisper. If it is not working for me as one it is probably working against me.

Did you feel like you lost anything along the way by cleaning your mechanics up? Obviously, you had a good fastball to start with.

Nathan Staggs: I didn't feel like I lost anything but it has to be balanced for me. If I try and go out there and be too smooth, too pretty, that takes away from what I am doing out there. I may not look graceful but part of my delivery is that I am just aggressive. I got myself into trouble early in the season by trying to be too cute, trying to throw the perfect pitch every time. I am just going to challenge you. Obviously, I want to throw good quality strikes but I am going to make you beat me. I don't want to beat myself. Like you mentioned, I don't really felt like it took anything away but I have to be careful not to go out there and be too pretty, keep that aggressiveness that I am going to challenge you mentality and just go after guys.

If I remember right, back in spring training you had four pitches you were working with. As a reliever, you only need two and maybe the occasional third offering. Has the slider been shelved?

Nathan Staggs: It depends on who you ask. TB (Tom Bradley) and Randy Ready noted that the curveball was probably the pitch that got called the most often. My catchers really felt like that was my go-to pitch.

Earlier in the season, depending on whom you ask, my slider was probably my bread and butter pitch because I was throwing it fairly hard with decent movement.

The changeup is a pitch that I just haven't mastered. It is something I am working on quite a bit right now, simply because I haven't developed enough confidence in it to throw it hard. That is the effectiveness of the changeup – throwing it with the same arm speed and action as you would any of your other pitches. With fastball, curveball, slider, I feel like I can throw any one of those, as hard as I could for that matter, and I will be ok. I trust them since they all have some sort of movement. If I get beat with that then I am getting beat with my best stuff. It took me some time in season to buy into the changeup, which I think would be an extraordinary pitch for me, especially against lefties.

The truth is when I threw in the bullpen I would only take two of those four pitches into the game. Whatever was really working in the bullpen I would take into the game. If the slider was nasty in the pen than it was fastball/slider. Even then I would still throw a curveball – and the slider is almost more of a cutter, which I throw to keep guys honest. The changeup was few and far between.

I remember you talking to Wade LeBlanc out in Instructs and looking at different grips because he has such a good one. You talk to all these different people and they all have different opinions, different grips, and ultimately it comes down to what you can do.

Nathan Staggs: You are absolutely correct. I have fooled with different grips and there were some spots in Instructs where I had success with the changeup and a certain grip. That has been the challenge.

Realistically. I have had the success I have had over the years without a changeup so I never felt like I needed a changeup or I will be in trouble. It is getting to the point now that even though I have had a decent season in the eyes of some this year I felt like a changeup would only allow me to be more effective, particularly against left-handed hitters since right now everything I am throwing is hard. Even my slider/cutter is harder than most. My curveball is harder than most. There is no true changeup in my repertoire to keep hitters honest. They can just look hard.

Is the movement the same where everything is also coming into a left-hander?

Nathan Staggs: Yes, everything is coming into a left-hander. Realistically, I throw two variations of the fastball, four-seam and two-seam. Mind you, this is all based on last season and some of the adjustments I am making now – we will see. Some things could change between now and then. My curveball is more of a slurve and my slider is more of a cutter. Everybody labels it – the curveball does not have a straight 12-to-6 drop, it has some sweeping action to it as well.

You mentioned you worked out with Steve Delabar and John Madden this off-season in Kentucky. Is there a point where there is almost too much work you can put into the off-season?

Nathan Staggs: Well – a lot of it depends on you as the individual and you need to understand your body and your recovery time and what your body can sustain in the off-season. For me, I have never lifted weights prior to this off-season. That is a fact and I am ashamed to admit it but it is a fact. When I started lifting I took it slow because I did not want to traumatize my body. It wasn't something I was accustomed to so I took it easy. The throwing too. I lifted as hard as I could and as long as I could and then started throwing and stopped lifting during Christmas. When I got back to it I have been very careful not to go out and lift real heavy and try and throw. There has to be some balance in your approach in the off-season. Like you said, the biggest reason I struggled in the beginning was because I came out of a tryout camp. I didn't know what the likelihood was for me pitching for the San Diego Padres. So, my approach wasn't geared to where it needed to be. I started out real slow and as the year went on and I built up the strength and the recovery I started doing well at the end of the year. As a pitcher going into spring training, you don't want to go into spring firing on all cylinders and then hit a wall come mid-season. You would like to be prepared enough to do well in spring training but be able to continue that stamina, endurance and explosiveness throughout 150 games.

Do you feel like – I think you are turning 25 in spring training – there is a clock ticking against you because of your age? Obviously, you came out of the tryout camp so there is time there but the fact remains that you are old by baseball standards.

Nathan Staggs: I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn't think there was. The only thing I really feel like is in my favor, and I don't think my age is, is I am coming off my first season of professional baseball. A lot of the guys that are younger than I am have more baseball experience but I am coming off my first year. In terms of wear and tear on my arm, I don't think I have the arm of a 25-year-old. I certainly feel there is a timetable. I went to Instructs this year and with the exception of one or two other guys I bet you I was the oldest guy. It sets a reminder to me that the guys I am competing with are anywhere from 16 to 24. When it is all said and done, and I don't know this for a fact, if it came down to a 25-year-old and a 22-year-old that were comparable in stuff and ability and projectibility and ceiling I am sure they are going to go with the younger kid.

I am thankful for the opportunity and I am going to make the most of it. Again, I feel like it is unfortunate I will be 25 coming off my first year of professional ball but there is nothing I can do about it. Hopefully, I get a job coming out of spring training and turn some heads and continue to move forward. My age and my experience don't really correlate. I was at Instructs, and according to some I have the arm but don't have the experience the wisdom, or savvy of a 24-year old. That is why, according to some, I have the projectibility I do. If I can clean up some of these things maybe we can make some progress.

Working out with Steve and John – they are two different pitchers and both are quite different from you. What can you gain by working out specifically with them?

Nathan Staggs: The reason the three of us are together is because we got along together so well, period. Stevie, in particular, is a guy, especially since we roomed together on the road; we talked a lot about mechanics and delivery. We just talked pitching quite a bit. Stevie mentioned quite a few things that just struck a chord with me. We talked a lot shagging ball and he showed me certain things that hit home with me. I value his opinion and I trust what he said and his delivery was cleaner than mine and he could show me a thing or two.

Now, Madden and I are probably a little more comparable in approach. Stevie is clean and crisp and mechanics-oriented where Madden and I aren't. All three of us get along so well and are comparable in size, strength and ability. I think that is why we chose the three of us to get together.

Accessibility of the facilities out here – everything is within a block.

What are you looking for in 2007?

Nathan Staggs: Really just to build off last year. I felt like – I am not a stat rat at all. I did not look at my stats all season. For me, it is a bad omen to look at stats. When the year ended I went back and looked at it and I got a few comments from people that said I showed them a thing or two over the season.

I felt like what I did wasn't necessarily impressive in my own mind. I felt like there was still a long way to go. I had an awful start to the season. I was surprised – that is one thing that got me in trouble. I finally just said, ‘here it is. I don't think you can beat me. Let's see what you have got.'

Being signed the way I was, I was constantly looking over my shoulder when the year started. Do I have to be perfect every time out or am I going to get cut. It is a business. They didn't invest any money in me. I am a longshot. I struggled in the beginning with that mentality. I finally just said, ‘screw it. I am going to go out there and challenge people. Here I am. This is what I got. See if you can beat me.'

You know better than most, as a reliever, if you struggle out of the gate you are scrapping the rest of the year to get your numbers back down or even to a respectable level.

I am looking to build off what I did, start out the year stronger and continue that pace throughout the season rather than the last month and a half of the season.

It really is a win-win for me. Double-A is where I would like to be and would be better for my career. I want to see what I am capable of. I want to compare myself to these kids in Double-A that are supposedly big league prospects and the best in the organization. I want to compete against those guys.

But, Lake Elsinore that is southern California and about an hour from where I live. There would be some sense of normalcy. I would be playing close to home in front of family and friends. Either way is a win-win situation for me and we will see what they decide.

I can't wait.

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