Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Huff

Peoria, AZ-- Matt Huff is the elder statesman of the assembled team in extended spring training. He had a successful year last year and is looking to turn that into greater things in the coming season.

A 27th-round pick by the Padres out of Regis University in 2006, Huff began the year with the AZL Padres where he went 4-1 with a save and a 3.15 ERA over 23 appearances. In 34.1 innings he struck out 38 and held the opposition to a .189 average with runners in scoring position, leading the league in appearances.

He was counted on so heavily that then manager Carlos Lezcano called upon his favorite reliever in the Championship game where he logged 2.1 innings of scoreless work to help secure the win.

He then pitched two innings for the Eugene Emeralds in a late promotion to end the season.

Talk about winning the Arizona Rookie League Championship and what the ride was like.

Matt Huff: We had great team camaraderie. We played really well as a unit. Our team got stronger each and every day and that is what helped us at the end. It was a great year.

Was there a specific goal you had in mind this off-season as you looked ahead to the 2007 season?

Matt Huff: I wanted to come back and given the chance or opportunity to be a starter I wanted to be able to fulfill that. I came back ready to be a starter or reliever – whatever role the Padres are looking for I am looking to do my best to fulfill it. I came back in the best shape I could be in and am ready to roll, whatever they ask.

What is the repertoire like, especially as a reliever where the more pitches you have the less likely you can command them all?

Matt Huff: I throw a fastball, a four- and a two-seamer. I work with a changeup and then a curveball. I am a big fan of the curveball. I also have a slider that I don't throw very often. I kind of ditched it. When you are in the bullpen it is difficult to get four pitches ready to throw for strikes. I concentrate on the three.

You are not the hardest thrower but got quite a few strikeouts. What was the key to making that work and finding success?

Matt Huff: I try to throw all my pitches for strikes and that is what helps me. I had a lot of success with that in college – just throwing all four pitches for strikes, in any count, at any time. I was there with a strike and keeping hitters off-balance. I am not a guy that is going to overpower anyone by any means. Spot my fastball here and there and work off my off-speed stuff.

Did you feel like you were one of the leaders of the club last year since you came into a situation where many of the guys were teenagers and you were 22 at the time?

Matt Huff: It is fun to be around the younger guys. It brings you back to a college type situation – kind of like how I was last spring. You have guys all different ages and it is fun to bond with the younger guys. I have been around longer than a few of them so I had some points to offer them and they had some things to teach me as well. It was a learning experience for all parties involved. Great relationships all around.

What did you learn from the coaching staff here that you realized was different from your days in college?

Matt Huff: In college, I didn't stress throwing my fastball where I wanted it because I could get away with a few things. Here you can't do that. Guys will capitalize on your mistakes. Here, you have to be a little more careful where you are throwing the ball – up, down, inside and outside. Razor really stresses fastball command and changing speeds. They kept it simple for us and that is all they can ask of us – locate our fastball and change speeds and we will have success. I think it is working out well.

You have been touted as having a great curveball. What is it like to throw the pitch knowing the hitter has no chance when you spot it right where you want it?

Matt Huff: It is nice. I come from Denver so it is a little more difficult to throw up there. So, when I come down here I am kind of in heaven. The ball breaks more here than it did in that altitude. It just spins up there and flutters. Coming down here it has some bite and it is a fun place to play.

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