Manny Ayala: I feel calm and collected out there. I do all my thinking before the game and when I get out there I just try and execute the plan, which is different every time out.
Did this all start in the off-season for you? What was the preparation like and how did it change?
Manny Ayala: This off-season I was in the gym more than I have ever been in my whole life. I concentrated on toning up, losing weight – and the funny thing is when I first came to spring, and I had lost 18 pounds, I felt really weak. At the end of last year I was a little bit heavy but I felt good on the mound. Losing the weight, I definitely felt a difference. Now, I am working on maintaining a healthy weight while keeping on more mass.
How difficult is it to achieve those goals when the food selection isn't exactly at a premium when you get done with the game?
Manny Ayala: It gets tough, especially eating the times you do. After the games you are starving and tend to overeat at 11:00 at night. It can't be too good for the body.
One of the things we talked about during the Instructional League was staying on top of the ball, particularly in regards to your slider. Have you been able to accomplish that?
Manny Ayala: I feel like the slider has become more of a trust issue. It is all about getting it called and trusting it as opposed to getting it called and knowing I should throw it and not, in the back of my mind, wanting to throw it. Knowing it was the right count to throw it and still going to other pitches rather than the slider.
Do you feel like there will come a time when the opposition has your changeup figured out and you will have no choice but to make the slider a go-to pitch?
Manny Ayala: That is when that third pitch – and quite possibly a fourth down the line...I am throwing a lot more two-seamers than I normally do. The more you have to make the hitter think the better off you are.
Is it easier for you now that you have a defined role, as opposed to last year when you were in the pen and the rotation?
Manny Ayala: I am not really thinking about moving up or moving down. This year it was nice to break camp with the team and know I am playing a pivotal role. Even when I was in the rotation last year, I didn't know if it was going to be locked in. ‘Were they waiting to move someone up? Was I doing well?' This year – not job security but I know where I stand more.
One of your losses was a tough one – one run allowed and you were opposite Bartolo Colon. What was that experience like?
Manny Ayala: That day – I know it was probably nothing to that guy – but I definitely took some pride out there. I was trying to stay on top of my game and match zeroes with him. For the most part, I was happy with the outcome. We didn't get anything going offensively against a Cy Young winner but it was what it was. It was an experience I won't forget.
It is kind of humbling to see a guy with a Cy Young award. Getting to the major leagues is a feat. Getting there and dominating – there was nothing that guy did that was like, ‘Wow'. All of us sat back and realized what it was was consistency or the extra pitch and better command.
Now that we are halfway through the season and you have moved up to Double-A, what are the expectations – do you expect to move up?
Manny Ayala: I am going to take it one game at a time and try and stay focused. Losses are going to come and I don't want to think about wins and losses but try and control what I can and that is when I am on the hill. Stay focused with my job.