Padres Prospect Interview: Matthew Buschmann

Lake Elsinore, CA: Being successful in baseball is about making adjustments. It's the ability to get up off the floor and figure out how to beat the guy who is beating you. Matt Buschmann, 23, a 15th-round draft pick of the Padres in the 2006 draft, is all about getting off the floor, breaking down his performance and coming back at you.

Last year in Eugene, Buschmann struck out 63 batters in only 60.2 innings while walking only 11 against 54 hits for a 3-4 record with a 3.12 ERA. A late season promotion to Lake Elsinore in 2006, where he pitched well in two starts earned him a spot in the rotation for the Storm in 2007.

So far this year, Buschmann is 10-6 with a 3.1 ERA, but post-all star break he is 6-2 with a 1.82 ERA holding batters to a .241 average and a K/BB ratio of 52/9 in 59.1 innings pitched.

With the promotions of Wade LeBlanc and Manny Ayala, the Vanderbilt graduate is the best pitcher left in Lake Elsinore.

It had to be a big boost to your confidence being sent up to this level skipping the Midwest League.

Matt Buschmann: It's one of those things which is definitely nice, it's great to skip a level – but at the same time I was a senior sign out of college. It's one of those things where an organization will look to fast track you so you're age isn't an issue. You don't want to be 23 or 24 and down in Low-A.

The biggest thing for me was being able to come up here for the last two games and pitch particularly well last year. I think that may have given the organization confidence that I could pitch well at this level.

What was the biggest adjustment from being a college pitcher to pitching professionally?

Matt Buschmann: In college, there are some good pitches that drop in because they are hit with metal bats, but at this level unless you hit it square it's not going anywhere. The biggest difference is that you start to learn so much stuff on your own. In college, you have a coach working with you doing video for you and most of the times they are calling what pitches you are throwing. Professionally it's learning how to pitch and critique the performance on your own. You learn to know what you can and can't throw, know your mechanics and what you need to do to your body to get ready to pitch.

Vanderbilt is known for being a quality institution academically it has to be in a way easier for you now that you just have to focus on baseball.

Matt Buschmann: In a sense it's easier because your whole mind focus is on baseball. You're not thinking of the paper that you have to write or the class you have to go to in the morning. You can focus your whole energy on getting your body ready for what you have to do the next day. In college you only had four games a week, so you have a little more time. Here it's every day, and for me every fifth day so you have to make adjustments on the fly.

You've been successful here because you've been able to use both sides of the plate. It seems so many college pitchers have trouble pitching inside because of playing so much against aluminum bats it becomes a type of mental bloc. Did you ever have problems pitching inside?

Matt Buschmann: You do a little bit because inevitably there is some big guy who comes up and crushes one of your inside fastballs..

Someone who looks like Blanks?

Matt Buschmann: Exactly. What is going on there? [laughing] It's really just about trusting your fastball. In college with the mental bats, it's tougher to throw as many fastballs. Here, it's about knowing that I can throw a lot of fastballs and get people out with it. Changing speeds and making it move a little is also big.

That is the one big change you really see at this level is that guys are better hitters, they aren't going to chase as much. They know if you're not coming inside they are going to lean out over the plate and hit that outside fastball, which is why you have to use both sides of the plate.

When you say fastball do you throw mainly a two or four-seam fastball?

Matt Buschmann: I throw both. The pitching coach and I talk about going through the lineup the first time trying to go fastball heavy. Just getting in a rhythm and used to throwing it. When you get that down then you can go to your secondary stuff.

It seems to me a two-seamer would be tougher to control than the four-seamer because it has more movement on it. Is it difficult to get it for a called strike?

Matt Buschmann: It's kind of a double-edged sword. If it's moving that much I can pretty much throw it at the middle of the plate, and let it work on its own. While the four-seamer I can't throw that pitch down the middle, you have to control that much more on the outer third of the plate.

Could you go over your pitches that you throw? You obviously have a fastball and like all Padres pitchers a change. What is your third pitch a curve or a slider?

Matt Buschmann: Slider. With my arm slot it's a better pitch for me. It's much tougher to throw a curve. It's going to have a lot more lateral movement.

This month [July] you have pitched the best since you've been at Lake Elsinore. What are the adjustments that you have made that have led to your success?

Matt Buschmann: I was getting too many pitches up and had a pretty bad outing at Ranch Cucamonga in June where I went two innings gave up six hits and five earned runs and something had to change. I went back and looked at some college video, talked to Steve Webber [the Storm pitching coach] and thought that I had to get a little bit quicker tempo, more full effort. I can't be a slow pitcher, leveled up my shoulders and now I have more confidence in my pitches, they seemed to come in a little harder and crisper. When my mechanics got set up, my confidence went up.

It seems like you're doing all the mental work about your mechanics before you go out on the mound so you can focus on execution.

Matt Buschmann: I have to be careful because as you can tell I can really tend to over think sometimes. My college coach calls me "Einstein" because I throw big words at him that he doesn't understand, it's all in good fun. I try to do all the thinking before I go out there so as you said when I'm out there I can just focus on execution. You don't want to be out there going my arm has to be here, grip there…just throw.

Obviously you want to be more precise with all of your pitches, but what is the one pitch that you need to work on to give you the three pitches that you need to be a starter at upper levels?

Matt Buschmann: It's the changeup. As much as it's said that everyone who pitches in the organization has a changeup.

Well everyone tries to have a changeup.

Matt Buschmann: That is true, but if you can throw a good changeup it's your best friend. You can get by with two pitches, a change and a fastball you will go pretty far in minor league baseball. I'm not close enough to the big leagues to know how far it could take me to the big leagues, but one step at a time. If I can really master the change it's going to help quite a bit.

Grady Fuson has said if you can throw two pitches it's a ticket to Double-A.

Matt Buschmann: If you can hit that lower outside corner with your fastball and have a change that is the ticket.

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