Last year, Culp briefly stopped in Eugene before heading to the Midwest League with a 4-2 record in six starts, although his peripheral numbers were not that great with a 16/13 K/BB ratio and allowing 36 hits in 33 innings.
Culp again started the year in Fort Wayne, made the All-Star team and was 8-3 with a 3.16 ERA and a 54/13 K/BB ratio before being promoted to Lake Elsinore.
We caught up with Nathan at the end of the first half, just before his promotion.
The Padres drafted you in the 4th round of the 2006 draft. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Nathan Culp: I went to college at the University of Missouri and played there for three years. I was drafted by the Padres last year in the 4th round and throw a two-seam, four seam fastballs, changeup, curve and slider.
We talked to your pitching coach Whitehurst and most pitchers at this level throw three pitches at the most, while you throw four. Any reason why you throw four pitches?
Nathan Culp: Just playing in college. A lot of college guys because of our experience can throw four pitches. As a starter facing aluminum bats you need to be able to give batters more different looks, once you get to pro ball you still have those pitches.
Once you get from college to the pros is it easier to pitch since you can go inside without the aluminum bats?
Nathan Culp: If they barrel it up, the ball is still going to go – but you don't see as many cheap hits as you did in college.
It seems like most guys like you who went to major college programs are fairly tired going into the short-season leagues. How have thing changed being at this level where you had a full off-season to prepare? Specifically you had the instructional leagues and spring training. How is your off-season preparation different from college?
Nathan Culp: Last year I was tired after a full college year, so I was running on fumes in Eugene and Fort Wayne. I got to go home in the off-season and got rested up. Going into this year it's a longer year throwing every five days, but you're better prepared. They had us at low pitch counts at the beginning of the year, 60 to 65 pitches. We're just now getting up to 100 pitches.
The cold weather must have been tough too.
Nathan Culp: Yeah but I was used to that in college. In college we were playing in February and March, but the problem was just keeping the pitch counts low. In college you are throwing 90 to 100 pitches. With the lower pitch counts it's easier on your arm, but you still have to be prepared to pitch.
How do the days that you are not pitching compare to college?
Nathan Culp: You have the whole week to come back. You can take two whole days off from throwing if you want, but here if you have a day off it's usually the day after you pitch. In college you can take an extra day because you do not have to pitch every fifth day.
Have you noticed any big difference in the instruction that you are receiving compared to college?
Nathan Culp: I think it's more personalized. They will help you if you ask for it, but you have to be pro-active. In college they are teaching you fundamentals as a team and teaching you how to play the game as a team. Here if you want to work on something individually they will give you all the time in the world.
What pitch do you think you throw the best and which one do you need to improve upon to advance?
Nathan Culp: Usually my two-seam fastball is my best pitch, but I've been trying to not throw it as much. I'll kind of fall in love with it and throw it too much. I've been trying to throw more curves and changes. Right now I'll only throw 10 or 12 changes a game, I'm trying to get it up to 15 or 20 changes.
What do you think you need to improve upon the most to advance?
Nathan Culp: Really everything. Right now I can do everything, but not anything great to really help me to advance. I need to locate my fastball better and throw my change for strikes more consistently.
I'm always amazed how brutal you guys are on yourselves. I understand that you need to be more consistent, but it seems like that means doing your best every time.
Nathan Culp: Yeah, you have one good game but you want to improve the next game. You don't want to regress or go back on what you did.
For pitchers it seems like you can throw 90 pitches, 85 of them are great but five are bad you can have a bad game.
Nathan Culp: Yeah, five pitches can be the difference in the game. That is why you are always trying to be perfect on every pitch.