Paul Abraham makes a statement

San Antonio, TX-- If you think being a middle relief pitcher gets little exposure in the major leagues, try doing it in Double-A when you're closer to 30 than to 20. You may as well be in a witness protection program.

Relief pitcher Paul Abraham, 27, may be changing some minds. We could even see the big right-hander in the Padres bullpen sometime during the 2008 season after a very good year in San Antonio this past year.

Abraham is one of the members of a solid relief corps that enabled the Missions to win the Texas League crown. The former Shippensburg Raider struck out 53 batters in 52.1 innings, holding batters to a .214 average. He went 1-3 with a 2.34 ERA and eight saves in 10 opportunities.

He significantly cut down on the number of walks allowed per nine innings. He was particularly tough on righties, holding them to a .168 average but is going to have to improve a little against lefties, who hit .268 against him.

The seven-year veteran of the minors appears to be on the verge of putting it all together according to his pitching coach, Glenn Abbott.

"Abraham is better than he was last year. I've always liked Abby, he's got a good fastball and slider and he's made a few adjustments in his delivery and has been throwing the ball very well. He's throwing his fastball down in the zone much better with improved velocity."

You were in Mobile last year and when we talked with Glenn Abbott he said that your velocity is up and your slider has gotten sharper. What is the big reason for the improvement?

Paul Abraham: I just found a little wrinkle in my mechanics where I was opening up a little too much. Me and Abby did a little bit of work on the side and every day I do a little extra just to keep my mechanics sharp. Instead of flying open I keep my shoulder in for just that little bit extra.

Is the extra work about 10 or 12 pitches more on the side?

Paul Abraham: It's more just dry work, without the ball. Being a reliever I might have to throw every day so I don't really want throw off of the mound every day. Some people can, I can't. It's more just working with the towel or flipping balls fifty-percent.

So you've been the closer for much of the season. Did you enjoy that role?

Paul Abraham: I've always loved being set-up or closer. I'm an adrenaline pitcher, so when the crowd is pumping I'm up and that is when I'm at my best. At the beginning of the year I was doing 6th or 7th inning work, but no I don't mind closing at all.

Do you have the problems that other closers have, if the game is not on the line you tend to let down a bit?

Paul Abraham: Yeah, its natural, especially for closers. If you're going into the game in a closer's role you're focused in, it's a completely different mindset if you're going in for just an inning at a different time. But you have to take all work seriously and have to approach it in the same manner.

How do you bounce back after a bad outing?

Paul Abraham: You have to have kind of caveman mentality;;you just can't dwell on it too much.

You must go over a bad outing a little bit after the game? Try to break down what went wrong and try to correct it.

Paul Abraham: That is what you have to do. You take maybe an hour or so after the game and then move on once you get home. You can't dwell over a bad outing because it will wrap around the next day.

You have to be pretty happy with what your stats. You've had a pretty good year.

Paul Abraham: Yeah, I mean numbers don't always tell the whole story. I've had a pretty solid season until about mid-July when I came back after a month of being out. The first three or four outings were pretty rough, but I starting to feel a little bit better (after that).

When you say they were rough it was what, more like spring training again because you hadn't pitched in awhile?

Paul Abraham: Yeah, pretty much. The first outing the velocity was ok, but it's been building. My slider wasn't there, but I started to throw a good one again. It's all a matter of feel, and when I was out for a month I lost my feel. You're numbers take a hit, but it is what it is. You get back on your feet and get after it.

Now, for a layman like me, we tend to look at velocity more than we should as opposed to location. So with relief pitchers especially is it like the old adage in real estate, ‘location, location, location' or does velocity play a bigger role?

Paul Abraham: Every pitcher on earth can attest to this, the harder you throw the more room you have to miss, but you really don't want to miss by too much no matter how hard you throw. Any big league hitter can hit a down the middle fastball whether its 85 or 105.

For me, staying on top of the ball helped not only with my velocity but also with my location as well. I wouldn't say I've mastered it, but it's a lot better than it was in the past.

Just to review, you throw two fastballs, two- and four-seamer, change

Paul Abraham: No change, just sinker, slider mainly.

How do you pitch with the Padres organization and not have a change?

Paul Abraham: [laughs] I was with the Padres before the whole changeup revolution came around, and I have tried to throw the change and a split-fingered fastball, but I'm a max effort pitcher so it's hard for me to take off a little, and then add a little.

Between the two- and four-seamer, which is tougher for you to throw for strikes?

Paul Abraham: Every fastball I throw is pretty much a two-seamer. I try to throw it towards the bulk of the plate and let it run to the inside of the plate. The only time I really throw a four-seamer is when I'm going away to a righty. By all means I'm not Greg Maddox and can throw a two-seamer to both sides of the plate. I kind of just chuck in there and hope for the best.

You throw the slider to set guys up?

Paul Abraham: The slider is the out pitch, I throw it early in the count to set guys up and get them to chase.

What is the biggest thing you need to do to make the majors?

Paul Abraham: Just keep doing the extra work, listen to the pitching coach, not fly open and throw the ball to the catcher, not through him.


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