Mitch Canham learning his craft

Mitch Canham got a chance to get away from his comfort zone this year. Everyone in Oregon knew his name but he ended up in the relative anonymity of the California League. It may not be long before people know his name all through baseball.

You started off in Eugene and then got a chance to taste Lake Elsinore in your first year – what was the experience like?

Mitch Canham: I liked it. I had a great time all-around. It is a totally different experience not worrying about school and going out and playing everyday.

If I do good or poorly, I don't have anyone else to blame for it. It is my own thing if I am struggling or not taking care of something off the field. I am an adult now. I have to be able to handle that stuff. I had coaches in college trying to watch after me. It is another good step in the growing up part of it.

I was lucky to play in the Northwest and Eugene through high school and college and the start of my pro career.

I was excited to come out to Lake Elsinore where no one really knows me. I get to try something different. It was a great experience playing (in Eugene) and I love all the people in the Northwest. I got to play in front of my family and then I got to meet new guys in the organization and play at a higher level – push myself some more. It was a solid first year.

What do you feel like you have to work on behind the plate – you worked a lot with Carlos Hernandez since you have been in the system - how has he helped you?

Mitch Canham: There is not one part of the game that I am complete at. Every individual part I have to keep working on.

Going through the drills (with Carlos) and making sure everything is perfect. Not just a one time thing. We did throws every couple of days just to keep it fresh. You have to do it over and over and over again to keep doing it right. You have to maintain and keep working harder at it to make times quicker, be more confident. It is a continual working progress to have your pitchers confident in you.

In Lake Elsinore, guys are faster and stronger and don't mess up as much as they do in college or the lower levels. You have to be more precise with what you do and make fewer mistakes – just like them. It was exciting playing with those high caliber guys and working with all the coaches that know everything about the game.

How difficult is it to get a 2.0 to second base down to 1.8 or 1.9?

Mitch Canham: I could usually get a 1.95 and I would like to be in the 1.8's consistently. A tenth of a second goes a long way when you talk about transferring a ball and throwing it on the bag with location.

Also, being quicker behind the plate blocking balls is something I want to work on. I start to get antsy and try to reach out rather than let the ball come to me. It will help me be quicker and keep the ball closer to me. That is a big part of the game, keeping it close so runners don't advance on balls in the dirt.

The whole off-season I am going to be living in Arizona and working five days a week on it.

People always ask me how my job is going. ‘I don't have a job. I play baseball.'

At the plate, you have a timing mechanism that has you leaking forward when you tap your foot. Was that something you didn't even know about until you saw on video?

Mitch Canham: I try and make everything in rhythm. When I am hitting it is a timing thing. I don't even notice I do it but it seemed to have worked in the past so I stuck with it. I try not to change too much.

Whatever the coaches teach me, I do what they tell me, I work on it, and see if I can incorporate it and see if it is producing better stuff than I have. They have been in the game a lot longer than I have so I am going to listen to everything they have and take their advice.

What is the change that they want to see or you want to see?

Mitch Canham: Everyone has a different piece that they want to add. It could be as little as keeping my head down or widening my base. I was trying a lot of different things in Instructional ball.

I was working on a lot of things in Lake Elsinore because I was not playing a lot. Part of being in the bullpen, I got to catch a lot of pitches in a more relaxed environment than the games so I got to know the pitchers and mix in with them while working on drills down there.

It was a long year – I had been playing since last fall. It is not a bad time to have a little downtime.

How difficult was it to learn all the new pitchers in Eugene and then Lake Elsinore?

Mitch Canham: At first it is real tough the first time through. One thing I picked up in college, Coach Spencer used to tell me, was keep a book on pitchers. I do that. I have a little book. If I have a guy who is tricky, I will write some stuff down so next time it will be fresh in my mind, ‘This guy has a really good changeup that drops' so I don't break my thumb.

The first time out catching a guy is always difficult. I try and spend more time with him so I am comfortable. By next year when we start the season I will be back to my old self and chatting it up. I was real focused on getting to know everybody and the routine of professional ball.

Is that the knuckle-change of Mat Latos?

Mitch Canham: Yeah – he calls it a change but it is a splitter. The ball drops like a mother.

When you come up to High-A where guys have been around for two or three or four years, is it difficult to go up to them and tell them a pitch just isn't working?

Mitch Canham: You would be surprised – some guys are pretty independent – but some guys come up and ask after a pen, ‘How did this look?' Or if I notice something I can talk to them. I am the same age as them. Yes, they have been playing professionally but I have played just as long as them in college and have been developing at the same rate as them. It is mutual respect.

They see a new guy coming in and you have to mingle with the team and become a part of it. I like to do that before I stick my nose in and start to holler at them.

It is getting to know people. Then you can loosen up and say different things.

Who had the best slider down in Eugene?

Mitch Canham: Latos had a great slider once he figured it out.

(Chris) Perez had some great stuff – it was staying positive with all those guys and knowing they have the right stuff and trusting it.

That is what I told (Rey) Garramone, right it on the bill of your cap, ‘Trust your stuff.' Every time you go out there, take a look at it and believe in what you got. If you do that you will be fine.

Best changeup?

Mitch Canham: I think Jackson Quezada because it looked just like his fastball. He did a great job with that. He used two pitches all season and got tons of outs. A heavy fastball and then he throws the changeup.

We had a lot of guys – they all had good stuff. It was fun to work with.

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