Couchee on young pitching prospects

San Diego Padres pitching coordinator Mike Couchee has been here since the start and has watched pitchers new and old grow up before his eyes. This year was no different, with several surprises in the making.

As the pitching coordinator, what is the goal when you go to each of the affiliates?

Mike Couchee: To make sure everyone is getting going with the plan we setup for them. A lot of time we make sure they are getting acclimated as new guys in a particular league. That type of thing the first time around each place.

How impressed have you been with Richie Daigle?

Mike Couchee: He has only been pitching for a year and a half, two years, and the stuff plays anywhere. Becoming a starter – he came to the Instructional League and developed a split for a changeup, and then in Spring Training, Bob Cluck came up with the idea of getting him more work and making him a starter. To me, that was the greatest idea. Once he gets a feel for what he is doing out there he can move fast. He is impressive.

We really couldn't last year because he was a two-pitch guy but the changeup he came up with during Instructional League last year is the extra pitch he needed to compete every fifth day.

Manny Ayala had a great start to the year – he seemed to get away from the slider and rely solely on the changeup this year.

Mike Couchee: I think he always will. The slider is pretty new to him and he throws five or six a game. The five or six he throws are better quality than he has had in the past. He is not going to be a guy to throw a lot of sliders because he has that good changeup. But, it gives him the option to give the hitters something else to think about and is something that goes the opposite way to right-handers too.

Matt Buschmann – what have you seen from him over the last two years?

Mike Couchee: I didn't see him a lot last year. I think I saw two starts. He is a guy that has some deception across his body.

Everything moves. He has the good slider, the changeup, the sinker (two-seam) – everything moves. That is a good thing. And he is not afraid to throw it over the plate. I like him.

He was one of the guys last year out of the draft that was a little more mature and a little more advanced than the rest. He stuck out.

John Madden was off this year. Nothing seemed to go right and his velocity was down.

Mike Couchee: I saw him last year and he was very good. To me – and it might sound stupid, but he lost a lot of weight over the winter and I don't know if that didn't affect the overall person and pitcher and everything else.

The velocity was way down – the stuff and delivery is there. He had days where he was 93 and the sink came back.

I honestly don't know – losing the weight affected him in some way?

You moved Steve Delabar to the pen to begin the year and he is a guy who has some good stuff but has struggled to consistently hit the plate. What was the reason behind the move?

Mike Couchee: It was a combination of things. Guys we had in the starting rotation we wanted there. Steve had a very good year last year in Fort Wayne and it was a combination of giving him the reward of moving him up a level, as opposed to maybe sending him back to Fort Wayne to start. He earned the right to go to Lake Elsinore. With Daigle going into the rotation – it seemed like the right thing to do.

Two control lefties – Brent Carter, who came off the Achilles injury, and Wade LeBlanc, a polished guy with very good off-speed pitches. Where do you see them fitting in down the road, considering one went down this year and one went up?

Mike Couchee: I think they both have the ability to be starters. Brent has better command. They are fun to watch. They are not hard throwers but know how to pitch.

Wade has a little better breaking ball. We are going to see better from him. The biggest thing for me is to locate the ball where he wants and when he wants to.


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