What is next for these prospects?

What happened to John Madden in 2007? Is R.J. Rodriguez the real deal? How good can San Diego Padres 40-man roster addition Wilton Lopez be? What steps forward did 2008 camp invite Jose Lobaton make? We went to pitching coach Steve Webber for those answers.

John Madden had some high expectations coming in but never seemed to regain his velocity. What did you see through the year?

Steve Webber: From the time Spring Training started – and I didn't see him in '06 and had nothing to go on – but he looked uncomfortable on the mound and could find his release point. Then he had the back problem and, in my opinion, I don't think he was healthy all year.

When you go back and look at his stuff – he is a sidearm right-handed pitcher – and I am talking about my experience with him this year – he has an average fastball with above-average movement from a low arm slot. His slider is very good. It is late, sharp, and has some depth to it.

I think it was mostly his control and command. I think that will come back. I don't think there is any rhyme or reason. At times, he was probably as good as last year. He was never able to put a string of games together that would boost his confidence and get him back to the level he was.

Sometimes things don't go right and you don't have an answer for it. He wasn't able to put a string of games together and with the health issues – He is a very low-key individual but highly competitive. He handled the ups and downs very well. I think that speaks a lot of his character. That will keep him going over whatever hurdles he has to overcome.

R.J. Rodriguez got to you late and only pitched in a few games. Still, he seemed to be a go to guy for you?

Steve Webber: I saw a guy that has the ability to close out games. He is very aggressive and attacks the strike zone with his fastball. He has two – an above-average changeup and a slider that I believe could be average. He has two secondary pitches that are weapons to compliment his fastball.

The thing that stands out for me is he seems to strive on save situations in the ninth inning. That is when he does his best work. He is not intimidated by those situations and always seems to get that third out.

Wilton Lopez has a nice power arm but never seemed to be able to finish people off. What is the key to him having future success?

Steve Webber: On the positive side, Lopez has a power sinker and he throws strikes. The thing that will speed up his development is improvement in his slider and changeup. As his stint with us went along I saw some improvement in his slider and later in the year he started using his changeup – I thought it was very good.

I think for him it is a matter of putting everything together. He has to pitch off his fastball – a sinkerball pitcher – if he can continue to develop his secondary pitches to compliment his fastball, he has a great future ahead of him.

What was your impressions of the work Jose Lobaton did? And how involved is he with you and the staff?

Steve Webber: He is always involved. We talked to him a lot about how we want to approach pitching in general, the strengths of the pitcher he is working with, and how this pitcher is going to get hitters out. The last factor is talking about the opposition and what their strengths and weaknesses are. Over the course of the season, he got better at game management.

The pitchers had a lot of confidence in him. I have been around him a lot. This was his first full year of being the number one guy and I think he did a great job of handling the pitching staff.

As a coach, how difficult was it for you to be in a situation where you are up 2-0 and end up losing three straight?

Steve Webber: It is disappointing but that has happened before and will happen again over the course of a season and a playoff run.

The thing that stood out for me about the team was their ability to remain professional and go about their business every day. They worked on the stuff they needed to work on – and I am talking about pitchers and players alike. That is the way the game is supposed to be played. The wins and losses is reflective of the way these guys went about their business. We got within one game of a Championship – an indication of how well they came together on a daily basis.

Does that in itself make for a successful season for you?

Steve Webber: We are trying to win a Championship. There are different ways to look at success – individual and as a team. If you look at our record and the way we made it into the Championship series you have to classify it as a successful season.


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