Padres Draft Interview: Omar Gutierrez

Omar Gutierrez almost had his career end before it began. Battling a weight issue, baseball was on the backburner. He made a commitment back to the sport he loves and found his reward when the San Diego Padres selected him in the 29th-round of the 2008 MLB Draft.

What was the feeling being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 29th round?

Omar Gutierrez: It was a great feeling. Being given a chance to play at the highest level is an extraordinary feeling. Coming where I have come from – it does not happen very often. It was a great feeling.

One of the things I saw was you called your road long with a lot of adversity to get to this point and you just referenced it not happening very often. What do you mean by that?

Omar Gutierrez: After high school, I was behind two big pitchers. Being third in the rotation, I didn't get looked at very often so I took a couple of years off.

I gained a few pounds and got near 300 pounds. I decided I missed the game and I came back and went to a little NAI school. I fought my way back and never thought – until you get that break – that I would be able to play at this level and get to where I am at now. All the work I put it – it was a big feat in my eyes. People doubted that I would be able to come and do what I did. I battled my own things and naysayers. It was interesting.

Talk about the pitches you throw and at what speeds.

Omar Gutierrez: I am a fastball and pitch off my fastball. I am primarily 90-93 and several times this year have gotten up to 96. I throw a bit of a slider/curveball – more of a slurve type pitch – and throw a changeup that is pretty good when it is on. It is a new pitch for me and one of those things I am working on in terms of location.

I throw a two- and a four-seam.

One of the things the Padres had mentioned was they felt you also had room for growth. Are you taken by surprise by that?

Omar Gutierrez: I have hit 95-96 on the gun. I do feel there is more room. In the program I was at, it wasn't a huge D-I and the facilities we had to work with as far as strength and conditioning wasn't top of the line so I am thinking that working with professionals and pitching coaches will help me grow physically and mentally. I still think I can add a few miles per hour to my fastball.

Do you then consider yourself to be a little raw as a prospect?

Omar Gutierrez: Yea, you could say I am raw. I know the game mentally but physically I have not been in programs that can provide adequate training, as far as getting my arm in peak performance. Raw is a nice way of putting it.

You tossed about 90 innings this past season. Is there any concern that you might hit the stamina wall in mid-August?

Omar Gutierrez: I have thought about it but that is another thing I looked at – my recovery time. It bounces back pretty quickly. I would not say a rubber arm but I was healthy enough to throw when needed or called upon. I have never been in this spot so that could be what happens, but I think I will be ok and last through the season.

This past season, it seemed that you may have had a higher walk total than you may have wanted. Is that fair?

Omar Gutierrez: Definitely, it was way higher than it should have been. At the beginning, I was getting ready and had just gotten out of rehab. I was trying to impress the scouts by throwing as hard as I could instead of settling down and pitching.

A lot of it was I had a lot of new faces behind me defensively, and I was a little worried about how they could handle it. I tried to take things into my own hands and strike everybody out. It didn't work out very well.

It wasn't until midseason that I realized I needed to settle down and just throw.

That has to be a big part of the mindset and maturation process. Did you make the decision that you simply had to trust the guys behind you to do their job?

Omar Gutierrez: It was one game. I threw against number one ranked Arizona. I two-hit them over eight innings and I realized I only had three strikeouts. As long as I hit my spots, they were putting the ball in play, and the defense was getting outs. Fly balls were caught, ground balls were outs, double plays were turned. I realized these kids can play. I was worried about them going in there being scared about playing Arizona. I went in there and pitched my game and didn't worry about striking people out and things turned out well.

These guys behind me can perform and they will be there so I stopped trying to strike everyone out and take things into my own hands.

Is there a something in your game that you feel needs to see improvement at the next level?

Omar Gutierrez: My struggles this year was throwing a first-pitch strike. That was a struggle at first. That is something I am worked on and am still working on – that mental process of getting ahead early. Other than that, better location with the curveball – being able to hit a backdoor on a lefty and location with that.

Do you feel like you are attacking lefties and righties differently? Do you save the changeup for left-handers only right now?

Omar Gutierrez: The left-handers mainly see the changeup. It drops off the table and tails into the righty. I don't like going into a righty with an off-speed pitch. It is primarily to lefties and to righties it is more of my breaking ball. As for fastballs, it is the same to both – in and out. I am good at that. Off-speed pitches I differentiate.

What do you look forward to the most about starting your professional career?

Omar Gutierrez: I am looking at kids who have the same mindset and dream that I have, going to a higher level of ball and I honestly want to see what I can do with wood bats.

I gave up too many metal bat hits and I want to see how I do against wood bats. I want to see what I can do with this being my job title, being able to go out to the field to play ball with a great group of guys and seeing what kind of competition is out there.

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