Padres Prospect Interview: Manny Ayala

Manny Ayala didn't begin the season with a team. He was stuck in extended spring training with an elbow strain. After going through the rehab process – for a second time since he threw during March camp – he is back in Double-A and working on a new pitch.

You were injured late in the year and it carried over into this season – how did the injury develop?

Manny Ayala: I think it started as a shoulder injury. I started babying it and dropped my delivery and my slider and that led to an elbow strain.

How disappointing was it after having a great year in the California League and going to Double-A only to get injured.

Manny Ayala: I think the one thing is knowing the difference between High-A and Double-A. I think from the time I showed up I was already wearing down.

The level of competition was way better and my stuff wasn't. It was frustrating trying to inch by six innings with nothing in the tank.

What was getting out of whack mechanically from that tiredness?

Manny Ayala: It was a matter of, as a starter, your arm gets comfortable through the rotation. You get in a groove where it shows up that fifth day. I got moved up on a day short of rest after traveling for a day and it through me out of funk. It could have been lots of things.

You came into Spring Training – was there a particular goal you had in mind? You have always had a plus changeup and solid command of your fastball - was it the slider?

Manny Ayala: I banged the slider and am going to a curveball now, something I think will compliment my arm slot a little better. As long as that gives me that third pitch – with command – I will sacrifice not having a wipeout slider.

I would rather be a master of a couple of pitches than a jack of all trades.

How is the curveball coming along?

Manny Ayala: The first day was great and then I came back and got under it a little bit. I have a feel for it, as opposed to the slider – when I threw a bad one I didn't know how to make the adjustment. I would describe that as the difference.

On the curveball, you can feel when you get under the ball or try and throw it too soon – when it starts out behind your head. On the curveball, you have to get out in front with it. With my short arm, it helps me there. The slider was a pitch I had to get extended with and I had trouble with that.

By the same rationale, if you ended up getting that full extension on the slider, would it affect your changeup?

Manny Ayala: Exactly, and that is something I have thought about – with the command of my fastball and changeup. Obviously I never found it and I think it is a good thing I never found it because I would have had to probably change everything up.

When you look ahead to the end of 2008, what is going to make for a successful season for Manny Ayala?

Manny Ayala: The first half of last year was kind of like a dream. Wake up and I didn't think about how I was going to do. I just went out and did my job – getting six or seven innings in and do my best for the time I am in the game. I am going to take one game at a time this year and whatever happens, happens.

As for a goal, I am running out of stops to go to. I guess it is all about timing. Hopefully, if something happens I am doing well.

Is the curveball a big part of that?

Manny Ayala: I would imagine so. That allows me to use different pitch sequences to right-handers as I do lefties. I have to sacrifice throwing strikes to right-handers. I will have that two-strike pitch.

I wish they would make a spot in the bullpen for a right-handed – left-handed specialist. I would definitely fill that role.

When you look at that and know it, how do you have to change to attack righties in a different way and make it better?

Manny Ayala: I think keeping the ball down. In Double-A, that was a big difference. In A-ball, those balls are singles or doubles and there they are off the wall or over.

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