Padres Prospect Interview: Aaron Breit

FORT WAYNE, IN: Right-handed pitcher Aaron Breit has one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher in the Padres organization. He throws in the mid-90s, is 6-foot-4, 225-pounds and his curveball and slider show potential.

The Padres selected Breit, 22, twice – in 2004 and 2005 – once out of high school, the second time out of Garden City Community College in Kansas, finally signing him as a draft-and-follow in 2006. He had a good debut in Eugene, striking out 69 batters in 64.1 innings against 22 walks with a 3.36 ERA.

Last year, however, Breit struggled mightily, going 3-11 with a 6.73 ERA. His biggest problem was his fastball was catching too much of the plate, and when your secondary pitches and changeup aren't working, Midwest League batters are going to hit a fastball, especially one down the middle, no matter how hard it is. His last month did show some signs of improvement, as he cut his ERA to 3.81, his lowest by nearly three full points, to go along with a 23/5 BB/K ratio.

He's just returned to the Wizards after suffering some nerve problems in spring training and appears to be much more comfortable both on and off the mound than last year.

We recently caught up with him.

You recently just came back from a pretty big injury, can you describe what happened?

Aaron Breit: At the end of last year, my elbow started to bother me. At Instructs, I had some inflammation around the nerve and also a stress fracture. In the off-season, I took the time off like they wanted me too and came back throwing in spring training. The nerve got irritated again so they went in and removed it.

That sounds like a fairly major surgery and your back relatively quick. Does it sound worse than it is?

Aaron Breit: Yeah, it's just a real minor surgery. Six weeks of not throwing, then six weeks of a rehab program and then you are back on the mound again.

Last year, you struggled until the last month then pitched fairly well. What was the big difficulty for you last year after pitching so well in Eugene?

Aaron Breit: Last year, I tried changing some things mechanically and became like a robot on the mound. Once I got my confidence back, got more comfortable and started to hit my spots and pitch well again.

It looked to me when I saw you last year that you were throwing strikes, it was just where you were throwing strikes.

Aaron Breit: I was in the strike zone, but in the middle of the plate. At this level, they are going to hit that. I had to work more on going in and out, up and down – getting more of the edges.

Despite having a big fastball the coaches were talking about how much better your secondary pitches are this year. Is that a big reason behind you feeling better on the mound?

Aaron Breit: I've been throwing my curveball and slider for strikes much better this year.

You are throwing both a curve and a slider?

Aaron Breit: Yeah, I'm throwing both of them for strikes and my change is a work in progress.

How do you prevent both your curve and slider from blending into one pitch, a "slurve"?

Aaron Breit: Last year, I tried just working on my curve and it wasn't any good, then I tried working just on my slider and it wasn't any good. It seems like when I use them both together they are both better.

It sounds like this year you are much more relaxed and comfortable as compared to last year?

Aaron Breit: [laughs] Oh yeah, last year was a wake-up call. It was a real learning experience. It was an awful year, but I really learned a lot from what happened to me.

Is it difficult for someone like you who was so dominant in high school and junior college to deal with the adversity that comes along in the minors? I know it's tough for most of us to understand this, but so many of you guys here were always the best player on the field growing up so failing at something athletically didn't really occur that much.

Aaron Breit: Last year was a miserable year for me, and towards the end of the year, I realized that you have to have a short-term memory in this game to be any good. You can go three games and deal, then the next time out they can put up ten runs in three innings on you. It was really tough last year.

You say it's a short-term memory, but you seem like that you have learned from the tough times?

Aaron Breit: You have to learn from the negatives and focus on the positives.

Since you arm problems has your velocity returned?

Aaron Breit: I don't really about that, it's never really been a problem. At the time being, I'm just getting back into the groove and trying to throw to the glove and hit spots.

What is the biggest thing you have to do to become a major league pitcher?

Aaron Breit: I just have to keep working fastball command, improve my secondary pitches and learn to throw that changeup.

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