Padres Prospect Interview: Jeremy Hefner

FORT WAYNE, IN: Jeremy Hefner was picked in the fifth-round by San Diego in the 2007 draft and instantly proved that he may have been one of the better picks made by the Padres.

Despite a losing record in Eugene last year, Hefner recorded quality peripheral statistics, namely 74 strikeouts in 62.1 innings against only 20 walks. He also allowed less hits than innings pitched, 51/62.1 and only 27 earned runs with batters hitting .221 against him.

This year, he has been a quality pitcher in Fort Wayne, a formidable 1-2 combination with Wynn Pelzer in the starting rotation.

"Hefner throws a fastball changeup and slider for strikes and that is hard to hit when you can throw all three," said relief pitcher Bryan Oland.

Can you give us a little bit of background about yourself? We know you were a fifth-round pick out of Oral Roberts University and were the Madfirars.com pitcher of the year in Eugene [well at least for me, Denis had Colt Hynes].

Jeremy Hefner: I'm from Oklahoma City, was born there, moved to Kansas for three years, but went to high school in Perkins, Oklahoma. I played four years of baseball there and a little bit of football. From there I went to Seminole Junior College.

Same place as Drew Miller?

Jeremy Hefner: Yes, we were roommates my freshman year there. Then I went to ORU for one year then signed with the Padres after my junior year.

A lot of people were surprised that you were still around when the Padres picked you. Were you surprised to go where you did?

Jeremy Hefner: I was told I could go anywhere from the third to the sixth, so when I went on the first day I was just glad that I went.

Was being in the Northwest League in a way a little easier than playing in college because they don't have aluminum bats and you can use both sides of the plate despite the increase in talent?

Jeremy Hefner: Absolutely. The hitters have a much more difficult time adjusting to the wooden bats therefore the pitchers can use that to their advantage. The hitters are adjusting to a completely different way of hitting so that is why I focused last year on pitching inside.

Sometimes it seems like pitchers from big college programs have trouble throwing inside because in college you are so used to throwing everything outside even though now it's to your advantage to throw on both sides of the plate. Did you run into any of that?

Jeremy Hefner: Somewhat. I pitched inside in college to set up my slider but I didn't really run into that.

I know you are going to be modest, but why have you had so much success here and in Eugene? Arguably you have had more success than any pitcher the Padres selected in 2007.

Jeremy Hefner: Well, thanks, I just go out there and try to throw strikes and keep the ball down. I try to force the hitters to put the ball in play and I've been fortunate to have great defense both here and in Eugene.

You kind of sound like someone that doesn't consider him a strikeout pitcher but you were tied for the lead in Eugene and you are leading the Wizards in strikeouts this year.

Jeremy Hefner: I really don't try to strike guys out unless the situation calls for it. The other night I struck out 10 guys, but I didn't try to strike any of those guys out.

What type of pitches do you throw?

Jeremy Hefner: I throw a four and two-seam fastball, slider and a changeup.

What is your best and worst pitch, or what do you feel most comfortable throwing?

Jeremy Hefner: I probably feel most comfortable throwing my four seamer and the least with my two-seamer. That is the pitch that I am really working on this year. Last year it was my change-up and it's come a long way.

Is the trouble with the two-seamer just trying to figure out what way it's going to move?

Jeremy Hefner: Yeah, it's where to start it the follow through and where it is going to end up. It took me almost a year to learn how to throw the change and it will probably take the same amount of time before I really get comfortable with the two-seamer.

What is the biggest part of your game that you need to improve upon to move up the ladder?

Jeremy Hefner: Just making sure that I am staying ahead of guys and pitching to contact. Just working on pitch efficiency, changeups and pitching to contact.

The term pitching to contact confuses a lot of people that means forcing the batter to hit your pitch, not just throwing it down the middle?

Jeremy Hefner: Try to get the hitters to put the ball in play on three pitches or less because you can go a lot further in the game that way. Instead of going five, you can go seven innings. Making a good pitch down in the zone and forcing the batter to take a swing.

So that is not a batting practice fastball down the middle?

Jeremy Hefner: [laughs] No, no not at all.

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