Mike DeMark: I have always worked on my deception from all the way back in college and I think that gives me an advantage. Throwing 93 or 94 always looks a lot faster coming from me so that is something I have going for me.
What is the deception?
Mike DeMark: It is hiding the ball behind my body with a different kind of windup. The ball comes out of nowhere it seems; the guys who catch me say that all the time. It comes out at them so it makes all my other pitches that much more effective.
I am working on the changeup and that pitch will make my fastball – my out pitch – even better. I have to keep working on the little things that will give me that much more of an edge.
Do you feel like you have brought the walk totals down from last year?
Mike DeMark: The walk totals – it is funny because when I first got to Lake Elsinore we were either up a lot or down a lot and I was getting a lot of innings to see how I could do. I was pitching on a more consistent basis. Coming out of the pen was new to me because I was a starter in college. So, that was growing accustomed to throwing every three days or four days and doing the extra work to prepare before batting practice, loosening up and stretching out.
I ironed those issues out last off-season and feel I had a better opportunity to bring those walk totals down. I worked on my mechanics and my core strength is a lot better. That right there keeps me more in the zone and more consistent.
What is the pre-game routine like for you as a reliever? Let's say you get called on to warm up and then pushed back down when the adrenaline is pumping – ‘sorry, you aren't throwing today. Wait, we need you now.' Those lows and highs – how do you keep it at an even keel so you can do your job?
Mike DeMark: You just have to expect that you are going to go in at all times. Things can happen during the course of a game that could change that but it is always knowing and expecting. You have to have that competitive edge. You can't fall asleep in the bullpen thinking you are not going to go in. You have to think you are the go-to guy because when your number is called you have a better chance of succeeding.
If you are not sure or get mad because they are not putting you in and then get in the game – that is when guys tend to screw up. They take things for granted. Late in the season, you know you might not go in as much as a reliever but you always have to be ready. Every game is the World Series to us.
Late last year, you had a little bit of struggles. Was that based on fatigue?
Mike DeMark: Not so much fatigue as early on I was getting a lot of guys out with strictly fastballs. I was pounding the zone and was going in every other day. All of a sudden, three days off and you don't refine your other pitches and start leaving balls up – I have to concentrate on those little things that will make every pitch better.
Now, I know what I need to do get myself down in the zone. Last year, I think late in the season, guys do the scouting report found out he struck out this guy, this guy and this guy on a fastball. This guy hit a fastball. This guy grounded out on a fastball. They only had one pitch that they had to keep in mind.
I have a hard slider – they are thinking hard, hard. It is easy for a hitter. Now, throw a changeup like a Wade LeBlanc who has a nasty changeup – that is why he is getting a chance to go to big league camp because he changes speeds so well. That is something I learned early in the year by watching guys like Wade and Manny (Ayala). They take pride in the off-speed.
That is something for us to work for. I would love to be one of the relievers in the big league pen and have to change speeds to do that.
How do you continue the success through the rest of the 2008 season?
Mike DeMark: Concentration on keeping the ball low in the zone and maintaining my competitive edge. What separates me from a lot of guys is I have a certain demeanor about me – I pitch every game like it is going to be my last time. I don't think a lot of guys do that. Some guys take things for granted. That is going to be what separates me.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards