Faris twirls with a new spin

SAN ANTONIO, TX: Stephen Faris was the least talked about pitcher heading the rotation at the beginning of the season but the right-hander has been the staff ace. A big reason, the spin of a pitch.

You got to pitch at three levels last season – did that help you to prepare coming into this season?

Stephen Faris: I would say so. Fort Wayne – we didn't have the best of years but we battled through.

Getting to a new atmosphere – and kind of the new guy despite knowing everybody to fill a spot, I was trying to be as smooth as everyone else and getting on a roll. They are fighting for a spot in the playoffs and you have a certain motivation. We came up a little short in Elsinore but that is the way it goes.

Getting the experience to go up to Portland for one game and being able to talk to some of those guys. Michael Barrett got to catch me and I was able to pick his brain since he has the experience in the big leagues. It was great to do that and finish off the year in Lake Elsinore in the playoffs. It was good.

All three different situations and unique at each level and I took a lot from last year to bring into this year.

Is there something you have worked on this year to see the success you are having?

Stephen Faris: Obviously, the organization is big on fastball command and I feel like that has been there. I am always working on the changeup and there are times when I feel that that is coming along. I have had trouble with the changeup but I have kept it down for the most part.

My breaking ball was getting a little loopy last year and I went to Instructs and the coaches worked with me this spring to tighten my breaking ball tight and to keep it consistent – looking like the fastball while keeping that sharp break. I am really working on that spin of that breaking ball.

I continue to work on keeping the ball down. Keeping the ball down and getting those early strikes.

As a guy who pitches to contact, what is the most important lesson you need to drill into your own head?

Stephen Faris: I think the main thing I do is don't be afraid of the contact. That is what is going to work best for me. The guy hitting the ball in play will allow me to hopefully get a lot of ground balls. I won't have as many strikeouts but the ground balls will help push me into later innings and help my team win. Don't be afraid to let the guy hit it and let them make the mistakes. Stick to my gameplan and let my ball move in and away from them and let them make their own problems. Let the guys behind me play defense and allow them to make the plays. I have the confidence in them.

What has been the difference between this year and last?

Stephen Faris: The breaking ball – getting that down and having that pitch. Last year, some games it would be good and some games it would not be there. I could always rely on my fastball and sometimes the changeup was there. Sometimes the curveball was there more often than the changeup. I have liked to have those pitches and being able to throw them all in any situation, behind, ahead, and keeping the guys off-balance. If I can continue to do that, it does not matter what level I am at, I can be successful.

There are times when you get hit around and still believe it was your best game. You had a one-hitter over nine – was that the best of Stephen Faris?

Stephen Faris: I felt pretty good. I would say it was one of the best I have ever felt. Some days you do get hit and still feel good. I was able to stay ahead of all the guys with one strike and two strikes. I had them guessing and had a lot of early ground balls. They want to let you go but also hold that pitch count to protect the arms. Getting the early ground balls, moving my fastball in on guys and breaking some bats. That was definitely one of my better games and hopefully I can get a few more.

Have you matured since coming out of Clemson?

Stephen Faris: I definitely have. I think the pace of the game is a little different. Your attitude and how you carry on – in college there was a lot more hype and rah-rah and here it is the same but you have to put it towards different things. You have to save it for on the mound and game situations. Go through your routine, practice hard, do everything you need to do but you don't need to be in a rush. Stay controlled, get your work done, and everyone else is on the same page.

Knowledge – being able to go to Portland and meeting all of these guys on other teams that has helped me grow as a pitcher, person and teammate.

There have been times when you are a slower starter, settling in over the first two innings and getting stronger as the game goes along. Do you change the pre-game routine?

Stephen Faris: I make an adjustment here and there. You don't know. Every day is different, even in bullpens. You have to adjust and sometimes, for whatever reason, it might take me some time to get going. I feel like the later innings I get into a rhythm and get better as the game goes along. I wouldn't say there is one particular thing. Nothing stands out. Is there an outing in your mind that you wish you could have back?

Stephen Faris: The one outing that sticks in my mind as a bad outing was the one against Frisco where I gave up nine runs. That was hands down the worst outing I have ever had. That set me back a while and I am still trying to gain insight from that.

You learn that you can't walk anyone and have to be consistent with your fastball before we even talk about the other pitches. That day I was all over the place and behind. You can't do that. I tried to take as much positives as I can out of an outing. You suck up your pride and move along. Hopefully it won't happen again.

You missed some time in May or around that area. What happened?

Stephen Faris: We were in Tulsa for a 35 degrees, rainy day and I was throwing and everything was fine. I went through the first inning and was good. I went out and threw the first pitch of warm-ups in the second inning and felt something in my oblique. I had a slight strain and they pushed everyone up and me back. It wasn't anything big. It bothered me for about a week but with the weather getting hot there were no more problems.

What is the goal as you head down the stretch after a solid first few months to the season?

Stephen Faris: At the end of the year, everybody wants to finish strong. Get your work early and finish strong. Putting a good few last months together.

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