Webber On San Antonio pitching prospects

San Antonio Missions pitching coach Steve Webber has seen many of the same pitchers through the years as he goes up the system alongside these San Diego Padres prospects. He provided his insight on many of the pitching prospects in Double-A this season.

How soon do you get a beat on your own pitching staff as far as some of the strengths and weaknesses are concerned?

Steve Webber: I think when you get them all together, and through the month of April in to May, I think we know a lot more about them than we did at the beginning of the season. A lot of the guys that are here for the first time, coming up from High-A, getting their feet wet early and figuring out that this works, that doesn't work. It takes some time. It takes a couple of months to get your feet on the ground. But, if somebody is struggling, you don't give up. You just keep going and try to get things straightened out.

Matt Buschman had some solid outing down the stretch. Even last year he had a slow start to the season and he kind of turned it around. It looks like he has had the same thing happen this year.

Steve Webber: I think it was about nine starts in last year before he started to turn it on and this year it was six. So, yeah, he ended up pretty close to the form he was towards the end of the year.

Greg Burke last year seemed to be throwing a lot more two-seamers. This year, from what I saw, he threw a lot of sliders during the season.

Steve Webber: He's gone to his slider a lot in relief but at times he's used his fastball more too. His velocity is up on his fastball. He's 90, 91 at times now with his fastball. His slider is so deceptive that they start looking for a slider and he's able to incorporate his fastball effectively.

Steve Garrison you had towards the tail end of last year. Coming into this year, did you see any difference? What are you working on with him through the year?

Steve Webber: It's the same that you work on with everybody. It's locating the fastball down, and using his changeup a little bit more. Having him be a little bit more aggressive and not nibble at the corners, get behind in the count, and elevate his pitch count. He's a four-pitch guy, so it took him a while to get the feel of the slider and the curveball. But, he pitched very well for us. I see a better pitcher than I saw last year, but at the end of the year he was probably a little bit tired. His fastball has more life, he's throwing it more down in the zone. His changeup has been a really good pitch for him. He's definitely, as I see it, a four-pitch guy that has four very effective pitches.

Will Inman, this was your first chance to see him up close. When you get there, and obviously you're big on mechanics, and you look at him, he doesn't look like your traditional pitcher so to speak.

Steve Webber: Well, he's a little bit unorthodox with his arm swing the way it kind of hooks behind his back. When he's on, that really doesn't matter. The thing that matters is what happens out front. The last couple of outings, his pitch count was elevated but his stuff was still good. Early, he was locating very well with his fastball down in the zone, in and out; curveball for strike; and mixing his changeup very effectively. Arm swings are arm swings, they're like fingerprints. You can't really change the way a guy's arm path works. But, really, it's what happens out front; most of the time he's been pretty good with his finish.

Last year, Wilton Lopez didn't walk anybody. It seems like early in the year he walked quite a few more.

Steve Webber: Well, you have to look at where Wilton's come from; last year, Fort Wayne, Elsinore and then Double-A for a while. He's not an experienced pitcher, but he's very talented. Early in the year, he had some problems with command, but the last five or six times out he was very good. His sinker, his changeup have been very good; continuing to work on the slider. He's a strike thrower. I think what happened early in the year, he was just getting his feet wet and figuring things out.

Last year, and you can correct me if I'm wrong here, it seems like there wasn't that much stress put on holding runners on, your delivery to home and how fast it's going, and that was in High-A. Here we're in Double-A; there's a lot more stress put on. I saw you working with Ekstrom on this when I was there early in the year. Has there been a higher priority placed on that throughout the organization?

Steve Webber: Well, that's the organization's philosophy. Once you get to Double-A, you stress it more. In Low-A and High-A, even at Elsinore, it's basically introduced. But, now the pitchers are expected to have a delivery that's sound and not destroy their plane to the plate and still give the catcher a chance to throw the runner out if he steals. So, there is more emphasis here, and it's not only on being quicker. It's varying looks, holding the ball a little bit longer and that sort of thing; to upset the base runner's timing. But yes, there is more of an emphasis at this level.

Who has made the biggest strides in that area? I remember early in the year it seemed like Steve Garrison was getting 3rd base stolen on him, which was kind of odd.

Steve Webber: I think that's a matter of a lot of responsibility is placed on the pitcher to hold the runner at 2nd from stealing to 3rd. At the same time, there has to be some interaction between the infielders and the pitcher to do an effective job. So, that's what we try to do there. And we've done some work on some head movement things. There were several teams that provided a good test for us. They put guys in motion and if they get enough base runners, then we were tested.

Bushman is probably, as far as quickening up his delivery, has probably made the most progress. But, again, we have to caution everybody that they don't get so fast that they're throwing it up in the zone all the time. So, it has to be quick, but it still has to be under control to allow them to command their pitches.

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