Padres Prospect Interview: Tom Davis

Tom Davis scuffled through his first professional season after tossing a career-high 90 innings in his final season at Fordham. Faulty mechanics were part of the problem, as the right-hander looks to build upon a season where he learned a lot about himself. As a result, Davis expects big returns in 2009.

We've gone from starter to relief. A little bit different role for you. Talk a little bit about that and how difficult it is to make that transition.

Tom Davis: I think it's a big adjustment. For example, in one of my last outings, (pitching coach Dave) Rajsich told me that basically, I was trying to throw too many fastballs. Because, as a starter, you try to establish the fastball early in the game and, you know, work the corners. But, as a reliever, you come in and that's already been done. They're pretty much licking their chops waiting for a fastball to be thrown to them. So, as a reliever, I think I've got to do a better job of spotting my off-speed stuff early in the count and just using that more as opposed to being fastball down and in.

What's the mental preparation like. Because, as a starter, you kind of go the day before, you get your mind set. Here, I'm not really sure, ‘hey, am I going in today, is it going to be tomorrow?' What's going to happen here?

Tom Davis: Well, being a starter four years in college, it's definitely different, sitting out in the bullpen for the whole game. We have fun in the bullpen, but you've got to stay focused at the same time; have to pay attention to the game to see what our pitchers are doing, how they're faring against the hitters, what's successful, what's not. You just have to be ready at any time, basically. You have to get used to that idea. If you do that, you'll be fine; get your arm ready.

What's the experience been like for you, coming from college, in the draft to professional baseball?

Tom Davis: It's been great; I had a lot of fun. Of course, I didn't pitch as well as I'd like. I think that's just because of the long season that I had before this. I'm going to keep on working, keep grinding; hopefully things turn around for me.

Did you feel tired?

Tom Davis: A little bit. My arm has been through a lot of innings, but I'm getting a little bit of rest now and I think it's going to help next season.

One of the things that Riddoch has introduced is the journal. Is that something that's new to you?

Tom Davis: No, I used a journal a couple of years in college. This year,, I wrote in the journal; I pretty much wrote down everything I've learned so far. It was a lot of stuff because Rajsich is a great pitching coach. He's taught me a lot; he's just given me simple changes that I can make that can improve all of my pitches.

What kind of changes are those?

Tom Davis: For example, what I've been working on, just the correct leg kick and line towards the plate to help improve my direction; that will also improve my velocity and movement on all of my pitches.

What did it feel like before; because there is always an awkward stage there where you're kind of going ‘this doesn't feel just right?'

Tom Davis: Well, at the end of the college season I could definitely feel my mechanics deteriorating. When mechanics aren't right, it's definitely something, it's very difficult to get them back on track where you want to be. My first couple of starts, I did ok, but there are definitely times when I just didn't feel right on the mound. That's when the few days in between starts you've just got to work on it non-stop and try to get back to what's comfortable, feeling good on the mound.

Talk about your stuff and when everything's working, and maybe you have to go back to the beginning of the college season for that. What is your stuff? What works well for you and where do you see yourself, kind of looking forward to next year almost?

Tom Davis: Well, at the start of the season in college, I was mostly a fastball pitcher. I threw a two-seam fastball that moves. At the start of the season, it was 88 to 92, which is harder than what I'm throwing here, much harder. But, that's the kind of pitcher I think I am. Also, my second best pitch is my changeup. I think my changeup in Eugene had been good, but because I haven't had the fastball command and the velocity I've had in college, it hasn't been as effective as it has been in the past. Also, my slider, I worked on it a lot before the college season and it improved a lot. Like I said, with the fastball, if you don't have the fastball, it affects your other pitches as well.

So, is the slider the pitch that you really want to work on going into next year?

Tom Davis: Definitely, definitely.

How can you improve it? Because, this big thing being talked about is to have about a 5-6 mile per hour differential between each pitch.

Tom Davis: It's definitely difficult because you want the ball to break and you're think that when you throw the slider, but you have to realize that speed on the slider is more important and if you try to throw the slider like your fastball, that's going to produce better results as opposed to trying to make the ball break more and that will eventually lead to arm soreness as I've experienced this year.

And, then, everyone always says, ‘hey, same arm speed, same arm speed.' But, it's the mental thing and putting that together are two different things.

Tom Davis: You definitely have to be thinking the right way to throw all your pitches the right way. It all starts with the preparation between starts or between outings as a reliever. That's when you've got to work everything out.

What do you view success as now that you are in professional baseball?

Tom Davis: I just need to throw my changeup and slider more for strikes. I think, then, even if I don't have my fastball command, at least I'll have those two pitches that I can throw for strikes and be effective with.

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