Lezcano on Padres High-A pitching prospects

Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano saw plenty of the high caliber pitching prospects within the San Diego Padres sytem, including Cesar Carrillo, Nathan Culp, Mike DeMark, Ernesto Frieri, Brandon Gomes, Corey Kluber, Cory Luebke, Wilton Lopez, Drew Miller, Evan Scribner, Rolando Valdez, Robert Woodard and the departed John Madden.

Seeing Cesar Carrillo back healthy is great but how did his stuff come along through the year?

Carlos Lezcano: The best I saw him was in the next to last start; he hit up to 94 and he was very sharp. At times, we saw the Carrillo before the first time I saw him pitch. I never saw him pitch when he was healthy. Little by little he progressed and three out of the last four starts he was pretty good.

Nathan Culp gave up more hits than innings pitched but still had a great ERA. How is he able to do so well with so many hits surrendered?

Carlos Lezcano: He's kind of a finesse kind of pitcher. He doesn't want to blow you away, but he's a competitor. He keeps the ball down and that shows you when he needs to get guys out, he gets them out. Good delivery, good command; he's a guy that knows how to pitch.

I think he will make adjustments as he goes along. This game is about adjustments. The higher you move and the more you play games against each other, you have to make adjustments. He's one of those kids that makes adjustments all the time and that's his forte, his command and he's a good competitor.

Mike DeMark was excellent with runners on base. How was he so successful?

Carlos Lezcano: He did a good for us. He's a guy that throws it in the 90s with a good slider. He just got it all together and threw strikes; was aggressive. That arm was there last year also, but it was more consistent throwing strikes and he really kind of dominated in our league.

Ernesto Frieri was put into the rotation after beginning in the year in the pen. Was that an effort to get him working on a specific pitch?

Carlos Lezcano: The changeup and the curveball. He mainly worked on the curveball. The kid did a great job for us and went to Double-A and pitched a good game, Triple-A and pitched a good game. There's something there as a starter. He throws in the 90s also, 92, 93, 94 at times. He needs to work on that curveball and the changeup, off-speed pitches. Once he learns, especially the arm speed with the changeup and staying on top of that breaking ball, he should be alright.

Brandon Gomes came to you and provided a reliable bullpen arm. What did you see from him?

Carlos Lezcano: Everybody that came did a good job relieving, not only him. They all did a good job. Good arm, got a split-finger and was throwing up to 94 – 92, 93, 94. He did a great job; they all did a great job. He's a guy that got stronger. We never thought he would throw that hard, but he did a very good job also.

Corey Kluber struggled during his time with you before he was sent down. What did you see from him?

Carlos Lezcano: He didn't have command of his pitches. In this league here, he showed a good slider. He had one good outing with us that I remember in Inland Empire that the slider was working and the command of the fastball was there. He had no command when he was here. The command was not what it had to be and he went to Fort Wayne and worked on that. I think he did a lot better over there.

Cory Luebke also had a tough time in Lake Elsinore. It seemed he could not avoid the big inning.

Carlos Lezcano: He needs to work on keeping the ball down and moving, in and out the hitters. All these young guys don't know how to pitch inside. Once they learn how to pitch inside, they will do better. It was just one of those years that even when he was throwing well they hit him. It was tough for him.

Wilton Lopez became the closer during the second half and did well. How have his secondary pitches come along to compliment the power sinker?

Carlos Lezcano: When he got here, he was outstanding. Then, towards the end he flattened out a little bit. He needs to stay on top of his slider. He's another guy that needs to be inside more and use his off-speed pitches more. Once the league found out everything was hard, they got to him a little bit at the end. He throws also 92 – 94, 95; he has a very good arm. It's just a matter of off-speed pitches and location; he needs to work on that, if he wants to get hitters out at a higher level.

Drew Miller also struggled some this season. What does he need to do to reach his immense talent?

Carlos Lezcano: He's got the talent. He's another guy that needs to learn how to pitch inside, command the fastball in and up and down in the zone and throw his breaking pitch, his curveball for strikes. Once he wasn't getting the curveball for strikes, they were looking for higher stuff in kind of the same area and that's why he struggled. He's got an outstanding arm and he just needs to work on that and get his confidence level a little higher.

Evan Scribner came to you in a trade and was lights out. What kind of stuff does he have?

Carlos Lezcano: That kid has got an above average breaking ball right now. You need to have an above average pitch to pitch in the big leagues. He throws 91-92 with that nasty curveball. I like him; he's going to help us down the road. He's going to move fast; I think he's going to move fast.

Rolando Valdez wasn't very good at holding runners. How can he improve in that area?

Carlos Lezcano: You have to get quicker to the plate, you've got to hold the ball better and vary your looks and stuff like that. We were not too good at that all the way around. He's a kid that has pitched a lot of innings in the last year and then went to winter ball and pitched a bunch of innings, so we tried to cut his innings down in winter ball so he can start all of the time. That's why he relieved in the first part of the year because of the innings he had in Winter ball. He pitched like 80 innings in winter ball. We're going to cut that down in half, maybe pitch like 40. We're going to cut down his workload in winter league so he can start for us all year and I think he'll be alright. I think he got a little tired at the end for us in the last couple of starts.

He used to have a fantastic changeup. Has that come back? Because, he didn't necessarily have that last year.

Carlos Lezcano: He's got a good changeup. He pitched a game in Bakersfield that he was outstanding with the changeup. He's got a breaking ball that gets loopy at times. If he tightens it up a little bit, he should be fine. He just needs to start. I think he's a better starter than a reliever.

Robert Woodard also did very well for you late in the season. It seemed he came in with a lot of confidence.

Carlos Lezcano: He doesn't throw that hard, but he's got a funky delivery and throws strikes and goes after the hitters and gets people out.

Did you enjoy yourself this year? You went to the playoffs again, 2nd round.

Carlos Lezcano: I enjoy myself every year. I wouldn't be doing this for so long. I enjoy it. It was fun the way the kids came together and the way they played. Our pitchers let us down the last few games and that hurt us because we won one series, the wildcard series, and then the division playoffs, we out hit them and out pitched them. They just out-defensed us.

John Madden had a rebound year this season. What was the difference between last year and this year for him?

Carlos Lezcano: He was hurt last year. He was healthy this year. He lost quite a bit of weight last year, but he put it back on. He was a gamer for us. He came in there and did a great job. Just getting healthy and putting a little bit of weight on, I think that helped him.

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