Webber on Padres pitching prospects

Steve Webber was in charge of some of the top pitchers in the San Diego Padres farm system at Double-A, including Manny Ayala, Greg Burke, Matt Buschmann, Gabe DeHoyos, Mike DeMark, and Mike Ekstrom.

How has Manny Ayala's curveball come along since he shelved the slider?

Steve Webber: Well, he really didn't abandon the slider, he just added the curveball. And it was somewhat effective. He mixed it in occasionally as more of an off-speed pitch.

Does that hurt him at all having four pitches to throw and still working on a few of them?

Steve Webber: I don't think so. I mean, he got off to a good start with us and then he kind of, you know, ran into some rough times later on. But I think the assortment probably would help him.

What was the difference between Greg Burke last year and Greg Burke this year?

Steve Webber: Well, he's more durable. He was stronger. His velocity was up. You know, he was just a lot sharper. The slider was sharp and his fastball had more life.

Matt Buschmann has had a slow start each of the past two seasons. Can you pinpoint why?

Steve Webber: You know each year, well, first of all in ‘07: he skipped a level, really he pitched a little bit at Eugene, he pitched a little bit at Elsinore, he jumped right into the Cal league, and I think he was just kind of finding his way. This year I didn't see that kind of a struggle. Obviously, he got better as the year went along, but he really made the transition from I-A to Double A smoothly.

Gabe DeHoyos was your go-to guy all year long. What made him so good for you?

Steve Webber: Well, his fastball is his bread and butter pitch. It's 88 to 91 depending on the night. But it cuts; it's a hard cutting fastball. And, he mixes that in with his curveball and the split and he challenges hitters and a mentally tough guy: he's resilient. He came up big for us.

What did you see from Mike DeMark during his time with you?

Steve Webber: A live arm, a deceptive fastball, life and velocity, and he threw it for strikes. His slider is somewhat inconsistent, but it's better than it was a year ago. I think the main thing that I saw was just confidence and trusting his pitch: he's not afraid to attack the strike zone and, he was very good for us.

How different was the Mike Ekstrom you saw early in the year from the one in the second half?

Steve Webber: I think it was getting out of the starting role, really. I think that his stuff on a shorter stint got better. His fastball may have gone up a mile an hour or two, and his slider got sharper. In each outing, he just went as hard as he could for as long as he could. In a starting role, it just didn't work for him early in the year. It's hard to believe, but that change really helped his stuff.

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