LeBlanc seizing opportunities

PEORIA, AZ-- Wade LeBlanc received a rude welcome during his first big league stint with the San Diego Padres. A learning experience, the southpaw is using that knowledge as he vies for a spot in the rotation.

You have always had solid command but it seemed like you were trying to do too much when you got to San Diego. Is this a fair assessment?

Wade LeBlanc: Pretty fair. Maybe a little bit of both: trying to impress everybody for the 28 days I was there, and maybe giving hitters too much credit. I think you can't really afford to "nibble" because when you get behind you have to come through and put white on white and that's when you get hurt.

You have moved rather quickly since being drafted in 2006. Have things gone the way you expected?

Wade LeBlanc: You know, coming in I didn't really know what to expect. I just wanted to come in and try to improve as much as I could. I think I've been really blessed in the fact that opportunities at the next level have continued to open up. I'm just going to try to keep getting better.

Twenty-one balls left the park and another seven in San Diego. What was the reason for the high homer totals?

Wade LeBlanc: Just leaving the ball up in the zone. That's when you get hurt. Like I said before, when you get behind in the count, you have to put white on white. That's when those long balls happen.

You had a great second half in Portland. Can you pinpoint the reason for such success?

Wade LeBlanc: Better command. That's the most important thing for any pitcher really, especially guys like me who don't throw extremely hard. I need command. I need to get ahead in the count to get the hitters on the defense and then let the guys behind me make the plays.

How have you improved as a pitcher since being drafted out of Alabama?

Wade LeBlanc: A lot of ways – mostly on the mental side - knowing how to attack certain hitters, knowing how to read swings, things like that. Usually when you're in college and high school, coaches call the pitches, they read the swings, they do things like that and you just have to go out and pitch. But in minor league ball and major league ball, you have to watch the swings and make adjustments inning-to-inning and pitch-to-pitch sometimes. That's where I think I've really improved.

What did you learn from some of the struggles that occurred during the 2008 season?

Wade LeBlanc: I learned a lot. I learned how important command is and how important fastball command is, because you can't always rely on the change-up to get every out in the game. So that's the biggest thing: to be come aware of how important fastball command is.

There is always talk of pitchers setting up hitters but did you feel like hitters are evening the gap and beginning to setup you as a pitcher to throw a certain pitch at the highest levels?

Wade LeBlanc: Absolutely - especially being a young guy and not really having had to work with that. I hadn't really experienced that until I got to the major leagues. Going back and looking at film, [I see] how guys will take a certain pitch and see it and then you go back to it and they're waiting on it. Just different situations; guys will approach you different ways and you have to make the adjustments.

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