Padres Prospect Interview: Nathan Culp

"As long as I keep them on the ground then I'm doing what I'm trying to do," San Diego Padres prospect Nathan Culp said.

How have you matured as a baseball player since entering professional baseball?

Nathan Culp: Probably more than anything, it's changing speeds on the mound, and realizing that guys will get themselves out if you change speeds, and mess up their timing. Learning that that's what pitching's about. I'm not always trying to throw my best fastball every time, because I'm not a fastball guy. So instead of throwing 90. Throw 84, 85, 86. Try to mess with their timing a little bit, try to make the ball move. As a pitcher that's where I had the biggest improvement in my game.

You have won 29 games over the last two years, including two playoff wins. Is that the greatest mark of your success?

Nathan Culp: Yeah I think so, I was just talking to some of the guys today about going deep in the ballgame and giving yourself a chance to win. That's my goal. Not necessarily the results I get, but how deep into a game I can go. If I get into the sixth, and seventh and eighth innings then I've had success. For the long run, that's what's going to win you ballgames. That philosophy has been working the last couple of years and through college, just stay on the field for as long as you can and give your team a chance to score some runs.

Tom Bradley just said a second ago that the curveball had better bite than he remembers when he was coaching you. It's been a bout a year and a half since he's seen it last. Do you feel the same way?

Nathan Culp: Actually no. I feel like that's been my worst pitch. I guess I was changing speed so much last year becoming hard end and soft away with the changeup, I got away from the breaking ball, so really I'd like to have the same fastball and changeup I did last year and really I'd like to add the breaking ball to it this year. I think I need that to be successful at a higher level. But if he's seeing good things then I've got to take his word for it.

You walked just 23 all of last season. Is there such a thing as throwing too many strikes and do you need to expand the zone a little more?

Nathan Culp: I think I gave up a lot of hits last year because I wasn't trying to walk guys. I was trying to force contact. I think there's throwing too many good strikes. When you're ahead, or when you're even in the count, and you give them too good of a pitch to hit, you might give up a base hit. But if a guy hit's a single off me, or even three singles in a row it's not going to bother me. If all they're hitting are singles they have to hit quite a few singles to score runs. Over the course of a season it's not going to be successful. As long as they're hitting it on the ground and it's just singles. So you can't throw too many strikes, but you can throw bad strikes when you have the advantage as a pitcher.

How fine a line is it between expanding the zone and nibbling it and missing and walking a guy?

Nathan Culp: I really don't expand the zone too much every time I grab the ball my intention is for him to swing at this pitch and hopefully hit it on the ground, hardly ever will I have the mentality to get this guy to swing and miss unless it's a situation where that's the only option, but from 0-0 to 0-2 to 1-2 even I'm trying to get the guy to hit the ball on the ground. I'm not trying to expend too much out of the strike zone. It might be something I can work on a little bit. It might help me to be more successful, but this has worked for me so far.

Talk about the adjustments you have made as you continue to go higher in the system.

Nathan Culp: Be more consistent with the breaking ball, and giving me a third pitch because I know I've learned how to make guys push and pull with the fast ball and take off with the changeup, but as I go to a higher level, I'd like to have a breaking ball too. So when I need that strikeout, I can get that strike out, with a guy on third and nobody out or something like that, when a groundball would normally score the run, because right now that's all I've got. I've got groundballs and if the run scores then you move on, but adding a breaking ball to that would be good, just to give me another option.

The coaches have defined you as workhorse for your ability to work deep into games. What does that mean to you?

Nathan Culp: Really that's my game plan just to try to get to the seventh or through the seventh in every game and do it as quick as I can. The Padres philosophy of three pitches or less, really does work. I started buying into that a couple years ago and any given game it kind of stinks, you feel like you're getting hit around you put the ball in play so much. But at the end of the day, at the end of the season you look back on it and it really does work. Just trying to stay healthy and continue to do what I've been dooing and going deep into games.

How important has pitch sequencing been to the success of your game?

Nathan Culp: I think that as scouting reports get better and as hitters know me better as a pitcher AA, AAA, or the big leagues and they know that all I have is a fastball and a changeup. There's only two pitches and they just have to guess which one is coming. If I had the third pitch then that would just put something else in the back of their mind I think that will help as the pitch develops.

Didn't you used to throw a fourth pitch too?

Nathan Culp: I threw a curveball a couple years ago. I threw a curveball, and landslider; a cutter. They were two OK pitches, and I'd rather have one great pitch. I got rid of the curveball and went to the cutter and last year I got rid of the cutter and started focusing on the changeup. I went from four to two. I've got to bring one of them back though.

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