Padres Prospect Interview: Cesar Carrillo

SAN ANTONIO, TX.: At the end of 2005 Cesar Carrillo looked like he was going to be one of the Padres' best first round picks in a very long time. After a dominant junior year at the University of Miami where he was 13-3 with 127 strikeouts in 125.2 innings the Padres drafted Carrillo with the 18th overall pick and promptly sent him to the Cal League.

Although he wasn't dominant in the Lake Elsinore a few injuries with their Double-A team caused San Diego to promote Carrillo to Mobile, the then Padres' affiliate, where he was 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA and 37 strikeout in 35.2 innings.

The only downside of an otherwise superb year was that it was a lot of miles on his arm, and the next year Carrillo experienced arm problems for the first time in his career, which eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery.

Carrillo, 25, came back at the end of last year with Lake Elsinore, a little over a year and after his surgery, and struggled; but he was better in the Arizona Fall League and is off to a decent start in San Antonio.

The good news is that his velocity seems to have come back but his pinpoint control, which is what separated him from other pitchers, hasn't quite come all the way back.

The first question that everyone has on your mind is how healthy are you coming off of Tommy John surgery?

Cesar Carrillo: I feel that I am 100 percent. My arm feels great and everytime out there I'm throwing even harder. I'm starting to locate the pitches that I want more and more. So right now my biggest concern is location. I'm really trying to limit my walks.

We've spoken with people before that have undergone what you have and they say the velocity comes back, in many cases they are even stronger. The biggest challenge is regaining their command and feel. I was able to see you pitch in Mobile in 2006 and you could pretty well put the ball anywhere you wanted.

Cesar Carrillo: [laughs] I remember, and that will come with time and repetition. I was throwing for 23 years without any injury, so everything was routine for me. Now after nearly two years of not throwing its basically about having to rebuild everything. That is my biggest challenge right now, repeating my delivery.

So right now is it a bigger challenge for you mentally or physically?

Cesar Carrillo: It's definitely mental. Its just one of those things where you really have to work on. Throw the same pitch where you want it everytime.

When I spoke with you in 2006 when you pitched you remind me of a basketball player because you are about 6'2 or 6'3" but you have much longer arms so when the ball came out it was like a whip. You had thrown so many innings the year before and you said that your arm never got tired. Is that still the case?

Cesar Carrillo: My arm feels great and I feel the same way that I did before. The conditioning program here and the one in Arizona really worked. As I said earlier, right now its just all about getting out there in game conditions and repeating my delivery.

What is the biggest change in the pitcher you are now as compared to the one you were before you got hurt?

Cesar Carrillo: I'm basically the same type of guy only with more experience. The big difference is in my changeup, which I never used to be able to throw strikes with it. I feel like I can throw it in any count. That is a big pitch for me because I think its going to help to take me where I want to go.

I think my mechanics are a little better now too; I'm not as closed off and I open my hips a little more.

It's quite an accomplishment to come back as far as you have. I'm not sure if most people realize but you were a few starts away from being promoted to San Diego in 2007. It must have been very tough to see that long rehab road ahead of you. How did you stay strong mentally?

Cesar Carrillo: I just knew that after the surgery that I had to work hard to get back to where I was. It's like anything else life, you have to work to get what you want.

The doctor told me that it takes around two years to get back where you want to be, so its important to work with your brain as well as your body to keep yourself on the right path.

You have to feel pretty confident now, because before the surgery the change was the pitch you had a lot of problems with, as compared to your curve and fastball, which was your best pitch. You feel pretty confident your command will come back on the fastball so you will be better than ever?

Cesar Carrillo: [laughs] That is right. Exactly and I know its there. The velocity is there in the low-90s, and I know that the feel is there too. I'm just trying to build off every start and keep working.

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