Padres Prospect Interview: Will Inman

SAN ANTONIO, TX: In 2007, the Padres traded popular relief pitcher Scott Linebrink for a trio of well regarded Milwaukee Brewers minor league pitchers, Joe Thatcher, Steve Garrison and Will Inman. Inman was the highest rated and regarded as the main component of the deal.

At the time of the trade, Inman was 20 and already in Double-A, having signed with the Brewers out of high school. This past year in San Antonio, he went 9-8 with a 3.52 ERA, striking out 140 batters in 135.1 innings to lead the Texas League. On the negative side he also walked 71 batters to lead the league and had difficulty repeating his delivery.

When the 6-foot-1, 220 -pound Inman, 22, is on, he is a formidable pitcher; with a low-90s fastball to go along with a plus curveball and very good changeup. His big problem last year was maintaining a consistent delivery, which affected his velocity and control.

The Padres sent him back to Double-A to become more efficient because they believe he has the ability to become a solid MLB starter.

This year will go a long way to finding out what his future will be.

Last year you had an up and down season. On the positive side, you led the Texas League in strikeouts on the negative side you also led the league in walks. What went right for you and where did you struggle?

Will Inman: I felt like last year I had some problems repeating my delivery. My stuff was really good for the most part and it was mainly just being very streaky. Once everything started going good in a game I was fine. If I started out well, I usually finished well. I never had a step back during the game.

When things were going wrong – if I walked a guy, then I started to get uncomfortable and things went bad from there. That is just the way it went sometimes, which caused me some problems.

I spoke with a scout last year and he claimed that the key with you was where your velocity was that day, when it was higher it made your curve and change that much more effective. When your velocity was down they tended to blend together and come in around the same speed.

Will Inman: I'm not sure if they came in at the same speed, but obviously the harder the stuff is, the better the secondary stuff is going to be. I don't want to say that quote is wrong, but at the same time, other pitchers don't throw 95, but they get things done with their secondary stuff. You have to be a little more refined, you can't catch as much of the plate. I think it helps you when you're stuff is up because you don't have to be as much of a perfect pitcher.

It seems at this level that anyone on a given day has a chance to be an effective major league player, they have the ability, but what separates you guys from the major leaguers is your ability to repeat your best performance. Now of course its easier to write about than to do it, so how do you go about getting your best performance every day?

Will Inman: I think that you try to be as consistent as possible, especially with pitching. You try to repeat your delivery for every pitch and you want to be successful at it. I think a lot of it, probably 95 percent of it is mental. If you can get to the point where you are confident in what you are doing and throw pitches with authority, then things are going to work out for you. It's when you get a little hesitant and aren't sure of what you are doing is when you get in trouble. Repeating is the big key, but there are so many other things as well.

I was watching some of your side sessions and you have a complicated delivery, some would even describe it as violent. You have had some success in throwing as you do, but at the same time you seem to want to have a slightly cleaner motion. How do you go about changing how you throw without sacrificing your success?

Will Inman: [laughs] That is kind of where I am at now. Its a tough line because you come up and want to be successful every time and on every pitch. It's tough to pitch when you are not doing well. It's a fine line of do I want to look smooth and perfect out there or get guys out. At the same you want both, but its different for everyone. I'm not 6-foot-5 with a smooth delivery that throws 94.

If I am going to get it up there with my 6-foot frame, then it might not be pretty. Not that I am comparing myself to Jake Peavy, but you don't see him being a classical smooth pitcher either. Some guys are, some guys aren't ; its just a natural thing.

We spoke with Grady Fuson earlier in the year and he emphasized the need for you to become more efficient, to go deeper into games. Grady didn't use the phrase "pitch to contact", but when the ball gets in play a lot of things can happen and not all of them good. Also its natural to want the strikeout, which is also one of the ways which you are evaluated. How do you balance between the two?

Will Inman: That is pitching. I want to get them out in three pitches or less and if he hits it, I want him to hit it soft. You don't want to think I want to strike everyone out because you are going to try to make too many perfect pitches and are going to throw too many of them. At the same time, getting guys out is the name of the game. Its about you finding ways to get guys out. Look at Chris Young, he lives at the belt and for him that works. He gets a lot of pop-ups, I don't see him as an extreme ground ball pitcher. The big thing is not getting in the way of yourself and taking away what you do best.

In the off-season what are you going to try to differently to improve your performance?

Will Inman: Kind of what we have been talking about, becoming more efficient. Cleaning up my delivery a little more to make it easier to repeat, throw more strikes and be confident in every pitch that I throw.

You were with the Brewer's system before you came over here and there were reports that your velocity went up when you came to San Diego. The theory was that you were doing too much throwing with Milwaukee. How do you respond to that?

Will Inman: I wouldn't say that I was doing too much throwing, its just when you are younger, not that I am old now, is that you sometimes try to do too much and don't pace yourself. I feel like I have matured in the past few years of not running myself down in the off-season.

Going into '07, I did a winter program with the Brewers, and its not that we were necessarily throwing off of the mound everyday, but we were doing work. When I was 20 years old, I had a hard time realizing that you don't want to be lazy, but you also have to realize that I have 150 to 160 innings ahead of me and I need to have something in the tank.

Its tough to tell someone that age to calm down, especially when you are in front of the brass and trying to impress people and move up. I was going full bore for every drill and I think I wore myself out that year, not necessarily throwing, but on running, lifting, everything.

You signed right out of high school. If someone is reading this and contemplating the same type of move what would you tell them the advantages and disadvantages of coming out and not going to college.

Will Inman: I see it happen over and over again. I have a few guys back home that are in my shoes. I tell them if you are going to make the jump, you need to really step back and take a look at yourself.

College is a little different, they are going to provide much more support. In the pros, you are on your own and have to be ready to be on your own.

I felt like that I was there, but you have to be mentally tough. Because you are going to have bad outings, you are going to be stressed; especially if you are a pitcher. When things aren't going well on the mound, it can be the loneliest place in the world or you can be on top of the world.

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