Padres Prospect Interview: Eric Gonzalez

Eric Gonzalez was a force in Arizona last year and has been put into crucial situations with Fort Wayne this season. "I am working on fastball command – that is a plus for me," Gonzalez said.

One of the things the coaches mentioned was that you continually challenge hitters. What does that mean?

Eric Gonzalez: Many people say the best pitch in baseball is the changeup – I agree. The other best pitch in baseball is strike one. Working ahead in the count, especially when the first pitch is a strike, the average for a hitter goes way down. I want to be aggressive.

Is working ahead in the count all in an effort to setup the slider as your out-pitch?

Eric Gonzalez: Last year it was my out pitch. I was successful with the slider. The higher you go, the hitters become smarter. They can sit on the slider. I have to have the same mentality because the game is the same but have to learn to combine my pitches.

You held the leadoff hitter of an inning to a .045 on-base percentage last season. What was the key to getting that first batter out?

Eric Gonzalez: Well, I was very happy with that. I would have loved to have pitched more innings. I had some trouble with my visa and really only pitched the second half of the season.

Everything comes back to getting ahead of the hitters. That makes it easier. My defense last year was outstanding, which made it pretty simple.

You are equally effective against lefties and righties. How are you able to see success against hitters from both sides?

Eric Gonzalez: Getting ahead in the count – I can throw the changeup. My slider was a strikeout pitch but my changeup was an out pitch as well. I like to use my defense. If we continue to play well defensively, we will do well.

It seemed like the Padres put you in a lot of tight games in Arizona and again this year with the TinCaps. What did that kind of action mean to you and your confidence?

Eric Gonzalez: Of course. I believe everyone can pitch in games that are 14-2. I like to be able to come into a game in a tight situation. I have confidence in myself because they believe I am the guy to get them out of that situation. I am happy they have that confidence in me and even happier with my performance when I get out of that situation.

You allowed three extra base hits all last year but aren't necessarily a ground ball pitcher. How were you able to limit the big hits?

Eric Gonzalez: Maybe I have been lucky! Working low in the strike zone is very important. I had the opportunity during spring training to watch the big league games. Every time you see a double or homer it was a pitcher's mistake. The percentage of hitters getting good pitches – you don't see that many. The goal is to keep the ball low in the strike zone and use my defense.

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