Padres Prospect Interview: Mike DeMark

Coming off a season where he was named MadFriars.com Pitcher of the Year, Mike DeMark felt like this was the time to become more serious. He stayed in Peoria this offseason and feels like everything has improved, including the changeup.

What kind of advantage was it to be in Peoria during the offseason?

Mike DeMark: I worked a lot in the offseason with Jimmy (Jim Lefebvre). We did a lot of mechanical stuff to keep me sound. Being there all year, I feel great. I'm going to make some noise.

You mentioned the changeup being a better pitch in the second half of last season. How do you get to the point where you can elevate that pitch as one you will use with runners on base and the game on the line?

Mike DeMark: I feel so comfortable with the changeup, and I think that's going to help me and, I think that's really going to help me with the lefties.

As far as where I go from now, I've got three pitches now, and I'm just going to get them better and better everyday. I'm just trying to refine as much as I can, so I can create perfection. I know that no one is perfect, but as long as I keep shooting for that, the closer I'll get to it and the better I'll be.

You have said in the past that you are always pitching this game like it was your last. Does that ever put undo pressure to perform and can it carryover with a bad outing?

Mike DeMark: When I say that it might be my last, it's because after I was done with college, baseball being my future was no longer, but getting an opportunity from Grady, and Gamby and Bill Bryk and all those guys. They gave me a chance. I owe it to them, and to myself to pitch with a little chip on my shoulder and a little bit more determination.

Just like everybody, this could be my last season, but if I continue to do well then it won't be. So pitching with that mindset can't hurt.

Cutting down the walks was big for you in 2008. What will be the big thing you want to improve upon in 2009?

Mike DeMark: I'm a hard throwing righty, and I'm going to strike guys out. I think the mindset I had my first year was more, ‘I've got to strike guys out' instead of trusting my stuff and just throwing pitches. One pitch at a time. The strikeouts will come. I think I've proven that in stats as far as my ERA my first year, I gave up quite a bit of homeruns and I brought that number down. I brought my ERA way down. I'll just keep improving from there. Locking in more and more, the better I can do with bringing the walks down, the less likely they are to score.

Only twice all last year did you give up more than a single run. What has been the key to limiting the big inning?

Mike DeMark: We talked a lot about it the other day. Pitching only one pitch at a time executing and trusting in that pitch. Everything could be over after that pitch. Like I said before, I was always like ‘I've got to strike this guy out. I've got to strike this guy out.' So I was trying to throw too many setup pitches to get to that strikeout. Rather than concentrating on one pitch at a time. Hitting that pitch and moving on to the next one.

They told us that Greg Maddox was a firm believer in that and that he is a Hall of Famer, the greatest pitcher, in my mind, to ever pitch in this game of baseball. If he was able to break down the game to that one pitch at a time then I think that was the biggest key. Getting that information. Locking that in my mind, that it is just one pitch at a time. That really cut down the big innings, because I wasn't getting ahead of myself saying, ‘I got to strike this guy out' instead of concentrating on that one pitch at a time and letting everything take its place.

Chris Young came and talked to you this spring. What kind of message did you take from that?

Mike DeMark: Everything that he said made so much sense. He said that he's had injuries in his career that gave him some setbacks, and the mental adversity that he had to overcome and that's honestly what I believe separates guys like him and his caliber from us.

We're trying to get to that level and get to that level mentally where we're almost not affected by anything, and relievers have to have a short memory. That's true in my case as far as going out there doing my thing, and it's out of my hands as soon as the ball leaves my hands – there's nothing I can do. I can't control it. So when he talked to us about how he had some adversity that he had to face, it makes it all realistic. He's going through the same stuff as us, and he's a big leaguer. If he can get through it, we can get through it.

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