Padres Prospect Interview: Ernesto Frieri

"I am always working on fastball command and keeping closed with my pitches," San Diego Padres prospect Ernesto Frieri said. Put on the 40-man this offseason, the right-hander is making that choice a wise decision.

The opposition saw some success in stealing bases off you last year. How can you improve in that area?

Ernesto Frieri: I am working on that. I actually talked to my pitching coach a few days ago about that. He said I need to be a little bit quicker to home plate. It will help me get out of the inning by not allowing the base runner to steal bases. I am getting ready to improve on that and will this year.

Are you afraid of losing something with your pitches?

Ernesto Frieri: I am not afraid of losing anything. When I started pitching, I might have been too quick to home plate. They changed me and made me slower with more passion. I may have gotten too slow and lazy. I am not afraid. I trust my stuff. I know I work hard and can get better.

You received an invite to major league camp for the second time. In what ways has it and will it benefit you?

Ernesto Frieri: It is really good over there. To share locker room space with Jake Peavy and Chris Young – we were always learning something from them. It was a great experience. It makes me feel like I have a chance to make it. I see the level of the pitches and hard work they have and I compare them with me. I feel like I can do it too. You have to work hard and be ready.

You went into the starting rotation last year. What benefits did you gain from working out of the rotation?

Ernesto Frieri: That was the best decision in my baseball career. As a reliever, I would only throw my fastball – that was it, and sometimes my breaking ball. As a starter, I learned to throw my changeup. I have a good breaking ball now. I learned hot to pitch. I learned how to throw my breaking ball ahead in the count and behind in the count. I learned a lot about pitching. It was a great decision.

You have moved from the slider to the curveball. How has that pitch come along and what is the key to making it better?

Ernesto Frieri: We have to do what they wanted me to do. They said I had really loose hands and could throw the curveball. They like it and I like it too. I have to keep throwing it. I am comfortable with it. I like to throw my fastball away and feel confident throwing my curveball for a strike. That worked really well.

One thing you have been working on for a while is the changeup. How tough is it to keep the same arm speed when throwing it?

Ernesto Frieri: I thought it was really hard to do it, but it is easy. You just have to throw a fastball – that is it. The change of speeds comes with how you grab the ball. Just throw a fastball. I learned last year – Wally Whitehurst did a really good job helping me learn the changeup. I feel like I have got it. That pitch really helped me a lot last year.

You didn't give up any homers as a reliever and really haven't allowed that many in relief through your career. As a starter, however, you allowed 14 this past year. What changed?

Ernesto Frieri: You know why – I think before I was just a thrower at a lower level. Hitters at those levels would swing at anything. Last year I was in High-A and throwing more strikes. If you miss your spot and the hitter was waiting for it – smack, you are going to be hit. I think that is what happened when you don't hit your spot.

Does that mean you have to expand the zone more or learn pitch sequencing?

Ernesto Frieri: Both – I have to work on that. I have to work hard on what I need to do better. I have the passion. I work hard everyday to get better.

What will be a successful 2009 for Ernesto Frieri?

Ernesto Frieri: I am trying to get my breaking ball back. My mechanics – I feel weird with my mechanics because they want me to do something different. I know it is the best for me. I am working hard everyday. As soon as I get my breaking ball back, I think I will be ready to pitch at the big league level.

What are they changing?

Ernesto Frieri: How I finish. Sometimes when I try to overthrow my fastball, I throw the pitch and then step back and lose my balance. They are trying to help me finish better. I know that is right. I will have better command of all my pitches. I am working hard on it.

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