Padres Prospect Interview: Corey Kluber

LAKE ElSINORE, CA: Corey Kluber, 23, was taken by the Padres in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft out of Stetson University in Florida. After two good seasons at Stetson, he had a big year his junior year, going 12-2 with a 2.05 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 114 innings against only 36 walks.

Last year, as they did with the "other" Cory [Luebke], the Padres attempted to fast-track him to the Cal League, skipping Fort Wayne. With the Storm he struggled with a 2-5 record and a 6.01 ERA, walking 34 batters in 85.1 innings and 93 hits, before, as did the "other" Cory, rebounding in Fort Wayne.

This year through the first two months of the season, he has pitched well, going 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA, holding batters to a .245 batting average. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kluber is another one of the large pitchers on the Storm staff who pound the zone with low hard fastballs. He leads the league in strikeouts with 93 and is second in innings pitched with 81.2.

We caught up with Kluber to find out the reasons for the turnaround from last year.

Could you give our readers a brief idea of your background and how you came to the Padres organization?

Corey Kluber: I grew up in Coppell, Texas, just outside of Dallas. I went to Stetson University and I was drafted in the fourth round of 2007 by San Diego.

You were up here to begin the year last year in Lake Elsinore, struggled, was sent down to Fort Wayne and put together some good numbers. What enabled you to turn it around?

Corey Kluber: I just didn't have good command here last year. I fell behind too many hitters and wasn't getting ahead on my fastball. The higher up you go, the better you need to be with your command. You can't pitch from behind. If you throw that 1-0 or 2-0 fastball down the middle, they are going to pound it.

Was it a mental or mechanical problem you were having last year?

Corey Kluber: I might have given the hitters up here too much credit and attempted to make my pitches too fine. When I got to Fort Wayne, I just focused on pounding the zone, and I think that is what turned it around for me.

You've put up some good numbers here so far, are just taking the same philosophy from Fort Wayne here?

Corey Kluber: Yeah, I've been here before. I've seen personally what doesn't work and I've seen what works with other guys. Get ahead of the hitters.

To me that seems really easy to say "get ahead of the hitters", but you aren't talking about throwing something down the middle of the plate.

Corey Kluber: It's more about working to the thirds of the plate, not trying to make that perfect pitch on the black. If I really need to get ahead maybe to one half. Not trying to be too fine with the pitches early in the count.

That seems pretty tough in throwing to a third versus half of the plate. How long did that take to figure out what you could and couldn't do?

Corey Kluber: It's more about knowing your mechanics and your own stuff.

What part of your mechanics is the most difficult to maintain?

Corey Kluber: I really have to focus on having my upper half not drag back or get too far out in front. That is when I tend to have balls flatten out and get in trouble.

When I am out there in the game, I really try to keep things simple, have a couple of checkpoints The more involved work is done on the side between starts. When you are on the mound, you want to just focus on the game.

I believe you throw fastball, slider and change?

Corey Kluber: That is right.

And do you throw more two or four-seamers?

Corey Kluber: I've been trying to work on more two-seamers. In college, I threw more four-seamers. At Instructs, I really began to throw it more and make it more than just a show pitch. So this year I've really tried to throw it more to give the batters more things to think about.

After the changeup, the Padres are very much in love with the two-seamer. Since it moves more than the four how much harder is it for you to control it?

Corey Kluber: Once you get a good feel for it you begin to get consistent movement on it. So its not moving six inches one time and then one inch the next.

So you're four seam fastball is around 91 or 92?

Corey Kluber: Yeah, I would say that I sit around there. There have been a few times where my two-seamer has been harder than the four, but they are generally pretty close.

How has your slider been coming?

Corey Kluber: It's good, its definitely my out pitch. There have been some instances where I have hung some, but more often than not its been pretty good.

And the infamous changeup?

Corey Kluber: It was great in spring training and for awhile I lost a feel for it here. I think that was more of a mechanical issue, my arm wasn't catching up to where it needed to be.

I'm always shocked that so many guys come from big schools or have a lot of success and suddenly when they come to the pros they just start to learn how to throw a changeup. Did you throw one in college?

Corey Kluber: I did, but only in certain situations. With the metal bat it is not as important a pitch. If you can get a guy on his front foot and mishit, it can still hurt you in college. Here if you mishit it with a wooden bat you really can't do anything with it.

How much more are you throwing inside now as compared to college?

Corey Kluber: I threw inside a decent amount in college, but I throw much more now. I've had much better results when I do.

You have to keep the hitters honest or they will just lean out over the plate and go the other way all day. You can't let the hitters get too comfortable in the box or looking in one spot.

What is the biggest part of your game you need to work on to keep progressing?

Corey Kluber: The big thing is keep working on fastball command so I can throw it wherever I want too and making the change better.

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