Padres Prospect Interview: Jeremy Hefner

Lake Elsinore, CA: San Diego Padres prospect Jeremy Hefner has been a winner everywhere he has gone. Named the Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year a season ago, Hefner views accolades as simply the byproduct of hard work.

What has made you so successful at keeping runners close and nullifying the running game?

Jeremy Hefner: I think I've done that well my whole career. Going back to high school, when I started pitching, we were taught to hold runners, so I think it goes back to that, and I keep trying to get better at that every year. I quick step, I vary my looks, I think pretty good. I just try to keep the ball down and try to be as quick as I can to make my play.

How have you matured as a baseball player since entering professional baseball?

Jeremy Hefner: I think I've just gotten smarter in knowing what pitches to throw in certain situations, to different hitters and stuff like that. Just being able to locate my pitches a little better.

How important has pitch sequencing been to the success of your game?

Jeremy Hefner: Very important because if you throw the wrong pitch to the wrong sequence then you could get lit up. It's very important and I don't think you ever stop learning that.

Does that go hand in hand with confidence?

Jeremy Hefner: Absolutely, You've got to have confidence in your stuff. If you don't have confidence in your stuff, you're not going to have a very good day.

You were named the Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2008. What did that mean to you?

Jeremy Hefner: It's really good to get that accomplishment. But it's not something I played for. It's not something that starting last spring train I said ‘OK I'm going to be the Padres Minor League Pitcher of the Year.' It's just something that I had a good season and I got rewarded for it. I'm sure that other guys deserved it just as much as I did, but they happened to choose me.

You have had more success against left-handed hitters in your career. What enables you to have so much success against them?

Jeremy Hefner: I can locate my breaking ball and my changeup away to them. I think that sometimes they give up on the breaking ball away because they see it off the plate and then it dives into the zone. My development since I've been in the Padres organization has been my changeup. I went to that a lot more and they see fastball and it just goes away. I think that's been my main success in professional ball; the development of my changeup.

Is there something that you need to do to see that success against right-handers?

Jeremy Hefner: I think that because I can't throw my changeup to righties, I don't have that confidence yet. It's not one of my strengths so I have to work on that and the development of my breaking pitch. I'm working to improve that as well.

One area that was particularly impressive was your ability to limit the success of the leadoff hitter. Is there a different level of focus against that initial hitter each inning?

Jeremy Hefner: You get the leadoff hitter out then you eliminate the bunt and the hit and runs. Someone might still steal a base, if someone gets on. But most of the time you're going to eliminate the big inning if you get the leadoff hitter out.

How vital is pitching inside and is that something you are comfortable doing?

Jeremy Hefner: I have always been comfortable throwing inside. You have to. Especially for a guy who doesn't throw in the 90s, like myself, you have to throw inside. Then they're going to be diving off the plate and they're going to get lit up. It's extremely important.

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