Padres Prospect Interview: Chris Wilkes

Eugene, OR: Giving hitters too much credit in Lake Elsinore, San Diego Padres prospect Chris Wilkes found himself in extended and Eugene before going down to injury. One thing he wants to continue to work on is his work out of the stretch.

You went up to Lake Elsinore early in the year. Did you feel like you were trying to do too much and staying away from your game plan?

Chris Wilkes: Yes, for sure. I felt like I was giving the hitters too much credit. I was giving them too much respect and didn't attack them like I usually do. I tried to nibble around on the corners – scared to be hit – and that is when I got smashed in that one game in San Jose.

When you came back to extended, how did you wrap yourself around that fact?

Chris Wilkes: It was something I knew I had to do. You can't believe there is a big league hitter back in rookie ball. You have to attack each hitter, get strike one, and pound the zone. They will get themselves out.

Is there a comfort level for you in the windup versus the stretch?

Chris Wilkes: Yes, I like the windup more. It is just more comfortable. It is more natural. It isn't as often that I am in the stretch. Once I get in the stretch, it takes a couple of times to get into a rhythm.

What do you feel is missing from your time in the stretch?

Chris Wilkes: I don't know. I guess just not being in it that much. I don't face that many hitters and get a lot of ground ball outs. I am usually only in it for one or two innings in the six I pitch.

In the bullpen, do you find yourself working on the stretch even more?

Chris Wilkes: Yes, we work on our balance point, landing the same way, keeping my weight back so I am on top of the ball. It is getting better each week.

When there are runners in scoring position, do you feel like you are almost at a disadvantage, especially when you have to keep the mental things in check when you should just be focusing on pitching?

Chris Wilkes: I was doing that at the beginning of the season. I realized that runners in scoring position were scoring nearly every time. I got more comfortable with it as the season progressed. I left guys on base and was getting the needed strikeout or groundout or pop out. And with two outs I get another ground ball. It was getting better each week.

Is that almost a relaxing thing to get away from the big inning?

Chris Wilkes: Yes, my first outing, I was doing great and had one bad inning. The next outing, I was doing great and had one bad inning – another stupid inning. I am learning that once I give up a hit back-to-back to slow things down. Take it one pitch at a time, get my ground ball or pop up or work to get a double play.

What kind of changes have you gone through this year?

Chris Wilkes: Being more focused. When I started, I wasn't as focused as I should have been. It is night and day the difference. Learning from (Eugene manager Greg Riddoch) Rid and taking things one pitch at a time helped. Pound the zone.

Is there such a thing as too many strikes?

Chris Wilkes: No, as long as you are around the zone, they will get themselves out. You have to mix your pitches up. You can still throw strikes but have to mix your pitches.

How has the slider progressed? That was one of your focal points over the last year.

Chris Wilkes: That was one of the things when I went up to Elsinore that I was trying to re-find. I had my fastball and changeup but my slider was in the dirt and in front of the plate. When I went back to extended, I worked on that and it became one of my out pitches.

Do you feel comfortable throwing inside?

Chris Wilkes: I love to throw my two-seamer inside, breaking bats and getting a ground ball out. Now, I am working on throwing my fastball down and away to hitters.

What has been the change in year two as far as understanding the game and your overall knowledge base?

Chris Wilkes: Each start, I am learning hitters swings. If I throw my fastball and they foul it off in the dugout opposite way, Bronswell Patrck (Eugene's hitting coach) was saying not to help them out and throw off-speed stuff like I probably would last year without knowing any different. I am getting so much more knowledge each week that can help my future.

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