Couchee on Padres pitching prospects

Mike Couchee is in his sixth year as the Padres' minor league pitching coordinator after previously working in the Los Angeles Angels organization for 15 years.

In San Antonio, I thought Will Inman looked pretty good, but he struggled in Portland. What have you seen in him that you like and what you think he needs to improve upon?

Mike Couchee: I was very happy with the difference in his arm speed when I left San Antonio. We gave him just a few different drills to do and it was back closer to what it was a few years ago. His velocity picked up some and his breaking ball was sharper.

I think he just went through a little adjustment period like many guys do. He thought he had to do more than what got him there. He had a couple outings that weren't as good as what we have come to expect from him. I think he's going to get back on track.

How about Wade LeBlanc? With him is seems like everything is always about how well he commands his two-seam fastball.

Mike Couchee: He's really pitched well this year up there regardless of his won-loss record.

His peripherals are pretty good.

Mike Couchee: They were very good compared to last year. For Wade, the next thing is to just trust himself and let it go. His velocity is not really up to where it needs to be, but the command has gotten better and now he just needs to trust it.

I know it's easier to say and write this than to do it, but he seems to tighten up a little when he gets to San Diego.

Mike Couchee: Exactly. He knows it and everybody knows it. The first few windows young guys like him get, it's a natural tendency. However, everyone also knows you have to perform to stay. Now that he is back there again, I don't think he's coming back down.

I saw Cesar Carrillo in Mobile a few years ago and his command was incredible. The velocity is back, how about the command, which is supposed to be the last thing to return from Tommy John surgery?

Mike Couchee: That is the case. The velocity is back up around 90 to 95, but the fastball command is the issue. Steve Weber, the pitching coach there, made a bit of an adjustment and took away the two-seamer and just limited him to a four-seam fastball, change and curve and the next night he had a dominant game. Hopefully that will help him turn the corner.

What are your thoughts on Ernesto Frieri?

Mike Couchee: He's been very successful, its not always been the prettiest thing in the world, but he has put up good numbers. He has worked very hard to get where he was at and is going to get a chance at the next level.

The staff you guys put together for the Storm at the beginning of the year had to be the best staff that I have seen you guys put there.

Mike Couchee: Without a doubt. You have five guys that are legitimate major league pitchers of some kind. Whether or not they will be starters is still going to be determined.

The guy that I always liked a lot there is Jeremy McBryde because of his heavy sinker.

Mike Couchee: We always joke about that, it's like a bowling ball. The only thing right now is that we have to get him healthy. He's had some problems with his lower back and we are not sure if it is a bulging disc or something else.

He's in Peoria rehabbing.

You have to be happy at how well Cory Luebke and Corey Kluber bounced back this year?

Mike Couchee: They struggled in Lake Elsinore last year. They are both guys that put so much pressure on themselves to excel every time they go out there. With Kluber last year, I thought it was more mental, and Luebke there were some physical things we had to iron out with his delivery.

Both of them worked their butts off in the winter and have had really good years.

What was the reasoning behind switching Jeremy Hefner from his slider to the curveball? Could you give us the reasoning behind that?

Mike Couchee: That was really Bob Cluck's call [Padres' minor league pitching consultant]. His slider wasn't a pitch that was going to carry him much past A ball. He talked to him about making the switch, and I had never realized he had thrown the curveball in school.

We brought him to instructs mainly to work on the curve and we eliminated the slider, and when he left Instructs, it was one of the better ones that I have seen at any level.

Wynn Pelzer is someone that everyone raves about? What do you think of him?

Mike Couchee: He has as good an arm as anyone that we have in the system. For him, it's just a question of becoming comfortable with what he wants to do delivery wise. He's a tinkerer. I just think it's a question with once we get him comfortable and with some consistent success, his stuff is tremendous.

He really hasn't pitched as much as others, he's missed some time, and we have changed a lot of things, but I think he will move real fast.

You have to be impressed with what you have seen from Simon Castro this year?

Mike Couchee: Absolutely. If you have seen him three years you wouldn't have thought it was the same guy. He has progressed more mentally and physically in three years than anyone that I have ever been around. We talk to him and he speaks better English than any of the other Latin kids we brought in at the same time. He's on a mission. We give him something to work on, he does it and just keeps getting better.

Talk about what you like regarding Anthony Bass?

Mike Couchee: He's a very aggressive pitcher. Works fast and has a quality arm. He throws three pitches and is going to play this game for a long time.

How about Mat Latos? We talked to Grady at the end of June, and he was adamant that he wasn't going to come up until September and suddenly he is promoted to the big club. Beyond me giving Grady a hard time for giving me some incorrect information, what was the reasoning behind calling him up?

Mike Couchee: [laughs]I don't know for a fact why the timing is what it is. I know the big club was struggling a bit and maybe they were looking for a kick-start.

To give Matty the best chance is to call him up when things are going good, but you couldn't ask for a better summer than what he did.

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