Webber on San Antonio pitching prospects

Former San Antonio and current Portland pitching coach Steve Webber has been instrumental in teaching young San Diego Padres prospects the ropes. Quite a few have seen significant leaps under his tutelage. We caught up with Webber to discuss many San Antonio Missions pitching prospects.

Matt Buschmann struggled and was demoted from Triple-A to you in Double-A. What kind of advice did you give to him?

Steve Webber: Well, when he came down that coincided with a move to the bullpen so we got rid of the windup and went to the stretch, eliminated the change-up and just went with the two-seam fastball and slider. So, that was kind of the organizational plan.

He responded very well. I think he understood that his role at the major league level would be as a reliever so he was ready and receptive to make the change.

Cesar Carrillo had an interesting year from a numbers standpoint. He didn't have as many strikeouts as you would have liked. My understanding is you took away the two-seam fastball in favor of the four-seam fastball maybe to get finer control.

Steve Webber: Well, he used the four seam fastball more. He didn't eliminate the two-seamer altogether but the majority of his fastballs were four-seamers and that was in an attempt to improve his fastball command, which I think as a result it did.

Were you happy with his overall performance?

Steve Webber: Based on his past in terms of injury and limited experience at the professional level, yes. His changeup and curveball got better. His command got better the more he went out there. So to me, it was a matter of him gaining innings, gaining experience and that's what he did.

Nathan Culp has been a bulldog for you. He goes deep into games and is an innings eater. He gives up hits but a lot are ground balls. Does this kid have a future in the major leagues?

Steve Webber: I think so. He pitches at 87, 86-88, and his movement is good; tail, sink to his fastball, which is where he locates it, on the outer part of the plate is very effective to right-handed hitters and he compliments that now with a cutter, slider type which he can elevate in on the hands for a right-handed hitter or down and away with tilt to a left-handed hitter.

His changeup is effective. He probably doesn't use it as much as he should. At times he does, and I think we could point to that that the more he uses it the more successful he has.

He also went back to using his curveball, which gives him another off-speed pitch. So he has four pitches, he can throw them all for strikes. He's very intelligent, he adapts very well. We just keep pushing him and whatever level stops him that's where he'll end up.

Mike DeMark has been consistent out of the bullpen. Is that a fair assessment?

Steve Webber: Yeah, I think over the past couple years he's gotten more comfortable in the relief role as his slider has improved, which he needs to be a late inning type pitcher. Looking back two years ago, he struggled to develop it. I think it's developed to the point now where it's very usable to right-handed and left-handed hitters.

His fastball has always had good late life. The thing that concerns me the most about him is the number of walks. In a late inning role, he needs to reduce the number of walks, but I think that's possible because he's aggressive and he's not afraid to throw it in the strike zone.

What has been the growth pattern for Ernesto Frieri who was called up to the majors in September?

Steve Webber: Well, again it was a matter of experience. As a starter, I think he's shifted back and forth from starter to reliever early in his career then settled in as a starter last year in Elsinore.

I think the biggest thing is some improvement in his delivery and also the development of curveball and changeup. His curveball got shorter and tighter and a later break and he was able to use his changeup more.

His fastball very deceptive too; that's his out pitch and he doesn't give up many hits on a fastball. I think his future will depend on the continued development of the curveball and changeup and his ability to throw those in the strike zone.

Brandon Gomes – the second half of the year he was nearly unhittable. What changed for Brandon between the first and second half?

Steve Webber: Well, just becoming comfortable at the next level and realizing that his stuff's going to work; it's going to work very well. He was able to make his delivery a little more compact. By that I mean, we did something similar to him to what Bushman did; eliminate the windup and it's given him some more consistency.

He was able to locate his fastball down in the zone. His slider is very sharp. The pitch that probably improved the most was his split. It's a well above average pitch and very deceptive. It's a late break and very hard for the hitters to pick up.

He became more comfortable in late inning roles. I don't think he had that much experience in that segment of the game and he was very successful seventh, eighth and even ninth inning, holding leads, especially, as you mentioned, in the last half of the season. His stuff is good. His fastball is live and his slider is above average and his split is well above average.

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