Padres Prospect Interview: Matt Buschmann

San Diego Padres prospect Matt Buschmann had a tough 2009 season. He learned a lot about himself during the process and feels like he can overcome the issues he saw.

What is your mentality on the mound when you are really feeling good?

Matt Buschmann: When you stay inside of yourself. It's just you and the glove. That's when you're at your best, when it's really not a hitter in the box.

So, have we actually eliminated the changeup?

Matt Buschmann: It's been changed to a split-finger fastball. It's something that stays in my first two fingers, my index and my middle finger, just like my fastball and my slider. It's something I can just throw hard and let the grip do the work, whereas the changeup is a little bit more of a field pitch. I feel like it allows me to throw my fastball hard, my slider hard, and my splitty hard. It's something consistent I can throw to a left-handed hitter. I feel a lot more comfortable with it. I think it'll be good.

You may have been working with inherited runners for the first time ever. What was that experience like? Were you like, holy cow, they're on base already.

Matt Buschmann: The biggest adjustment was understanding that as a starter I would throw my fastball a lot, contact pitch to get guys out. As a reliever coming in with runners on base, you have to be prepared to throw your swing-and-miss pitch. For me, my fastball isn't…It's not 95 and above. I had to prepare myself to come in and be able to throw six or seven sliders in a row, try to get a guy to swing and miss. If not, if there's a base open, you let him go and get the next guy. That was the biggest adjustment, not being able to pitch my fastball as much, and understanding situations as they come accordingly.

Did you feel like you had a tough time just avoiding that big inning? It kind of snowballed a little bit?

Matt Buschmann: Yeah, I was. Those hitters are smart at the higher levels. They're smart enough to understand that if I was struggling, it was because I was a two-pitch pitcher. In the games where I really struggled, it was because my slider wasn't working or my fastball command wasn't working. So, they are good enough to say I've eliminated this, this, and this, and I'm waiting on this. When they get it, they don't miss it. It's one of those things where you know exactly what you need to do, and that's the most frustrating part. The higher level you go, the more clear-cut the game is, the more black and white the game is. If you execute, you do well. If you don't, they do well. But, it's good. It was definitely a learning experience and I definitely took a lot from it that helped me in the off season.

Was there any point where you felt you lacked confidence?

Matt Buschmann: No. I never doubted myself being able to pitch at that level or even beyond. But, there were times when I was frustrated mechanically. I would doubt myself on certain pitches. My slider wasn't sharp, so I didn't think I could throw it. I know when I'm on, I can confidently pitch at that level and above. There were times when I doubted because mechanics were off. I doubted myself pitch-wise, how sharp they were. Things kind of spiral from there sometimes.

You've been known as a groundball pitcher. It seems like the last year or two, it's changed a bit. Why?

Matt Buschmann: In Double-A, I had a good amount of strikeouts and more walks than I'm used to. I think it's because I got really heavy into my fastball and slider and my changeup left me even more so. I think over the last few years from it being further and further across my body. Because of that, it was tougher for me to get down in the zone to get the groundballs. I was leaving balls up, giving up hits.

Because of that, I was scared to throw in the zone. I was picking a lot more. You'll get your strikeouts that way, but you'll get a lot of walks and a lot of fly balls with the ball up. This off-season, I really cleaned up my line. I feel like I'm straight now, which is the first time I can say that in years. The ball is getting down and away a lot easier than before. With that in mind, I can get back to what I was in Elsinore by just throwing down in the zone, getting guys to pound in the ground, and then going from there.

So, that's going to help you in pitching away to left handers. That seems like that was a struggle point, too, for you.

Matt Buschmann: I think lefties hit a combined .500 off me in the last couple of years. Lately, especially in bullpens and coming into spring training in throwing against hitters, the two-seam is finally started moving the way it used to and down and away to lefties. That's been something that's key for me to get to that next level and beyond. Throwing a pitch down the way to the lefty and letting him hit it on the ground. I haven't had that, you're right, so hopefully it'll get better.

Are you moving into a mentoring role? You've been around the system for a little bit. You know what to expect. Does that happen as you continue to go up in levels and now people are coming to you? You're like, me?

Matt Buschmann: You get that a little bit. I try to go about my business, and if someone wants to ask, I'm definitely receptive to that. I've definitely been at every level. Not saying I've been through everything, but I've had some experience that these younger guys maybe haven't. If they want to know, I'll definitely tell them as much as I can. I don't have any issues with helping guys out, but I definitely don't force it on them. I know I was that way. I had my routine, and if I felt like I needed to ask something, I'd ask somebody. But, yeah, sometimes, I'll help a guy out that is maybe going one way or another. Every once in a while, you feel like that. You just feel like you've been through it, so there's maybe a comfort level.

We all know you have a lot of great teammates and this does not take away from anyone you don't mention. If you could have one pitch from anyone of your teammates to put into your own arsenal, what would it be, from who, and why?

Matt Buschmann: That's tough. After last year watching Brandon Gomes, watching him pitch in relief that second half of the season, I'd want his splitty. That thing was pretty filthy. He'd come in and that thing was coming and they couldn't do a thing about it. From my experience watching him pitch last year, I'd take that pitch right about now.

Who is the one hitter that you are glad you have as a teammate and why?

Matt Buschmann: After the last year and a half or so, I think Mike Baxter. Obviously, I was teammates with him in college and I've seen what he's done. I've been able to see what he's done hitting-wise. I'm glad I don't have to face him and give up a hit and hear about it afterwards.

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