Padres Prospect Interview: Jeremy Hefner

Taking away the slider from San Diego Padres prospect Jeremy Hefner, what he felt was his best pitch, has made him even better. His next task is working the inner half.

We always talk about pitchers setting up the hitters. Does it ever come to the point where hitters are looking to setup pitchers?

Jeremy Hefner: I don't know. I haven't hit since high school so I am not sure. I am sure they are trying to a certain extent. That would be pretty tough. He could be late on a fastball and anticipate another fastball coming. I could see the setting it up that way.

You mentioned not hitting since high school. Are you excited about that?

Jeremy Hefner: I guess so. That will be exciting. It has been almost seven years since I hit off live pitchers. It will be interesting.

You and your catchers threw out 13 of the 21 base runners attempting to steal last year. What was the reason for that success?

Jeremy Hefner: Ali Solis and Luis Martinez both have outstanding arms. That was most of it. I worked really hard on being quick to the plate to give them an opportunity. Pitching ahead in the count, you can throw a fastball a little off to give then more time if you know a guy is going. It is a combination of a lot of things, but mostly because our catchers have great arms. Even if they short-hop it, our middle infielders can pick it.

Talk about shelving the slider, which you thought was your best pitch, for the curveball. And then going back to the slider in the middle of the season and then going back to the curveball.

Jeremy Hefner: With the slider, I had so much success with it. I have never failed with it, so changing over didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Now that I have gone a whole season with the curveball, I realize how effective it is. It is definitely a positive thing for my career.

Was it a trust thing?

Jeremy Hefner: No, I had thrown the curveball before but not as much. I had always had the slider to rely on. Not having that, it forced my fastball command to get better, forced my changeup to get better and forced my curveball to get better. It was the best for me.

Bringing the focus down to just three pitches made it easier?

Jeremy Hefner: Yes, because I had good command of the slider. You take that away, all of the other pitches improved because I had to focus on making them great just like the slider was.

How do you measure the success of a pitch?

Jeremy Hefner: I measure it if I know where I am going with it, regardless of whether it was hit for a home run or barely got through the infield or struck a guy out with it. ‘Did I make the best pitch I could in that situation?'

How do you stay away from the big inning?

Jeremy Hefner: Stay ahead of guys. Once you fall behind, you throw more and more pitches and start getting tired. The ball elevates. Creating contact early in the count, controlling your fastball – that is huge.

Is there such a thing as throwing too many strikes?

Jeremy Hefner: Some would say. That is a good question. If you are around the plate too much, you make a little mistake over the middle it is going to get hit harder. If you are effectively wild, that ball down the middle may get tapped. There are different theories. I could see that.

Talking to the coaches after last season, one thing they want to see from you is throwing inside more. Is that a focus for you?

Jeremy Hefner: Definitely. I had success my whole career and have never pitched inside the way you are supposed to. I think to propel my career even further it is something I definitely need to work on and am working on.

Is there some hesitancy with that. Maybe in college, that aluminum bat swing makes that inside pitch go pretty far.

Jeremy Hefner: It is kind of like the slider. ‘Why do I need to go inside if I have always had success?' In the future, it will propel my future even further.

How important is pitch sequencing for you?

Jeremy Hefner: It's everything for a starting pitcher because you will face guys three, even four, times in a game. The way you pitch them early dictates how you pitch them at the end of the game. The fewer pitches you have thrown early in the game, the more effective you will be later because they haven't seen you as much. Pitching to contact and locating the fastball are huge.

How have you matured as a baseball player since joining the Padres system?

Jeremy Hefner: Physically, I have gotten stronger. My body has matured. The baseball side of pitching – my fastball has gotten better, I have better command of it. Obviously, the changeup has done a complete 180 since college since I really didn't throw one. That is probably the best thing I have done in pro ball is add the changeup.

Do you feel like you have moved into almost a mentoring role? You have been around the professional ranks and some of the younger guys can now come to you – a Jerry Sullivan – can lean on you?

Jeremy Hefner: Absolutely. Jerry and I have talked numerous times. I think he has way more talent than me. He is a smart guy too. We both went to the same school and look out for each other.

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?

Jeremy Hefner: That is tough. One pitch? I have heard Simon Castro's slider is nasty. I will take Wynn Pelzer's fastball. It has good life, good sink and is low-to-mid-90s. I would take his fastball.

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

Jeremy Hefner: There are a lot. Definitely Logan Forsythe. He grinds it out. He is 0-2 or 1-2 all the time and still gets a hit.

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