Padres Draft Interview: Karsten Whitson

The San Diego Padres selected Karsten Whitson with the ninth overall selection in the 2010 MLB Draft. They got a true baseball player. "There is not much to do around Chipley except play some good ole' baseball," Whitson said.

Whitson went 7-3 with a 0.62 ERA, 123 strikeouts in 55 innings against 15 walks and 16 hits allowed for Chipley High School in his senior year. The 18-year-old also played in the Aflac All-American Game last year at PETCO Park and for the 18-under Team USA last summer that won a gold medal at the Pan American Junior Championship in Venezuela.

Whitson becomes the first high school pitcher taken by San Diego with their first pick since Mark Phillips in the 2000 First-Year Player Draft. He is also just the second high school pitcher selected by the Padres with their first pick since 1987, with the only other being Robbie Beckett in 1990.

He is not related to former big leaguer Ed Whitson.

Were you aware the Padres were interested and if it went that far that they would take you?

Karsten Whitson: I didn't really expect to go earlier. This draft was crazy, especially the first eight picks. I didn't want to expect something and get my hopes up. The Padres contacted my dad last night. They had a good conversation and said I was there guy. If I was there at number nine, they were going to take me.

I kind of downplayed it. I didn't want to get my hopes up and then not get picked. I was hoping I would go there. I have tried to watch the Padres as much as I can. It is kind of hard being on the east coast and they are on the west coast.

I went out to San Diego and pitched in the Aflac game and loved the city. I definitely love the ballpark. It is big. Being a pitcher, hopefully, one day I will enjoy that. I am really excited.

You have a commitment to Florida – do you expect to sign with the Padres, especially since both your parents graduated from there?

Karsten Whitson: I am definitely ready to go start playing. I know with my advisor they will go through the negotiations. Hopefully, they can get that done fairly quick. It is all up to me then. I am ready to go start pitching and get better. I am so thankful for this opportunity. I am on top of the world right now.

The one thing everyone says pops out is you have a slider that is a swing-and-miss pitch and you have fastball command. Are those two pitches something you really worked on?

Karsten Whitson: This off-season, I really focused on my fastball command. There is a balance between having a pitcher that can throw hard and then a guy that throws hard but can command his fastball to both sides of the plate. That is definitely going to be a big key. I won't be able to get away with leaving a ball out over the plate. I need to command both sides of the plate.

This year, I tried to show scouts that I could work in and out and setup hitters. I am more of an advanced than a regular high school guy. My slider has always been a plus pitch for me. I focused on throwing it 0-0, early in the count, and then being able to bury it to get a swing-and-miss 0-2.

I am glad the process is at an end, as far as the expectation of where I was going to get drafted at. I couldn't be happier now.

When you pitched at Petco last summer, you struck out Bryce Harper amongst other things. What was that experience like and how many other big league parks have you pitched in?

Karsten Whitson: It was great. The city was beautiful. Being in that park was surreal. I pitched at Wrigley the week before. That was awesome too – Wrigley, the tradition.

Petco, I felt like Petco was second to none. The field is big, which is good. The backdrop and everything – I felt really comfortable there. I felt like I could really dominate.

Were you especially amped up to be pitching to Harper with as much hype as he is getting and then to get him swinging?

Karsten Whitson: Definitely, I was pumped for that. I was looking forward to that challenge. He was the fourth batter that inning. I was hoping something might happen so I could face him. I wanted that challenge to see what he was all about. To come out on top of that challenge is something I will never forget.

I actually got him with a fastball.I threw a 0-0 slider and he swung and missed. I fell behind in the count before I blew two fastballs by him.

You mentioned being committed to Florida. Was the mindset to go from high school to the pros or do you want the college experience?

Karsten Whitson: There is definitely a part of me that wanted the college experience. I love coach O'Sullivan at UF. Ever since he has gotten there – he has really turned that program around. I felt like I would learn so much under him. I have always been a diehard Gator fan. It will definitely be hard to take me away from Gainesville. I am definitely ready for this opportunity and feel I couldn't be in a better organization than San Diego.

You have been compared to A.J. Burnett. Why is that such a fair comparison and did you ever believe you would be compared to a major league pitcher?

Karsten Whitson: It is pretty surreal. Growing up, I always loved pitching. As a kid, I never really thought about being compared to a guy. I could watch a pitcher on TV and be like, ‘Man, I wish I could do that one day.'

To be compared to a guy like A.J. Burnett is pretty awesome. He is a go-getter on the mound; he goes after hitters. He has a really good two-seamer, which I have also. I have a good sinker. He also has a really good, hard breaking ball. Mine is more of a slider – I just love watching him pitch. He is a go-getter on the mound. He is tough. I think he has some of the same characteristics as I do while I am on the mound pitching.

What would your teammates say about your demeanor on the mound?

Karsten Whitson: I am tough. I am a go-getter. I love challenging people. I don't like taking a lot of crap off anybody. I am going to stick up for my teammates, especially as I was in more of a leadership role this year. Being one of three seniors, I was definitely going to stick up for my guys, be a great teammate.

I want to be somebody that my team can count on in a tough situation. I love that pressure, pitching bottom of the ninth and two outs or pitching in a huge district game/rival game. I love being somebody my teammates can count on because I am going to give it all I have and hopefully come out on top.

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