Padres Prospect Interview: Corey Kluber

San Antonio, TX: Corey Kluber was selected in the fourth round by the Padres in the 2007 draft out of Stetson University in DeLand, Florida. The 6-foot-4 right-hander had his best season in this three-year career with the Padres in Lake Elsinore in 2009, where he struck out 124 batters against 36 walks in 109 innings pitched before being promoted to San Antonio.

With the Missions he struggled with his command, giving up 34 walks in 45 innings pitched against only 35 strikeouts with a 4.60 ERA.

This year, Kluber, 24, has rebounded and despite not posting a great won-loss record, has been impressive and has either led or been among the leaders in strikeouts for most of the season in the Texas League.

In spite of a losing record, you are having a pretty good year when you look at your peripheral statistics, especially with the hits/base-on-balls ratio and hits to innings pitched. Why have you done so well?

Corey Kluber: I've just been trying to be more aggressive, with the first pitch in particular. When I first got here last year, I gave hitters a little too much credit and that hurt me. So this year I went back to what has given me success in the past, being aggressive and pounding the strike zone. Trying to mix up speeds and keep the hitters off balance. So, by trying to pitch my game, I'm not as worried about what they are trying to do, just execute pitches.

When I spoke to you last year in Lake Elsinore, you said the same thing, that it got into your head that hitters were better at this league than the last, it was a hitter's league and until you did the same thing as you are doing now, you struggled.

Corey Kluber: [laughs] Yeah, I guess its one of those battles that everyone has. You have to realize that it is the same game and what made you successful at the last level is what is going to make you successful at where you are now.

What is the biggest thing that you have improved last year other than your mental approach?

Corey Kluber: I think my fastball command is better and my changeup has been pretty good, not only when I'm ahead in the count, but in hitter's counts. I've gotten some bad swings on a 2-0 and 3-1 count. When they are up there looking for the pitch they want – the changeup makes it appear as its that pitch, and that is a big part of becoming a better pitcher.

The new group that is in power is focused much more on fastball command than changeups. As Wynn Pelzer said about 70% of most pitches that a pitcher will make are fastballs.

Corey Kluber: Every pitcher's main pitch is a fastball. So fastball command is going to make or break you on that day. Say the number is 70%, then if you aren't throwing strikes, you are going to be working behind the whole day, and it is not going to be a good day.

When we hear the word fastball, it means so many things; four-seam, two-seam, cutter and sinker. What do you throw?

Corey Kluber: I throw a four-seamer and two-seamer, along with a slider and changeup. In the past, I would only throw the two-seamer to the arm side of the plate but now I'm throwing it to my glove side too.

The two-seam fastball seems like a very hard pitch to consistently throw for strikes because it moves so much.

Corey Kluber: It is like any pitch, you have to work on it in your side sessions and kind of comes down to muscle memory.

How do you like pitching here compared to the Cal League?

Corey Kluber: Obviously, this is one of the better pitcher parks. That is one of the things that I was able to be more successful when I just started worrying about making my pitches instead of worrying about the hitters or what park I am in. You know the old saying is good pitching beats good hitting.

You actually have been better on the road this year than at home. Any reason why?

Corey Kluber: You know its hard to say. I've had a couple of starts where one or two pitches go a different way then the outcome may have been a little different.

What is the pitch that you really need to improve upon to get to the next level?

Corey Kluber: Really everything, just being able to command them to different quadrants of the plate. Command is really the key to getting better.

How do you like hitting? I think its amazing that they don't even let you guys touch a bat in short-season or A-ball then all of sudden you have to hit Double-A pitching.

Corey Kluber: [laughs] Obviously its been awhile since most of us have swung a bat. Abby [Glenn Abbott, the Missions' pitching coach] does a lot of work with us to feel more comfortable. We aren't going to put up any numbers but it starts to feel a little more natural for us.

Who do you think is the most underrated player on the team?

Corey Kluber: I would have to go with Andy Parrino. He wasn't here at the beginning of the year and when he came up he really did the job. He is one of those guys that never takes a play off.

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