Padres Prospect Interview: Wynn Pelzer

San Antonio, TX: Wynn Pelzer was drafted in the ninth-round out of the University of South Carolina in 2007. In college, Pelzer was considered as someone with better stuff than results. Additionally, he had to sit out the first summer of his professional career recovering from a broken kneecap from a line drive off of Allan Dykstra's bat in the Cape Cod League.

Since he has been in the Padres' organization, he has produced and is beginning to realize his athletic potential. In his first season in Fort Wayne, he threw 118 innings and struck out 100 against 32 walks and 114 hits. Last year in Lake Elsinore was even better in the hitter-friendly Cal League with 147 strikeouts in 150.2 innings against 59 walks and 134 hits for a 3.94 ERA.

Pelzer, 23, is slightly over six feet and a solid 200 lbs. and relies upon a very good two-seam fastball which he brings in the low-90s and a plus slider. If his changeup can continue to come along, the organization likes him as a starter with a hefty starter ceiling.

We have followed your career since you began with the Padres and have never seen you have such a tough first month, especially your first start. What happened?

Wynn Pelzer: I kind of got a late start in spring training because of the hamstring injury, which set me back three weeks. So it hurt me in getting my timing down and didn't get the work I needed to get in. It was just a bad month and I was really struggling to get back.

You had a much better May. What was the big reason you were able to turn it around?

Wynn Pelzer: I think I finally just got comfortable on the mound was the main thing. My delivery felt good and that is the main thing, I was able to repeat it consistently and if I can do that, I will have success.

It looks like when you take your bullpens you are pretty serious every time you have the ball in your hand. I mean there isn't a lot of screwing around out there.

Wynn Pelzer: I try to keep the same focus out in the bullpen as I do on the mound. Because what I do in the bullpen really affects how I perform in the game. I'm really focussing on staying consistent in my delivery because that is the reason why I do and don't have success.

Are you like most pitchers in that you try to do as much thinking and tinkering with your mechanics in the bullpen so when you go to the mound you just have to worry about competing?

Wynn Pelzer: You really want to develop muscle memory, which is what I am trying to do in the bullpen. When I make a good pitch in the bullpen, I step back and try to remember how it felt so I can repeat it in the game.

Everyone talks about how good your two-seam fastball and slider is, how close is your changeup coming to catching up?

Wynn Pelzer: Its been pretty good for me this year. I'm not sure if I am using it more, but I have been getting a lot of swings-and-misses out there. My command is better with it and the big thing is my arm speed on it looks like it does for my fastball.

How do the hitters at this level compare to what you faced last year?

Wynn Pelzer: Many of them are older guys, so they are smarter because they have been around longer. For example, we are playing Frisco with Taylor Teagarden and he has a few years of big league experience. They take their at-bats seriously and have a plan when they go up there.

Its been talked about that you kind of have a "young arm" because you didn't come up solely as a pitcher. How much did you pitch in high school?

Wynn Pelzer: I pitched in high school, I always had a good arm. But you know guys that were stud pitchers in high school might throw 80 to 90 innings when you add up everything between high school and in the summer. I never threw more than 30 innings in a year. In summer ball, I usually caught or was playing center field. I wasn't only a pitcher until I got to college.

How many positions did you play in high school?

Wynn Pelzer: I really played all over the diamond and actually catching was my primary position throughout high school. In summer ball, I played center just to save my legs some so I wouldn't be too worn down when I pitched.

In South Carolina, you bounced between being a relief pitcher and a starter. I understand that you want to make the majors any way you can, but it always seems like you are pretty focussed on staying a starter.

Wynn Pelzer: The thing is just getting comfortable in the role that the team wants me to be in. I'm fine whichever way it goes, but I just want to know so I can prepare to do my best.

Now I'm a starter, I'm going to try to be as good as I can. If somewhere down the road they decide that they want me in the bullpen, then I'm going to try to be as good as I can be there too.

How has it been getting used to hitting after not getting to bat for a few years?

Wynn Pelzer: The thing is throughout the organization anytime the pitchers throw a shutout, the manager has to throw the pitchers BP the next day. It just kind of breaks it up and all of us want to hit. But I will tell you the first time I saw live pitching in a game it seemed like the ball was coming up there at 115 MPH. The BP helps us out to get comfortable in the game.

What is the biggest improvement that you see in yourself since you joined the organization?

Wynn Pelzer: I am a lot smarter. Earlier, I would just go out there and go after people without processing the information that was available to me. I was talking to Abby [Glenn Abbott, the Missions' pitching coach] at getting a lot better at picking things up from the dugout on how to approach each hitter and reading swings.

It seemed like last year when I spoke to you in Lake Elsinore you were much more focused on getting batters to swing at your pitches quickly than getting strikeouts.

Wynn Pelzer: If my two-seamer is working well and I'm locating it, it makes pitching that much easier and allows me to go deeper into the game. I feel pretty good with my slider, and my changeup is starting to come. It doesn't matter how good hitters are if I make my pitch, good things are going to happen. Albert Pujols is the best hitter in the game, but if you put the pitch where you want it seven times out of ten he is going to get out.

One of the differences in the organization is the emphasis of fastball command over the changeup. They still think the changeup is important but it seems like this year they are really focussed on you guys being able to command the fastball.

Wynn Pelzer: It is very important as a starter because if you don't do it you are going to get behind and have to give hitters cookies; and those are the pitches they are going to pound. Hitters are so much better when they are ahead in the counts. You want to get ahead in the count so you have more options to get them out.

One of the things that confuses most of us when you say "fastball" is that is really several pitches, four-seamer, two-seamer, sinker and cutter.

Wynn Pelzer: That is true. You don't want to be out there throwing a lot of off-speed stuff because it doesn't help your fastball. You don't want to be pitching backwards because it is easier to be sitting on a changeup. A lot of hitters don't like the inside fastball. It just makes the game a lot easier when you command your fastball when you are throwing it as much as we do.

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