Padres Interview: Ernesto Frieri

Portland, OR: Ernesto Frieri was signed by the Padres out of Columbia in 2005. In his five years with the San Diego organization, he has found success both as a starter and in relief, but this year he has put in his best performance as the Portland Beavers' closer, earning a callup to San Diego.

A Pacific Coast League All-Star, Frieri, 24, went into the break with a 3-1 record and 1.43 ERA, saving 17 out of 19 chances. The lean right-hander has held batters to a .114 average and has struck out 49 in 37.2 innings pitched against only 18 walks and 14 hits.

We caught up with him just before his second call-up to the big club.

This year you have gone from being a starter to a relief pitcher, how do you like the change?

Ernesto Frieri: I really love it because when I first got here I was a reliever for four years and then two years as a starter. I know how to deal with being in the bullpen and feel more comfortable in relief.

It was kind of a strange move because last year you were arguably the best starter in San Antonio. Were you a little shocked when they told you that they were going to put you back in the bullpen?

Ernesto Frieri: Well, you really have to do whatever they tell you to do, so there isn't much choice. But I also really liked coming out of the bullpen too. I just want to pitch and show that I can do well whenever they give the ball.

You had good numbers last year but they are even better this year. Are you a different pitcher when you are coming out of the pen as opposed to being a starter? Do you have a little more velocity?

Ernesto Frieri: I think I am a better one or two inning pitcher because my best pitch is my fastball. As a starter, you are always worried about saving a bit of your arm strength while as a reliever you really let it go.

The fastball is really working for me because not only am I throwing harder but I am really keeping my fastball down.

The knock on you in the past was that you have good stuff but you tended to walk people. This year your walks have been significantly down as compared to anytime in your career. Any reason behind it as a relief pitcher?

Ernesto Frieri: I'm not scarred anymore. Mainly because I'm attacking the strike zone where I want to attack it and know I am throwing the pitch where I want. So if they hit it I don't think they are going to be able to do much with it.

Before I was too concerned with striking everyone out and that is how you get in trouble.

Some say an advantage of going from a starter to a relief pitcher is that you it helps you worry about just trying to throw your best stuff as opposed to thinking what I am going to throw a certain batter in his second and maybe third at-bat.

Ernesto Frieri: Exactly. People who know a lot about baseball know that this is a big advantage. A starter is hard because you may be facing a hitter three times a game and you really have to play with their mind. You have to remember how you got them out the first time and that is hard.

Now I just throw what I think will get them out and don't worry about it.

For example, in a three game series, a batter may get to see you once, even though you may pitch all three games, and that is tough.

Ernesto Frieri: Yeah, that is what I like [laughs]. Everytime we play a new team, I feel more comfortable because they don't know me. When I play the same team too many times you kind of have to pitch a bit backwards.

How do you deal with the adrenaline that comes with being a closer?

Ernesto Frieri: I love it. When I am playing for my country in winter ball its a little bit more serious. Its in front of your family so you really want to do well and it forces you to concentrate more and do your best.

What type of fastball do you throw?

Ernesto Frieri: I mainly throw a four-seamer, but I also have a two-seamer, change and curve.

How do you deal with when you don't get the save?

Ernesto Frieri: Like I said, just stay focused and be positive. Trust the job and the work that you have been doing and its going to pay off.

You are in Triple-A and have been in the minors for awhile so it must be exciting to be this close to the majors and doing well.

Ernesto Frieri: I try not to think about the big leagues too much and try to stay focused. Sometimes, you get a little frustrated, but they have a lot of talent, and I'm just waiting for the opportunity.

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