An shoulder injury in his senior year of high school and not putting up dominant numbers against junior college players made many teams want to wait awhile before determining how much they wanted to invest in him.
The Padres thought that with some further refinement they could have something special. San Diego was able to sign him just before the draft deadline for over slot money, gambling that his size and ability was worth it.
And the gamble has paid off.
Lollis, 19, progressed more than any other Padres' pitcher in extended spring training this year and has hit the ground running in the Northwest League before a promotion to Fort Wayne.
Could you give us a little of your background?
Matt Lollis: I was recruited by San Diego State out of high school, and in my first start of my senior year, I strained a muscle in my shoulder so I didn't pitch the rest of the year, just played first base. I played the whole season in the field and took the whole summer off.
I decided that it would be better to go to a junior college which would give me more chances to get drafted than if I went to a four year school. I went to Riverside Community College because Dennis Rogers was the coach there, who had experience coaching in the minor leagues and he was a really great coach.
They had a good rehab program for my shoulder and it really worked out well for me.
It seems like from an early age you had your goals in place. I want to become a major league pitcher and going to Riverside JC is my best opportunity to achieve that.
Matt Lollis: Yes, that is definitely true, its always been my goal.
You are a huge guy, did you ever play any other sports?
Matt Lollis: Surprisingly, I only played baseball. My high school coach wanted me to play football and I said no. I played basketball for maybe two weeks my senior year and got talking too from my high school coach and the sport agency that I was using told me it was a bad idea. Chances of rolling an ankle or hurting my knee and I took that into account and just stuck with baseball.
That is pretty impressive how focused you are for someone who is so young.
Matt Lollis: I've wanted this since I was real young and trying to not let anything stop me.
Whenever you go from preps or college to the pros everyone always talks about the adjustment to wooden bats for hitters but it seems like a pretty big adjustment for pitchers too, especially learning to pitch inside.
What have you learned and improved upon since becoming a pro?
Matt Lollis: Actually, my high school coach really wanted us to establish the inside corner to get swings and misses away. The same in junior college. They really emphasized commanding both sides of the plate which really helped me in pro ball.
I've really worked on throwing my fastball on both sides of the plate.
I spoke with Keyvius earlier and he said the same thing. I've always heard that pitching to the inside part of the plate with an aluminum bat is a good way to really get hurt because the ball could come back to you so quickly?
Matt Lollis: It's a dangerous part of the plate, but you have to go in every now and then. You don't want to be stuck just using one side of the plate. It also shows the umpire that you have a good command of the zone and might get a couple of extra inches on each side.
I've always thrown to both sides of the plate my whole life, but my strength was pitching inside. When I got to pro ball, I really worked on that low and away fastball which has made a big change for me.
What type of fastballs do you throw?
Matt Lollis: I throw both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, but the majority are four-seamers. The two-seamer loses a little velocity, but has more movement and runs on the arm side. The four seamer is straighter but has more velocity.
For your breaking pitches?
Matt Lollis: I throw both a curve and a slider and a changeup.
Usually young guys like you either throw a slider or a curve. They always worry that it is too difficult to throw both.
Matt Lollis: When I came into pro ball, my slider and curve ball were pretty much the same. Cooch (pitching coordinator Mike Couchee told me to pick one, and they wanted me to choose the slider since its a better pitch for someone that throws a little bit harder. I threw it all extended and in one of my last bullpen sessions out there I wanted to try the curve again and learning how to throw a slider properly really helped me get on top of my curve, so it really helped me to improve it.
To go forward which of those pitches are you really trying to improve upon?
Matt Lollis: I love throwing my fastball because if I am going to get beat, I want to get beat with my best stuff and that is my fastball.
You are a big guy and you must come in at around at least 280 lbs. When I saw you last night you were athletic, didn't look tired and your mechanics stayed solid the whole night. The question is what is the ideal weight for you?
Matt Lollis: I've been losing a little bit of weight since I got here and came into spring a little heavier than they wanted. Since I've been out in Oregon, I'm riding a bike back and forth between the stadium in addition to doing a little more cardio.
It wasn't a put down. I always think that there could be a danger of if you drop too much weight it could affect your velocity.
Matt Lollis: I would like to drop about ten pounds but really replace it with good weight. Lose it in fat but gain it in muscle, go a few more innings and get more stamina.
What is the biggest thing you are trying to do to improve to move on up?
Matt Lollis: Just trying to pound the zone. Really trying to work fast, get guys out within three pitches. I've never been a big strikeout pitcher and really just like to keep things moving.
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