Poreda aims to finish strong

One of the cornerstones in the Jake Peavy trade with the Chicago White Sox last season, left-hander Aaron Poreda came to the San Diego Padres with great upside after having been drafted 25th overall in the 2007 amateur draft.

But one year later, the 23-year old is still searching for himself as a member of the Portland pitching staff. A trip to the minor-league disabled list with a sprained ankle will only prolong that process.

The fine tuning continues for the 6-foot-6, 240-pounder, who remains in the bullpen after being a starter throughout his career.

"I'm trying to work on a couple things, re-establish myself and start throwing strikes again," said Aaron Poreda, who has surrendered 15 earned runs in 24.3 innings since being recalled from Double-A early in the summer. "I've been struggling the last month or so. I need to bear down and finish the season strong."

Even more troubling is his 32:19 walk-to-strikeout ratio in Triple-A. It's a trend that has plagued him throughout this third full professional campaign. Although Poreda posted a 2.52 ERA in San Antonio and earned a promotion, he still averaged more than one walk per inning.

The southpaw has taken a philosophical approach to shoring up his weaknesses.

"It's basically just having mental toughness and being able to go out on the mound, knowing that everyone's watching and critiquing you," he said. "There are a lot of variables that tie into anxiety and stress that you would not have throwing a bullpen by yourself. You have to think of the right things, block out all these negative thoughts and focus on the task at hand."

In the short-term, Poreda has been able to focus on improving his two best pitches and put on hold his additional offerings.

"Coming out of the bullpen, I've stopped throwing my change-up," he said. "There's no need right now. I can get away with throwing fastballs and sliders. It's simplified things for me, but there's also a lot of variables in the bullpen. You have to get ready faster and don't know when you're going to pitch. It's a different way to pitch – I'm still getting used to it."

The ultimate goal for Poreda is to put himself in position for a spot in the Padres' rotation.

"I've learned a lot of things about bullpen life and myself as a pitcher," he said. "I'm not sure what the Padres have for me in the future. I don't know if they want me to stay (in the ‘pen). But to be honest, I see myself as a starter."

After fast-tracking to the major leagues in his second full year of pro ball for the White Sox, San Diego has allowed Poreda the time to learn the intricacies of pitching at the professional level.

It was the best move for a young pitcher who admits his first few years were a rollercoaster ride of emotions after being ranked the #1 prospect in the White Sox organization.

"Looking back, I feel like I was rushed a little bit to the big leagues," Poreda admitted. "Everyone wants to get to the big leagues as fast as possible. I don't regret going up there, because it was such a life-changing experience. I had my family and friends to celebrate with me.

"As a pitcher, I learned a lot. But maybe I could have taken an extra year or two. Once you get to that level there's more pressure. You have to fail as a pitcher in order to grow as a pitcher. If you keep having success and don't have that failure, you don't know what it's like on the other side of the bubble. I've had high points and low points, with points of in-between. It's all part of the process."

Poreda plans on working more on his approach to pitching during the offseason, while balancing some vacation plans.

"I'm going to take a couple months off and reflect on this season," he said. "I've got a trip planned to Hawaii with my girlfriend. I'm going to read a couple books, trying to get a better sense of the mental game of pitching. That's where I've been struggling. I've been throwing some real good bullpens and showing the control that I've had the last few years. It's just when I go out on the mound – I'm not in as much control as I want to be."

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