Lueke developing new changeup

SURPRISE, AZ - With an excellent fastball, breaking ball combination, Josh Lueke is a good candidate for a breakout season in 2009. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 24-year-old hurler after his appearance on Wednesday.

Josh Lueke's 2008 season wasn't anything special numbers-wise, but he proved to have a good arm and stuff with big-league potential. Although the 6-foot-5 hurler surrendered 65 hits in 59 innings with High-A Bakersfield, he walked just 16 while striking out 72.

The 24-year-old throws his fastball between 91-94 mph, and his slider shows plus potential. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning in his first Spring Training outing of the season, getting one strikeout and two weak groundouts.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with the right-hander after his relief appearance.

Jason Cole: When did you get out here to Surprise?

Josh Lueke: I came out on the day they reported – the eighth.

Cole: How do you feel you finished in Bakersfield last year?

Lueke: Numbers-wise, they were good. But I know I gave up way too many hits. I went back and looked at that and I had like 15 more hits than innings pitched. My ERA wasn't showing too pretty, but it is a hitter-friendly league.

Cole: Did all that make you change the way you worked in the offseason?

Lueke: I just worked a lot harder in the offseason because I was talking to Holland, and he said the running is going to be a lot harder this year. Basically I just pushed myself a little more this year than in the past. I want to break that hump to get to Double-A, and unless I work a little harder, I'm probably not going to get there.

Cole: How is the running treating you so far?

Lueke: It hasn't been too, too bad. The 300 is always hectic. If you want a t-shirt you've got to get it in 52.5 for an average. But other than that, as long as you make it in under 57 seconds, you're good to go.

Cole: Are you doing that pretty well?

Lueke: Yeah, we only had to do that once. The rest of the running isn't too bad at all.

Cole: Tell me about your first Spring Training outing. It seemed like you pitched pretty well, getting a quick 1-2-3 inning.

Lueke: I felt good. I had a little shoulder soreness, but that's nothing to worry about. The training staff will take care of that. But it seemed like all my pitches were working. I was a little out in front of my splitty a little much. I need to get that back in gear and figure out where that's been.

Cole: Did you throw a splitter last year?

Lueke: It's more of a split change. I hold it like a splitty, but I put the rest of my hand on the ball. I kind of took a mixture between Garr's changeup-splitty thing and the one Gagne throws. I mixed it around a little bit because no other changeup is working.

Cole: Is that something you did beginning with this year?

Lueke: Yeah.

Cole: How do you feel that has come along so far?

Lueke: A lot better. It has got a lot of downward movement – it's a little more sharp. It is a little bit harder too, so that's nice. It just changes the planes of the batter's eyes.

Cole: How do you think your slider has come along both during the offseason and starting with your first Spring Training outing?

Lueke: In the offseason, it was so-so. Last year I thought it was kind of loopy at times. I wasn't getting out in front of it and my arm was delaying on it. But now that I've got a new rocking motion thing going with my back leg, it's helping me get on top of the ball and get out in front.

Cole: You mentioned the mechanics. When did they change that?

Lueke: After my first bullpen. I threw and the next time we went out to go throw, they told me I had this rocker step where I'd lean back and kind of explode towards the plate all at once to keep on top of the ball.

Cole: How has that adjustment going so far?

Lueke: Judging by the results today, I'm guessing it's going pretty good. In the bullpens I've been keeping the ball down a lot better than last year. Hopefully I can not give up as many home runs and hits.

Cole: What are you looking for out of yourself this season?

Lueke: To keep the walks down, like I've been doing in the past. That's my biggest thing – I want to limit the number of walks allowed. And try to keep baserunners at a minimum and not allow them to advance from first if they do get on. And try to keep the ball in the park by keeping the ball low in the zone and giving my fielders a chance to help me out.

Cole: Do you have any expectations as to where you'll start the regular season?

Lueke: No. I mean, I would love to break with Frisco, but everything is up in the air. I could go back to Bakersfield and I could go all the way back to Hickory. I have no clue.

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