Brigham finding balance in delivery

Despite the won-loss record and ERA, right-hander Jake Brigham had an extremely encouraging campaign while coming off Tommy John surgery this year. Lone Star Dugout sat down with the hurler to talk about his season, his developing stuff, and his mechanics.

Jake Brigham is the latest example that statistics don't tell the whole story for developing prospects.

In his first year off Tommy John surgery, the 21-year-old hurler pitched at Single-A Hickory, going 2-11 with a 5.52 earned-run average in 89.2 innings. He surrendered 104 hits while walking 38 and striking out 81.

Yet, it was an extremely encouraging season for Brigham.

Not only did Brigham tighten up his big curveball a bit–making it more of a swing-and-miss pitch–but he also gained velocity on his fastball. The 2009 season was Brigham's first full year at a level [2006 in the AZL, 2007 in Spokane, and injured in 2008], and he was coming off surgery. Most would expect that Brigham would've had inconsistent velocity.

But the velocity took off, as he worked in the low nineties and touched 94-96 mph with some regularity. Brigham's changeup also took another step forward in '09. The primary reason for his struggles were mechanics-related, as he continues to search for the perfect mechanics after surgery.

Mechanics can be fixed–they can constantly be altered. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound hurler has the natural abilities, including the power mid-90s fastball and breaking ball with plus potential. At just 21-years-old, he still has plenty of time to figure the mechanics out. And if he does that, the command should follow.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Brigham, who is currently pitching for the Surprise Advanced Instructs team.

Jason Cole: You just finished up your first season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. How'd you feel about it in the end?

Jake Brigham: I felt good. I felt like my arm was just starting to sort of get into a groove. My mechanics were coming together and I was starting to pitch well in my last two or three outings. Then it ended on me.

Cole: I'm sure your overall won-loss record probably wasn't what you had hoped, but I remember you telling me that your velocity had taken off this year. Did you view the season as a success overall?

Brigham: My record and ERA wasn't that good, but I learned way more than what the numbers show. I think this year was a success in my eyes just because of what I learned from Brad Holman, my pitching coach. I think going through tough times sometimes teaches you more than winning ten games. I think that taught me a lot this year.

Cole: You mentioned some of the things you learned from Brad Holman. What were some of those things you picked up from him?

Brigham: The biggest thing was just my balance. My balance was real bad. I was drifting forward a lot, which probably caused my Tommy John surgery because it causes my elbow to drag. That was the biggest thing–getting my body behind the ball.

Cole: You had the oblique injury on July 4, and it kept you out for about a month. How did you feel when you came back from that?

Brigham: It took probably two or three outings before it really felt strong. I didn't feel like I could really go out there and let it go. But it feels great now. It feels stronger than before. I think it had to do a little bit with the mechanics that I was changing. I hadn't used those muscles, and it was something I just wasn't ready for. But now it's stronger and my mechanics are stronger.

Cole: You touched on your arm earlier. You threw about 90 innings this season coming off Tommy John. Did you feel your arm was holding up well?

Brigham: Yes. It felt real good. It felt strong. My arm never really got tired at all and my elbow felt great.

Cole: Now you're pitching at instructs, and I believe Jamey Newberg said you threw 3.1 hitless innings the other day. Are you pitching for the Advanced Instructional League team?

Brigham: Yes, sir.

Cole: Are all of your innings coming with that team, or are you also getting some innings for the regular instructs team?

Brigham: So far all the innings have come on the advanced side. I don't think I'll be pitching at all on the instructs side.

Cole: Do you guys work out with the younger instructs team in the morning, or is it pretty much two separate teams?

Brigham: No, we're pretty much together all day until the games.

Cole: How many games have you thrown in so far and how many innings are you going per outing?

Brigham: I've pitched in three outings so far. They've just built me up–I think I went two innings, two innings, and then the three and a third. They wanted to build me up a little bit just because I hadn't thrown in a game in a week or so.

Cole: How do you feel instructs is going for you so far, and what are your thoughts on the new Advanced League?

Brigham: I've learned a lot this instructs. Mark Connor has been here, and of course with his experience, he has been working a lot with the pitchers here. Danny Clark, our pitching coordinator, and again Brad Holman is here as well. I feel like I've learned a lot in the three weeks that I've been here already.

The Advanced League–I think the talent level–it's older guys, of course, on the advanced side. I think that is something that is good for me, being a guy that has only pitched in Low-A. I think there are a few Double-A guys and mostly High-A guys on that advances side.

Cole: Are you making any adjustments or changes right now at instructs, or are you simply refining things?

Brigham: I've made quite a few changes. Minor changes to help me with my balance to help my delivery be repeatable. I wasn't able to repeat my delivery, so I wasn't thrown my fastball for a very high percentage of strikes. That's what I've been working on, just sort of fine-tuning that.

Cole: Are you working with any pitches right now, or is it just pretty much the mechanics and fastball command?

Brigham: Fastball command is what I'm really hammering. If I can get ahead in the count, I can pretty much throw whatever I want. That's what I'm really focusing in on right now–just getting that fastball command down and then letting everything else fall into place.

Cole: Looking back on your season as a whole, how did you feel your secondary pitches developed?

Brigham: Real good, real good. I feel that my changeup has come a long way. I've always felt comfortable with my curveball. It has been a pitch that I've always been able to count on. I feel like my changeup has come a long way as far as being able to throw it for strikes and just being able to throw it a lot more in a game.

Cole: You've got about nine days left at instructs, and then the focus goes to your 2010 season. Are you starting to look at next season, and are you getting any expectations for yourself?

Brigham: I'm just going to come into camp looking for a job. We've got a lot of prospects in this organization. We've got a lot of good arms and young guys coming up. It's going to be tough to win a job for everybody this Spring Training, coming in as a pitcher. I'm just going to work my hardest and try and come in. Wherever they put me, I'm going to do my best and try to move up.

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