Command making the difference for Brigham

SURPRISE, Ariz. - Right-hander Jake Brigham has been one of the most impressive performers in minor league camp thus far, as he struck out two in a perfect inning on Thursday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the pitcher to discuss his offseason, his spring, and the mechanical changes he has made.

As initial glance, it would look like right-hander Jake Brigham had a miserable 2009 season. In his first year off Tommy John surgery, the prospect posted a 2-11 record with a 5.52 earned-run average in 89.2 innings at Single-A Hickory. Over that time, he gave up 104 hits while walking 38 and striking out 81.

But for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect, the numbers weren't nearly as important as the development. Not only was Brigham's arm healthy all season, but his stuff took a major step forward. The Florida native generally threw his fastball between 91-95 mph, often touching 96. His big-breaking curveball also improved, as the spin tightened and it got a bit sharper.

So far in Spring Training this year, Brigham's command appears to have taken the necessary step forward, and he could be headed for a breakout season. Brigham's only issue last year was command–leaving the ball up in the zone.

In his first Spring Training outing on Thursday, the 22-year-old worked between 91-95 mph–sitting at 93-94–with outstanding command. He worked down in the zone and painted both corners. Brigham got a pair of strikeouts on 77 mph curveballs–both perfectly placed on the black.

Lone Star Dugout caught up with Brigham to discuss his offseason and his first outing of the spring.

Jason Cole: You had your first Spring Training outing on Thursday, tossing a perfect inning. What were your thoughts on it?

Jake Brigham: I felt good. I got here probably about two and a half weeks early, and I've been working a lot with a bunch of the pitching coaches–Danny Clark, Mark Connor, Brad Holman, Jeff Andrews. I've been working a lot with them and changing a few minor tweaks in my delivery. But I felt good overall. It felt good to be able to control the ball.

Cole: What are some of those minor things you've been working on?

Brigham: We worked a lot on breaking my hands–just being able to free my arm up. Not having to rush or anything, but just having it be easy flow.

Cole: And you feel that has helped your command quite a bit?

Brigham: A lot. It is a lot easier to get to that outside corner if your arm is free.

Cole: Tell me about your offseason and what you did to prepare for your second full year back off Tommy John.

Brigham: A lot of long toss, a lot of conditioning. Our conditioning program has really stepped up a notch. We condition harder than I think a lot of other people do. We work hard, and a lot is expected of us. I wanted to come into camp 100 percent. Some people may come in at different levels, but I wanted to come in ready to go and ready to show some things.

Cole: Being that last offseason you were coming off Tommy John surgery, was your workout regimen or how you prepared for last season any different compared to this year?

Brigham: Maybe a little more mild. They told me they wanted me to take it slow a little bit that first year, since it was going to be a long season, especially coming off Tommy John. It was probably a little slower last year–a lot more excelled this year.

I came in a lot more prepared as far as throwing pitches in bullpens, long toss program. In that aspect, I probably threw a lot more during this offseason, just coming in ready and knowing that my elbow is strong this year.

Cole: I talked to you about halfway through the season in Hickory, but how did you feel you finished up there, and what were your overall thoughts on the year?

Brigham: It was very humbling. I was healthy–that's a huge positive coming off Tommy John. A huge positive being able to throw the full season. That was great. I learned a lot with Brad Holman, just working on my mechanics and learning my delivery. The numbers don't show it, but I learned a lot more than it shows in the numbers.

Cole: I've talked to people that saw you both in 2007 and last year, and they said your mechanics were pretty much night and day. What were some of the differences between the two years?

Brigham: Staying back. My mechanics early on weren't the greatest, hence my scar on my elbow. But staying back and being behind the ball–direction is a lot. I was real wild when I was younger. Direction and I would just say overall balance.

Cole: You threw just fastballs and curveballs in Thursday's game. How do you feel your curveball is coming along?

Brigham: Good. It's a pitch that I have always felt comfortable with. With these small adjustments, I can put it where I want more. But it's a pitch that I have been blessed to have and just develop over the past few years.

Cole: Even though you didn't throw any in the first game, I know you spent a lot of last year working on it. How do you feel that is coming?

Brigham: It has come a long way since I've been out here and this offseason. Last year, it was a pitch that I was always tinkering with. I was trying different grips and what-not, but I think I've really got something going now. I'm just going to keep throwing it and get that feel for it. I think it will be a good pitch for me.

Cole: Tell me about your command in that first outing. It looked like in live BP and tracking, your command was pretty dead on there, as well. How much different is it for you this year?

Brigham: It is huge. Last year, my velo took off but command wasn't really there. This year, I'm not too worried about velo. I'm not too worried about health–my elbow is strong and it's healthy. I'm just worried about throwing strikes this year.

Cole: Was part of it getting used to throw at the highest velocity, or was it just the normal inconsistent command in the first year off Tommy John?

Brigham: I don't know if it's normal. That's an excuse and I don't like excuses. Maybe a combination of my velo taking off and just maturing. I've matured a lot as a pitcher this past year–knowing my delivery and learning my delivery. That's a phrase I learned from Brad Holman–knowing your delivery. That's something I feel that I know a lot better this year than I did last.

Cole: Coming into this full season, do you have any expectations for it? Anything you're really looking forward to?

Brigham: Throw strikes, be healthy, and the rest will play out. I don't make the decisions in the organization, but all I can do is go out there and do my best every time and hope they notice.

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