Wieland strong on opening night

Joe Wieland suffered the loss in a rain-shortened 1-0 game on Thursday evening, but he pitched well. The right-hander limited Hagerstown to just one run over five innings of work. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the prospect after the game.

Hickory manager Bill Richardson recently gave right-hander Joe Wieland the honor of being the Crawdads' opening-day starter, and Wieland delivered with an excellent performance.

The 20-year-old, who ranked as the system's #20 prospect over the offseason, yielded just one run on five hits over five innings of work, walking one and striking out two. Wieland ran into trouble in the first, as he allowed back-to-back doubles after striking out the first hitter, but the hurler quickly settled down.

Wieland kept the ball down in the zone after allowing the first-inning run, and he finished the game by getting 11 groundouts versus just one flyout. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound prospect mixed all his pitches–four- and two-seam fastball, curveball and changeup–and he was able to get a couple key double plays to get out of jams.

After the game, Lone Star Dugout spoke with Wieland about the adjustments he made this spring and his first game of the 2010 season.

Jason Cole: I want to start off by going back to your Spring Training. First off, how did your camp go and how did you feel you threw?

Joe Wieland: I felt this spring went well. I didn't get many innings, but I don't think a lot of guys got many innings. Overall, I thought it went well. I would have liked to have gotten the ball down a little bit more, but overall, it was good.

Cole: Your final line tonight was 11 groundouts and just one flyout. Were you getting the ball down pretty well tonight?

Wieland: Yeah. That was something we talked about, because in that first inning, I had back-to-back hitters where I left pitches up. The second double–the one that ended up being the RBI double–I hit my location, but it was just a little up. He got enough to get it into the gap. But after that, everything was down and I got out of some jams with a couple key double plays.

Cole: Going back to Spring Training real quick, what was your main focus? What were you trying to work on before the season started?

Wieland: Getting back to the consistency with my fastball–throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of guys. And working on the curveball. I know, last year, I worked on the changeup quite a bit and kind of went away from the curveball. As a result, my feel for the curveball kind of dropped a little bit.

I wanted to get that feel back without losing anything with my changeup or fastball. I think I achieved that, because tonight I think I was something like five-of-six with first-pitch curveballs for a strike. I definitely have gotten better with that.

Cole: So tonight, were you going to your curveball more often than you would have in similar situations last year?

Wieland: Yes. I know last year, I didn't really use my curveball until probably the third or fourth inning, when I had to. And tonight, in the third inning, Vinny and I came up with a plan and we started them off with first-pitch curveballs, and they were taking. So I just kept going first-pitch curveball until they made an adjustment. I was able to get them over for strikes.

Cole: Since the live stats there weren't keeping track of it, do you know how many pitches you threw tonight?

Wieland: 52.

Cole: You mentioned that you were throwing more curveballs than you would last year. Did that mean you were throwing fewer changeups as well?

Wieland: No, actually I threw quite a few changeups. I believe it was the third inning–it could've been the fourth–where I threw six pitches. I went curveball, changeup to the first guy for a groundout. Then I went curveball, curveball to the second guy for a groundout. And I went curveball, changeup to the third guy. That sequence was working really well tonight. I was able to get them out in front off the changeup.

Cole: Were those left-handed hitters, or were you throwing some righty-righty changeups as well?

Wieland: It was righty-righty changeups for the most part. The lefty changeup–I left it up a little bit. I was pushing it more. But it was more the curveball. I had a much better feel for the curveball tonight.

Cole: The righty-righty changeup–is that something you would have done very often in the past?

Wieland: Yeah. To be honest with you, I'll throw my changeup in any count to any hitter, righty or lefty. As long as I keep it down, it has got good action and I can get a ground ball with that. But if I get it up, then that's where I start to run into trouble.

Cole: Overall, for your first start, five innings one run. What were your general thoughts on the way you pitched tonight?

Wieland: I thought I pitched well. I thought I pitched real well. I made an adjustment after that first inning, and I kept the ball down. It's disappointing that I got the loss, but it's one where I pitched extremely well. I can't really hang my head on this one. It's just unfortunate that the game was called early and that our offense couldn't get out there and score some runs.

Cole: Was the adjustment something mechanical or was it more mental?

Wieland: It was more mental. I just had to get the ball down and maybe get out in front a little bit. I think the RBI double in the first–it was a two-seam. I got it in on him and it jammed him, but it was just up in the zone, which allowed him to lift the ball.

From then on, I really worked on getting out in front on that two-seam. I think I ended up, the next inning, getting a double play ball with the two-seam. I was just working on getting out in front–that was the big adjustment.

Cole: The last couple years, we've talked a lot about your two-seam. How do you feel that is coming for you, and how often are you throwing it in games versus your four-seam now?

Wieland: It has definitely come along. I can work on it a lot more consistency-wise. There will be times where I want to drop my arm slot and I'll just make it sink instead of letting it do its job.

As for how much I throw it–I probably throw it just as much as my four-seam. If I go in on a righty, I'd say 90 percent of my fastballs are a two-seam. If I'm pitching against a lefty–in a 2-0 count or something like that–I'll throw a two-seam and kind of mix the speed up, hopefully to get them out on the front foot.

Cole: I know we have talked about this in the past as well. In instructs a couple years ago, the Rangers tried moving you to the third base side of the rubber, but it wasn't comfortable and the results weren't there. Are you still on the first base side?

Wieland: No, they actually–at the end, I want to say two days before Spring Training ended–they moved me back to the right side of the rubber. The third base side. I have had no problems with it so far. I don't know what it was the first time I did it, but I just was not comfortable with it at all.

But this time, it feels fine. I don't really notice much of a difference with the comfortability. But I do notice my curveball–I'm getting a much better angle with it, especially on righties. I know that will definitely help me out in the long run.

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