Poreda works on command since callup
Pitcher acquired in Peavy trade wants to start in 2010
PITTSBURGH -- Since being officially called up on Sept. 8, Aaron Poreda has pitched a grand total of two-thirds of an inning in a Padres uniform. But it's not like the young lefty has just been sitting around watching the rest of the season unfold.
The 22-year-old, who was the key acquisition in the Jake Peavy trade, has been working hard in side and bullpen sessions to build a foundation for next year. The White Sox's first-round pick in 2007, Poreda has struggled with his command, particularly since coming over in the trade. In seven outings for Triple-A Portland, Poreda had walked 37 in 32 2/3 IP.
"I think I'm on the right course," said Poreda, who walked 75 in 107 total Minor League innings this season. "I've been working real hard physically and mentally to get myself right back on track. Coming up with the Padres is definitely a good way to end my season, meet the guys here, and they're great. Hopefully, with their support, the coaching staff, my family, we'll right the ship and get right back to where I was."
In his first full season, Poreda made it to Double-A in Chicago's system and finished with a 3.13 ERA. The pure stuff hasn't been called into question -- Poreda still struck out 108 over those 107 innings this year -- but the Padres think they may have pinpointed at least part of the problem.
"It's easier to say a more consistent delivery, because that's what everyone needs," Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley said. "But his landing point, where his landing foot hits, is kind of sporadic and erratic. We're just trying to land in the same spot every time to give him a little more consistency with his release point."
Both pitcher and coach say that though the mechanical flaw is a large part of the problem, command issues often have a mental side. Not making excuses, Poreda points to the trade, the up and down from the big leagues to the Minors, and the switch back and forth from rotation to bullpen as distractions that haven't helped. Balsley pointed out that pitchers can often fall into a rut with command that's awfully hard to work out of. Sometimes, just focusing on the physical -- the landing and release point in this case -- can help tremendously.
There has been progress made already. Poreda has come into games for just two outings of one-third of an inning each, so it has been hard to evaluate how the side work has carried over into game action, but Balsley has liked what he has seen from Poreda in how he has gone about his business since he got called up.
"He works on it every day, whether it's with me or just going over and doing dry work on the mound by himself," Balsley said. "I think he's sold on it, that it's going to help him. When he does throw on the side now, he's improved."
When Poreda was drafted out of the University of San Francisco, there was some question as to what his long-term role would be. The fastball-slider combination was intriguing, but the changeup lagged behind, leading some to think his future would come in the bullpen. He did have success as a starter in his first full season, but the White Sox needed his arm, at least in the big leagues, as a reliever.
That, of course, limited the amount of times he needed his changeup in games, perhaps curtailing its development. It's something Poreda has worked on during his side work. In a perfect world, he'll get a chance to start next year, though the lefty understands that at this stage of his career, he's not exactly in a position to demand anything.
"I'd love to be a starting pitcher, but I know I'm a really young guy, one of the youngest guys here in the clubhouse," Poreda said. "I've got a lot to learn. I'd be content with the bullpen, I'd love to just be a part of this team. Whatever they want me to do is great, but I'm going to work as hard as I can to be a starter someday."
Balsley thinks Poreda has the secondary offerings to stick as a starter, praising his hard slider and even the change, something he feels will get better the more Poreda throws it. Both coach and pitcher talked about adding a two-seamer to his repertoire, giving him two fastball options. The idea that this late-season work will serve as a bridge to Poreda at least competing for a rotation spot next spring certainly did not seem far-fetched.
"That's what I expect," Balsley said. "I think he expects the same thing because he has made strides since he's gotten here."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.