Fort Wayne Wizards Pitching Coach Tom Bradley

Bradley hopes to have Latos back

FORT WAYNE, IN: The pitching coach in the minor leagues has two main tasks; make sure no one blows out their arms by either throwing too many pitches or using the wrong mechanics, and prepare pitchers for the next level, which more times than naught with young fireballers leads to how to throw something off-speed.

Tom Bradley has been either a manager or a pitching coach since 1978, after finishing off a seven-year pitching career in the major leagues. This year, he has an interesting combination of young flamethrowers, Mat Latos and Jeremy McBryde, combined with some more advanced college pitchers, such as Jeremy Hefner and Matt Teague.

We caught up with coach Bradley to discuss his staff.

The first pitcher most of our readers have the most questions about is Mat Latos who has been injured most of the year. Since you had him at Eugene, as well as here, what can you tell us about him?

Tom Bradley: Mat has a great frame and size to be a power pitcher. He obviously has an above average major league fastball, that is his strength. His changeup is developing. Last year, he kind of threw a split change, and we took that away from him hoping he would develop a straight change. That is a pitch that he has to learn because there are very few major league starters that do not throw a change in their repertoire. His slider has gotten a little bit better. He needs to work on his secondary stuff and being able to command his fastball, but that is true of everyone at this level. You have to be able to command the fastball. It's unfortunate that he got hurt and we hope he's back here soon.

When we look at his statistics from last year to this year, even though it's very small here, it seems like he doesn't walk that many guys, so it seems like he does have some command of his fastball. So is it question of where he is throwing strikes?

Tom Bradley: It's really a question of throwing quality strikes within the strike zone. It's about pitching down in the zone and working both sides of the plate, not throwing the ball in the center of the plate. Hopefully, he'll recover and be able to get something out of the season.

Another guy who was a draft-and-follow pick is Jeremy McBryde. His won-loss record doesn't look that great, but he has some really good peripherals in his strikeout to base-on-balls ratio and many claim he has some of the best stuff of anyone in the organization.

Tom Bradley: Jeremy has a power arm and his stats don't totally indicate what he has done this year. A couple of times, he has left with a lead and we just weren't able to hold it for him. He's got a fastball, slider and changeup. He learned the changeup last year with us at Eugene, and its come along fine, but he needs to throw it more in games, which he has started to do. We try to have our starters throw changeups between 18-20 percent of the time. Right now, you have a fastball/slider combination – the change in speeds is not that great. So, if you don't spot those pitches well, you are going to get hit because there isn't that much speed variation.

A changeup is a big part of his development. As long as he stays on top of it and gets good arm speed with his two-seam fastball and make better quality strikes, he's going to pitch well. He's issued very few walks, but his hits to innings pitched are a little high because he's not spotting his fastball to the outer third of the plate. He's got a good arm, good frame, he's strong as an ox

It looks like as organization that you guys have a little more tolerance for a higher level of hits to innings pitched than a high number of walks. It seems like the organization really focuses on having pitchers throw the ball around the plate.

Tom Bradley: It can be a little deceiving because we have led the league in the least number of walks but have given up more hits than innings pitched and a lot of that has to do with making quality pitches inside the strike zone and not throwing it down the middle.

A story that was printed on McBryde in the San Diego Union-Tribune was that McBryde was in danger of being removed from the rotation because he didn't throw enough changeups. Is that true?

Tom Bradley: Not to my knowledge. He went through a couple games where he only threw six or seven changeups and we talked to him about it. We talk to pitchers everyday about throwing a certain number of changeups in each outing. We get a monthly summary from the front office of the percentage of changeups each pitcher is throwing. We stay on top of it.

It's just such a big part of any pitcher's development and sometimes guys they aren't real comfortable throwing it or don't know when to throw it. You don't want to throw it in a 1-1 count because it could be a ball and then you are in a hitter's count. A good time to throw it is 0-1 when you are ahead. You don't want to take away from a pitcher's strength like Jeremy's because he has a real live arm, but we also want to have him come up with an off-speed pitch to disrupt a hitter's timing, because that is what hitting is, timing.

Probably your best pitcher here this year has been Jeremy Heffner, who throws a fastball, change and a slider. What can you tell us about him?

Tom Bradley: He's an advanced pitcher. He had a nice college career and didn't really throw much of a changeup there. He worked hard on it in Eugene, and he went to the instructional leagues where they really worked on his changeup there. It's gotten to the point where he can throw it in almost any count. His slider is good, sometimes it gets a little big, but for the most part it's consistent. It's been there all year and he's been able to locate his fastball better this year, which he has to do. He's working on a two-seamer so that should make him an even better pitcher. He can throw all of his pitches at any time in the count, which is a big weapon since hitters just can't sit on the fastball.

How is the velocity on his fastball?

Tom Bradley: It's gotten better the last couple of games. He's been averaging 88, 89 and has touched 91 a few times. A lot of times with first year, full year pitchers, you see their velocity drop a little bit because they are not used to the workload.

A guy who seems to have all the talent in the world but you guys are still trying to harness it is Aaron Breit.

Tom Bradley: Aaron, I wasn't here last year and wasn't with him a whole lot in spring training because he was injured, has four pitches, fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. He's got to keep working on his change because he didn't really get it down last year. He has two good off-speed pitches and his fastball is 88-90 right now, he just coming back from surgery on his elbow. He's a big kid and he works hard.

Matt Teague has had a tough time in some games and looked good in others. How has he pitched this year?

Tom Bradley: Matt is probably one of the hardest working pitchers on our staff. He really gets after his conditioning and the medicine ball work and these different gymnastic contortions. He just works very hard on non-throwing days. You hate to see pitchers struggle like that, and I think he got into trouble because when it got tight he tried to throw hard and in that situation a guy like that has to use his changeup more.

Overall, he's had a pretty good season. He has three pitches, fastball, changeup and slider. His change has gotten a lot better and is more upright in his delivery and is able to drive the ball downward.

Jackson Quezada has had a great year.

Tom Bradley: He had a pretty good year last year too. Then he got hurt the last month of the season. Beginning of the year when we were in the eight-man rotation, he didn't have that many chances for a lot of saves, but he has really picked it up. He's been money nearly every time he's been out there. His secondary pitches, his change and slider have gotten a lot better.

He's a pretty good size man.

Tom Bradley: Yes, he is, and he is going to fill out and get stronger as he matures. His slider has gotten a lot better from last year, and even in the past few weeks. Before, he really just spun it, but now he's thrown some 84 to 85 and you can really seem some depth to it. His fastball is consistently in the low-90s and it has some life in the zone. I hope he just continues to do what he has been doing.

Is he mainly a two-seam for four-seam pitcher?

Tom Bradley: He throws both, when he goes inside to righties it will be two-seam and when he goes away it will be four-seam. The big thing for him is for his slider to get better, and he works with it on flat ground work with Brandon Jones. He's got a lot more confidence in that now.

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