West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona, Friday, March 30, 2012
Boxberger has big league dream
by Mike Russo sports editor
Many people look to spring as a time of rebirth and a fresh start. Few were looking forward to this spring more than Brad Boxberger. Boxberger, who makes his offseason home in Goodyear, had been a highly regarded pitching prospect with the Cincinnati Reds. That changed on Dec. 17, 2011, when Boxberger was traded to the San Diego Padres along with first baseman Yonder Alonso, pitcher Edinson Volquez and catcher Yasmani Grandel for pitcher Mat Latos. The trade was a bit of a surprise,
Boxberger said. “Initially it was kind of a little bit of a shock, but it worked out well and I’m happy to be here,” Boxberger said. Making the trade more palatable was his initial major league spring-training invitation, where he tried to earn a spot in the San Diego bullpen. The Padres train at Peoria Sports Complex. “It’s just exciting being here,” Boxberger said. “It’s definitely an opportunity for me to expand as a player and show a different organization what I am about.”
View photo by Scott Wachter/San Diego Padres
BRAD BOXBERGER, who makes his offseason home in Goodyear, pitches for the San Diego Padres during a Cactus League game earlier this month.
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23, views the trade as an opportunity to impress a new organization, he realizes it does not necessarily make his path to the majors easier. “I have to go out and prove what I can do,” he said. “It’s been getting a feel for every pitch for now, trying to get all three of my pitches [fastball, in the 90-95 mph range, curveball and changeup] down. It’s definitely what I need to do going into the season.” “It’s his first big league camp,” Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley said. “Everybody is in the same boat. He’s a young pitcher trying to prove himself; maybe a little anxiety there, or maybe trying a little too hard.” Perhaps it was his trying too hard to impress the Padres coaching staff that resulted in a couple of rough outings in his first three games of the Cactus League season.
Boxberger pitched 5 2/3 innings in
seven spring appearances, surrendering eight runs, all earned, on seven hits. He struck out nine, walked two and threw a wild pitch. His 12.71 earned run average was inflated by a pair of rough outings.
“I think it was just a combination 393 SOUTH WATSON RD. 623-327-9353
of everything,” Boxberger said of his struggles in those two outings. “In those outings it just kind of snowballed and got away from me a little. It definitely is a learning experience.” Boxberger’s statistics were not a concern, Balsley said. “He’s doing fine,” Balsley said. “Struggling in spring training, you know all I really look for is fastball command. Brad has a good fastball that has good carry. As long as he can keep it down early, later on in the count he can elevate that fastball and get some swings and misses with two strikes. You can’t really look at numbers. I just look at arm strength and if they are locating their fastball, and for the most part, he has done that.
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“We’ve seen what he can do in bullpen sessions and live batting practice sessions. There’s a quality arm there with two good off-speed pitches.”
Boxberger’s stuff has impressed Balsley. “His two strengths in my opinion — he has that ability to throw strikes and his best secondary pitch is a changeup, which is rare for a right-handed pitcher,” Balsley said. “Most right-handers’ best secondary pitch is a curveball or a slider, and he has a specialty type changeup. As I said before, he has the ability to throw the ball high in the zone, I wouldn’t say it is overpowering but it has good late life in the strike zone. He can get strikeouts at the top of the strike zone instead of the bottom of the zone.” While Balsley has liked what he has seen of Boxberger, there are still some things on which the right-hander needs to work, like getting ahead in the count and making quality pitches early, Balsley said.
“The key to most relievers is if they get ahead in the count, if they throw strikes early in the count they don’t have to throw strikes later in the count, they can throw balls and make hitters chase,” Balsley said. “Strike one is probably his best asset. That’s what he needs to learn how to do consistently.”
which is rare for a right- handed pitcher. Most right-handers’ best second- ary pitch is a curveball or a slider, and he has a specialty type changeup. As I said before, he has the ability to throw the ball high in the zone, I wouldn’t say it is overpowering but it has good late life in the strike zone. He can get strikeouts at the top of the strike zone instead of the bottom of the zone.”
“His two strengths in my opinion — he has that ability to throw strikes and his best secondary pitch is a changeup,
AFL stint Boxberger prepared for spring training by enjoying a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, pitching for the Phoenix Desert Dogs.
— Darren Balsley Sand Diego Padres pitching coach
He posted a 5.40 ERA in 11 AFL appearances, but was unscored upon in eight of those 11 outings. He was second in the AFL with three saves, and he led relievers with 14.85 strikeouts per nine innings, fanning 22 in 13 1/3 innings with only six walks,
and was named to the AFL All-Prospect Team.
“It definitely helped just to work on
some extra stuff there at the end of the season to get ready for spring training,” Boxberger said of his time in the AFL. Boxberger’s outstanding work in the AFL represented a continuation of the success he had during the regular season at Carolina of the Class AA Southern League and AAA Louisville of the International League. He went 2-4 with 11 saves and a 2.03 ERA combined at the two stops. His minor league work demonstrated the durability to handle the workload of a major league reliever, Balsley said. “He has been a closer and usually those guys have been resilient,” Balsley said. “He has shown resiliency here [in camp]. He has made it to the post every time. He has thrown all his side sessions, live batting practice sessions, and hasn’t been scratched for any of our games. So that shouldn’t be a problem.” As spring training reached its waning days, Boxberger was still hopeful of making the major league roster, but if he was sent down, he was not going to be discouraged. He would continue to work hard to make his major league dream come true. Boxberger was awakened from that dream March 26, when he was reassigned to the Padres minor league camp. “The main goal is to go out there and stay healthy, and do what I can do and be better than last year,” Boxberger said.
Mike Russo can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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