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January 31, 2013

Breaking down the 2013 Arizona pitching staff

Before practice on Wednesday, GOAZCATS.com caught up with Arizona pitching coach Shaun Cole and veteran right-hander Stephen Manthei to break down the 2013 Arizona Wildcats pitching staff.

Here is what they had to say:

Stephen Manthei

DP: Tell me about how your fall went and what you have been working on?

SM: Fall went very well for me, threw strikes and didn't give up too many runs. I worked a lot on developing a third pitch, my changeup, so I can throw it more often, instead of just fastball, slider. It came on nicely.

DP: Take me through the competition for the third spot in the rotation going into the season.

SM: It's been going pretty well. So far I have only thrown once, just two innings. I think (Tyler) Hale is also starting and so is (Nathan) Bannister, but that's all I know.

DP: There are a lot of younger guys fighting for positions on the staff. How has it been mentoring them as they prepare for Division I baseball?

SM: They've done very well, they are actually really easy to teach. They listen very well. They've gone out there and done what we wanted them too. They throw strikes better than we did as freshmen. it's kind of crazy.

DP: After coming out of the bullpen in 2012, what has the transition been like competing for the starting role?

SM: It has been nice. Your whole life you're a starter, then you come here and go to the bullpen. It's a little different, but over summer I started a little bit so it made it a little easier.

DP: How will preparations for games change if you are named the Sunday starter?

SM: You just have to stay a little more relaxed and really focused. Other than that, it doesn't change too much.

Pitching coach Shaun Cole

DP: What has Konner (Wade) been working on in the offseason? What pitches has he improved on and how has his leadership role changed?

SC: The main thing that he's improved on is his fastball location. The changeup is always going to be there, he's got a very good changeup. The main thing we introduced in the fall was trying to get more of an out pitch to add with that changeup, and it's a slider. We messed with his grip a little bit and it actually is coming along pretty well. He's got a good feel for it right now.

The key is throwing it early for a 0-0 and then for a strikeout pitch. That's what we are trying to get more consistency out of. As a leader, Konner is more of a by example type of guy. So his work ethic. He's not a real vocal guy, just coming out and showing the younger guys how to get it done and do it right.

DP: Taking over at the No. 2 role in the rotation, how has James Farris improved in the offseason?

SC: James has done a pretty good job since he's been here of commanding three pitches and having the feel for three pitches. The thing that has come along with James is his growth - maturity, his work ethic in the weight room, running and conditioning have all improved tremendously since he showed up as a freshman.

DP: How have these older guys helped the younger guys like Bannister and Cody Moffet adjust to the college baseball atmosphere?

SC: There has been track record at Arizona, guys like Preston Guilmet, Jon Meloan, (Mark) Melancon, Kurt Heyer with that work ethic, and these guys have carried it along too. An example would be the way we run our tours. Three deep breaths and go. There's no breaks, run 'em hard. What I've heard from Neil (Willey), our strength coach, just the way they lead in the weight room with encouragement and keeping those guys going at a high level.

DP: How do you see guys like Tyler Hale and Nick Cunningham playing a role on the team this season?

SC: Both of them have to continue to show consistency. I think just because the way the weekend stuff is shaping up, and those guys are still both candidates for the Sunday role, but I think both of them prefer and are leaning on the side of coming out of the pen. Whether that's in long relief, as a setup guy or closer, that's going to be dictated by their consistency that they show throwing strikes in intrasquads and as we go into nonconference play.

DP: Which pitchers have really stepped up over the last few weeks?

SC: Tyger Talley is doing a good job, he seems to be maturing and growing up a little bit. Cody Moffett has been throwing really well, good cutter. He's been showing some life. Bannister has been a strike-thrower, so he's showing a lot of consistency. Overall, our freshmen group coming in has been pretty good.

DP: What was it like for you getting named Pitching Coach of the Year?

SC: That was a great honor. The day that I found out, I got the older pitchers together and thanked them. I got that award because they executed and they pitched well. And then, I got to thank coach (Andy) Lopez because I've learned quite a bit from him. For him to give me the freedom he has given me with the pitching staff allowed that award to come true.

More pitching notes

-Matt Troupe will remain as closer for the Wildcats.

-Tyler Crawford is still in competition for the last remaining rotation spot, but otherwise will remain as the setup man.

Danny PassovoyDanny Passovoy
GOAZCATS.com Baseball Staff Writer

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