If you have no knowledge of what Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer are doing this spring, then you need to get out from under the rock you are living. Both left-handed pitchers have been excellent this Cactus League season for the San Diego Padres.
The more you see from each hurler, the greater the excitement builds. Andy Green has a smile on his face whenever the duo is mentioned, as they have certainly impressed. At this point, neither will probably make the team to start the season, but they are not far off from competing at the major league level. That is for sure.
I was very eager to talk to Lauer on Friday morning, as he and I have had several conversations over the last year or so. Watching his development has been special. Despite being fierce on the mound, Lauer is an easy-going and down to earth soul. He has fun and loves the game of baseball.
The first thing I asked Eric, as we stood in the locker room, was about the fact he has struck out some real top-notch names this season. Robinson Cano, Andrew McCutchen, and Evan Longoria, among others, have succumbed to Lauer this spring. “Yup, those are some good names.” Pretty much what I expected, as he prefers not to get too high about his successes.
He may not want to toot his own horn, but Lauer has been filthy this spring. The fact he has been successful is a big confidence builder for the hurler from Kent State. “It lets me know that I can compete with these guys and beat them.” He most certainly can compete with legit major league talent.
We next talked about competition and the fact he and Lucchesi have been battling it out. Cal Quantrill was Lauer’s motivational partner at one point, but now that they are pitching at different levels, Joey Lucchesi has taken on that role. “It’s basically the same competition that Cal and I had. Joey is the best pitcher on the planet right now. We try to go out there and do better than each other. It’s really the same competition we all had already. It just continued into this year.” Andy Green loves competition as it will only make a player work harder at his craft.
During the winter, Lauer and Lucchesi both spent some time with Padres’ pitcher, Clayton Richard. The three of them worked out and got to know each other better. Richard is a veteran who has been around the block. He has enjoyed success in this game and also had hardship as well. Clayton Richard is the perfect example for these men, and it’s not just because he is a lefty like them.
I asked Eric if it helped him to spend time with Clayton. “It helped a lot and not just with the pitching side, but what he does in between and how hard he works. What he looks at in the video room and all these different things. I took him as a mentor and followed him around and picked his brain as much as I could.” Lauer soaks up info like a sponge and is more than willing to do the little things to get better. I’m sure Richard saw that and was more than willing to help.
We started to talk about his performance on Thursday as Lauer went four innings, allowing one run to the Giants. San Francisco had most of their starters in the game, but that did not factor as Lauer was pinpoint with his control. I asked about his slider and he told me some interesting things. “My slider was on the fritz for a little bit. He (Darren Balsley) actually showed me a different grip last week sometime. It’s the slider I have been using and it’s almost cutterish. The slider has been huge so far for me. Arm speed was a big thing for me too. Now I throw it kind of like a cutter and the grip is very comfortable for me.” The man picks up things very quickly and has adjusted to the new grip on his pitch. He should progress with that slider even more during the 2018 season.
In closing, we discussed the current state of the team. “I’m very excited about it. There is so much talent. Even the big leaguers we have now have had such great careers and are good people. I haven’t met a bad person in this locker room since I have been here.” There is a special feeling in and around Peoria. You cannot deny that. Eric Lauer most certainly feels it.