The left-handed pitcher out of Kent State came with the reputation of being a polished pitcher, and he has done absolutely nothing to contradict that assessment. Lauer has worked his tail off since joining the Padres’ organization, and is anxious to start his first full professional season. He recently took time to sit down and talk to me, fresh off his Padres’ mini-camp experience, at Petco Park two weeks ago.
I was very eager to get a sense of who Lauer was. To get a grasp of his personality, and delve into his mind-set on the mound. I was not disappointed, as this young man displayed to me that he is someone who possess all the intangibles to succeed in the game of baseball. It’s just a matter of time.
I asked Eric about his mini-camp time and he was more than happy to discuss his few days in San Diego. “It was real cool. For the young guys like me and Cal, it was nice to be around some of the older guys. Hopefully they will be our teammates in the near future. It was nice to learn from them and get to know the coaches a little better. Now, when we show up in the spring it won’t be like we don’t know anybody. I’m really looking forward to that (spring baseball).” If you had a chance to see Eric during the camp, you noticed that he has a tremendous work ethic. It comes as no surprise given the numbers he put up at Kent State.
His junior year in college, Eric Lauer went 10-2 and amassed a 0.69 ERA in 104 innings pitched, which was the lowest in collegiate baseball since 1979. I asked Eric if there were any thoughts about possibly returning for his senior year at Kent State. He gladly responded and told me “The only way I thought of returning was if I got an unfair deal in the draft. Then I would have returned. After the year I had, I didn’t feel like I would get shorted, but If I did, I was prepared to return.” Obviously the Padres took care of the man and he was ecstatic with the selection by the team.
Mike Berkbeck was a huge influence on Lauer at Kent State. He helped develop Lauer and groomed the young man for all his success. “Berky was huge for me. He knows so much about the game. He has been around the game for so long. He taught me how to pitch as a whole. He taught me what to expect in the pros and what was going to happen. It was nice to have that resource.” Berkbeck taught Lauer a slider that Eric now proudly proclaims is his second best pitch. It took the young lefty hurler only two months to get comfortable with the pitch, and he now has the ability to use it effectively.
The pitching coach also worked with Lauer on pitch counts and recognizing hitters tendencies. The game within the game is something that only a select few players are able to master. Eric Lauer is more than willing to learn and he is not opposed to paying his dues, but do not be surprised if he progresses faster than most pitchers.
In 2015, before his Junior year, Eric spent his second season in the Cape Cod League. The notoriously famous league is designed for young collegiate hitters and such to play against some tougher competition with wood bats. Lauer had a phenomenal season for the Orleans Firebirds, going 4-1 in eight starts while recording a 2.04 ERA an a 0.98 WHIP. He struck out 50 batters in 39 innings pitched in the league. That league, and his accomplishments in it, helped him gain much confidence returning for school in 2016. We spoke about the Cape Cod league and his impression of the league. “It helped me a lot in terms of understanding that with wood bats you can move the ball a little more and miss a little more frequent without getting too hurt. The (wood) bats just don’t react the same way as metal bats. It really helps you understand that accuracy and command is a huge piece of pitching. Instead of getting a hitter to fist one over the shortstop (with a metal bat) for a base hit, I can now break their bat and get them to hit a dribbler back to me. It really showed that pitching inside helps and moving the ball in and out is the key.”
Staying on the subject of hitting, I asked Eric when was the last time he swung a bat. Being that he is pitching for a National League team, he will eventually have to pick up the lumber. “Oh geez. Probably my Sophomore year in college. I went in Kent State as a two-way player. I was going to play first base and pitch, but I sprained my ankle in winter ball and they took hitting away from me as a punishment.” We both laughed about the subject, and he spoke a little more about it. “I always knew my bread and butter was pitching. I wasn’t going to be a power hitter in the big leagues. But yeah, I love to hit. I’m looking forward to that.” Eric is a right-handed hitter, so you can be sure he will be sporting a huge arm guard when he gets that first professional at bat. ” I imagine I will be wearing a Big Papi sleeve when I get up there. I’ll be standing in the back corner of the box and won’t be moving either. It’s nice though. It makes me feel like a complete baseball player rather than just a pitcher.” His youth and enthusiasm for the game is infectious, and you can be sure that he will help mentor many young players in his time within the Padres’ farm system. Having an accomplished collegiate pitcher like him will help the high school pitchers the team drafted in recent years. Pitchers like Mason Thompson, Reggie Lawson, Logan Allen, Jacob Nix, and Austin Smith will all enjoy their time seeing Lauer toe the rubber.
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