"It is all about consistency in my mind."
As he has climbed the minor leaguer ladder consistently over the past few years, Craig Stammen has always been a quietly steady performer. Now, he is beginning to get more significant recognition for just how good he's been, but what has been most impressive about him is his mature approach to the game. (Free Preview!)
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The production from Craig Stammen and his steady progression up the organizational ladder almost make it easy to undervalue just how good he really is. Drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 draft, he has conquered a level per year and is looking to conquer another in High-A with Potomac in 2007. In a strong hitter's league, it will be no easy task, but after an excellent spring training, the 6-foot-3 right-hander believes he's well prepared.
"Spring training went really well, and I am very excited about the upcoming season because of it," Stammen told CapitolDugout.com. "And also I'm excited because of some the adjustments I was able to make in the off-season and mechanically during spring training. I don't think I could've asked for a better spring."
At the tail end of the 2006 season, Stammen got a taste of High-A ball after going 6-9 with a 3.58 ERA with Low-A Savannah. The former University of Dayton standout would be the first to tell you he wasn't at his absolute best in his 6 starts with Potomac, as he posted an uncharacteristically high 5.76 ERA, but he now looks back at it as a valuable learning experience that he can build off in 2007.
"For one, I'm a little more fresh this year than I was [in Potomac at the end of last year]," he explained. "But I believe the biggest thing is, is that I'm more experienced having had 6 starts at this level. I also feel like I've got a lot better command and feel for my changeup, which was something I battled the last month of the season in '06."
With a strong 2007 season, there's little doubt that Stammen could catapult himself from strong pitching prospect to one of the truly elite prospects in the organization. He does need to make some improvements to get there, but with the goals he has set forth for himself, he expects to come through the season a better pitcher than he is today.
"It is all about consistency in my mind," Stammen said. "The more consistent I am with each pitch, with my fastball command, with my mentality, will allow pitching to be even easier as the year progresses. You can only worry about what is in your hands and what you can control and that for me is going out every start, no matter where, and giving the best effort that I can possibly give and then let things fall where they may. I try not to get too wrapped up in the business part of things."
Stammen has made just one start thus far in 2007, and it's difficult to say he pitched very poorly or that he pitched his best. He toughed it out, however, giving his team five solid innings. And, like always, the righty was able to examine his first outing and figure out what he didn't do and what he needs to do his next time out.
"I thought I battled well for 4 innings and then in the 5th I made an incorrect pitch selection to the guy that hit the home run," the 23-year-old explained. "It was the third time through the lineup, so they had seen all my stuff, so I just needed to mix it up a little better that inning. Plus my control wasn't where it normally is. However, I was able to get great run support from my teammates and managed to pull out a victory. It is always good to get a win on opening day."
"There is no substitute for being able to pitch with your fastball," he continued. "But as you move up, I've learned that using the changeup is a big part of being able to get through the lineup and third or fourth time. It is just like any other season. The hitters are all pretty good, and it is a matter of making your pitches at the right times."
Being a real student of the game, Stammen goes beyond just relying on his pure pitching ability. He's long realized that it takes more than just ability to succeed at the higher levels. Like most big leaguers do, he's already gone to great lengths to make sure he knows his opponent inside and out.
"Last season, I kept a journal of every hitter I faced as far was what I thought would be able to get them out," he told CapitolDugout.com. "So now that I'm starting to face the same hitters as I did last year, and it allows me to develop a game plan towards those hitters. But then again it always comes down to execution and trusting your stuff."
It's obvious at this point that Craig Stammen pitches, acts, and thinks like a Major League pitcher, and it is the hope of him and the organization that he will one day succeed as one. Recently, Field Coordinator, Tim Foli told CapitolDugout.com that he now sees Stammen as a pitcher who pitches like a major leaguer. That could be interpreting a number of ways but the Nats' pitching prospect has one way of looking at it.
"I think he means that I approach every appearance or start like I'm pitching in the big leagues, even if it is a Single-A game," said Stammen. "I feel as if you don't approach it like that you aren't putting your maximum amount of effort into what you're suppose to get done. Mentally nothing should change whether you are pitching against a rookie ball team or a big league team."
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