Pirates prospect interview: Duke Welker

Duke Welker

Right-hander Duke Welker was a combined 2-2 with a 2.29 ERA and five saves at Double A Altoona and Triple A Indianapolis last season. He told PiratesDugout.com's George Von Benko that he has adjusted well to his role as a relief pitcher.

GVB – Looking at last year, what did you think of your season?

DW – I think I developed and I think I worked out a lot of things that I wanted to accomplish last year. Overall developing and getting to the next level was a success. I'm happy with it and I'm excited for the year coming up.

GVB – Going back to 2010 when you went back to West Virginia as a reliever, things really start to pop with your fastball and your velocity. Was there a change in mechanics? What happened to get that velocity up?

DW – I think it was a mix of things. I think as a starter I didn't have the stamina or the pitches to do it, but I think relieving just fit who I was. We didn't do anything mechanically, we just kind of freed up a couple things and just kind of let me go and the velocity came up. That's how my body responded to pitching every day and every other day instead of every four or five days. I think naturally it fit me.

GVB – Velocity is in the mid 90's to sometimes up to 98, is that correct?

DW – Yeah, last year a couple of outing I hit 100, but mostly I was around 95 to 97 for the most part, which is great for me.

GVB – You really embraced the role as a reliever, do you really like that role?

DW – I love it. Mentally it's just completely different, you've got to be ready at any time and I love being in more games and putting our team in a good situation to win. I like it, my mentality is better and my personality goes with it, I enjoy it.

GVB – You've induced nearly four times as many groundball outs as flyouts. Strikeout numbers aren't as high with your velocity. How do you feel about your stuff and the way it is playing out for you?

DW – I like it, what pitching coach Ray Searage has always said is you want to get the guys out as soon as possible, with the least amount of pitches and that's what I want. I want to pound the bottom of the zone and let guys hit it on the ground and let my defense take care of it. I don't want to say strikeouts are boring, but sometimes when you hit the strike zone and the defense is ready and the game gets going it's to your advantage. I like quick outs and I like guys to put it on the ground.

GVB – Talk a little about your repertoire to go along with the fastball?

DW – I'm just sinker, slider right now, four seam and two seam and I kind of have two different sliders. That's it, there's no real mystery of me. What you see is what you get and I'm confident with my stuff and I think it plays well and I think it plays well at the big league level.

GVB – Was there a big difference moving up from Double A to Triple A.

DW – Yeah a little bit. You could tell the maturity of the hitters, they were more patient and kind of had a better idea of what they wanted to do, but talent wise I feel they are very similar. The talent was good, but I feel confident and I did well against them.

GVB – It is an interesting mix in the bullpen, this will be competition at spring training. Are you looking forward to the competition?

DW – Yeah, I'm just excited to work with all the guys and reach one common goal of winning. It's always great to have great players around you and good competition, because you feed off of each other. I'm just excited to go play and put myself in a good situation.

GVB – You had five saves, so you have had a chance to close games. Do you see yourself as a potential closer?

DW – I see myself in a lot of different roles. I just want to pitch, I just want to be on the mound and put up zeros and put our team in a good situation to win. It doesn't matter if I'm at the back end, early in the inning or if I'm setting up, or whatever. Wherever the team needs me and wherever I can have the best success for our team, that's where I'm willing to go.

GVB – Have you been happy with the progress you've made through the organization and do you feel you are on a good track toward your big league goal?

DW – Yeah I'm very happy. Looking back at my struggles previously I'm grateful for going through that for the confidence I have now and contentment I have in myself now. I've battled through some bad times and done really well as of late. I'm just excited about this season and looking forward to just getting better and knocking at the door of the big leagues.

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