First came experience, then success, then confidence. Building on each of those factors, I've been able to experience an improvement in performance the past couple seasons.

It's a gradual process. I learned what type of pitcher I am, what I have to do to be successful Major Leagues and I gained the confidence in myself to execute that approach. I think I just reached the point where I could take that knowledge and confidence out to the mound whenever I pitched.

Having the confidence to pitch up in the strike zone has been important for me. I don't know exactly why I've been successful stretching the strike zone up and down. I don't know what it's like to face me, so that's probably a question better suited to hitters.

But, for whatever reason, when I pitch up in the zone I've been somewhat successful. It's knowledge I've been able to incorporate into my pitching plans. Some pitchers like to work in and out, but I like to work up and down.

Now I want to build on that success again this year. The knowledge and confidence that I've gained should help me. For example, I know now that it's more important to prepare myself for the season than compete here in Spring Training.

Now is the time to get my body in shape and make sure I'm healthy and ready to go when I get my first start in the beginning of April.

Beyond that, though, the past doesn't mean so much. It's a new season, new things will happen and new adjustments will need to be made. Playing baseball at this level is a process that's constantly evolving. My job is to make this season better than last.

Last season I pitched more innings than I've ever pitched in a season. The learning there was about pacing myself between starts and not overdoing it, not working too hard and making sure I was maintaining the proper level of strength. I learned how important it was to do my work in the weight room to be strong at the end of the season.

I didn't change much in my offseason training. I kept with the same program that has helped keep me pretty healthy the past two years. It seems to have worked and my body feels pretty healthy, so hopefully it will keep in good health again this year.

It will be nice having Greg Maddux around this year, too. Greg is incredible. In my two-plus weeks of being around him, I've already picked up some tidbits of knowledge. He and Boomer (David Wells) are both great. They have so much experience between the two of them — more than 500 career wins.

Chris Young, a 6-foot-10 right-hander, was 11-5 with a 3.46 ERA and held opponents to an NL-best .206 batting average last season. He also had 164 strikeouts over 179.1 innings.