Over the years, I have made some great strides as a pitcher. I believe one of the keys to my improvement has been simple: Slow things down.

I believe I am a pretty high-energy guy to begin with. The best thing I can do is to harness that energy and direct it. It is about taking it one pitch at a time, not overthinking things and really becoming a pitcher.

Early in my career I was a thrower. I just grabbed the ball and threw it, and tried to get the game over with. Now, I know the situations better than ever.

A big part of that is my maturation. I was bouncing around from team to team. I wasn't able to get a feel for anything. I wasn't able to have a solid foundation until Oakland gave me that. So, I try and do my best to represent them and to get better. I didn't want to be the guy who came up here and passed the time. I will spend all day talking to people who can make me better.

Ron Romanick, Curt Young and my teammate Dallas Braden are some of the people that have helped me. They have really shaped me and molded me.

A lot of work involved my mechanics. I had to slow down and not be so violent, and avoid moving side to side so much. From there, it was focusing on the mental part of it -- really learning the game. A lot of that comes from watching teammates, like Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Dallas. I take something from each of them, but Dallas is really a go-to guy for me.

Dallas is special. Just spend 10 seconds with him and you quickly realize what a unique guy he is. He is a lot of show, and he is funny, but when it comes down to it, he really does his homework. He spends several hours a day reading up on and studying opposing hitters. He knows what they do, what they like and what they don't like.

Think of it like going to school. If you could get all the answers before taking the test, you would want that advantage. That is how I feel about my time with Dallas. It's like I sit in class and copy his answers to the test. Watching him pitch is exciting for me.

Another key to improvement comes from the play around you. You have to have that good defense and good catching, and I feel like we have that in Oakland along with a strong pitching coach and great teammates.

A's left-hander Gio Gonzalez won 16 games and made the American League All-Star team in 2011. A former first-round pick, Gonzalez has won 31 games over the last two seasons.