Results tagged ‘ Salem Red Sox ’
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Corpus Christi’s George Springer on jumping from Class A Advanced to Double-A last year:
“The game is a lot cleaner and smoother because the talent level is obviously better. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just one of those things where the experience of the players and their talent — the game speeds up and you have to learn how to slow it down.
“You slow it down and don’t try to do too much. You just have to get your pitch to hit. The [pitchers] in this league are good. If they make a mistake and I don’t hit it, the count swings in their favor. As a hitter, that’s not a spot where you want to be.
“I think it’s a thing that comes from experience. You have to understand who you are as a player. Understand how other teams will attack you and play you. You have to know the strike zone as a hitter and know what it is you’re trying to do. All that has to be made up before you step into the box.
“You focus in on getting a good pitch to hit, and that helps you slow the game down. It’s just one of those things where, with experience, things will slow down. You go out and attempt to slow it down by just slowing it down, strange as that sounds.”
Springer on learning to steal bases in pro ball:
“There’s stuff that happens out there you notice. Guys might do a certain thing if they’re going home or if they’re coming over, but a lot of times you just have to be smart about the count and the situation and how they’re going to attack the hitter. It’s one of those things where you have to pick and choose your time to run, and don’t hesitate if you do.”
Savannah manager Luis Rojas on Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki:
“I didn’t get to see him play last year. As time goes along, and he transitions into pro ball and everything, it’s all about how you take it mentally. Coming from college like he was, right now, he just needs to be more comfortable. He’s been with the organization for almost a year now. His abilities are coming out naturally because he’s more comfortable right now. He’s a good hitter, and his leadership is outstanding. He’s a natural leader, and you need that behind the plate as a catcher. He runs the pitchers really well. Everybody listens when he talks. He’s pretty mature for the level he’s playing right now. I think you’re looking at a future star. He’s showing that right now on a daily basis.”
Rojas on Plawecki dealing with Savannah’s Latin American pitchers:
“The Latin pitchers that are here, they were all with Kevin in Brooklyn last year. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and he knows the actions on their pitches. He can rank their pitches, and knows them well and knows how to communicate with them. It’s just easy for him. There haven’t been any issues with that. He handles it really well. It’s helped that he was with them last year, and in the future with new guys, he won’t have any issues. He finds a way to communicate. He’s even picking up some Spanish.
“It’s extremely important. He’s going to have to catch pitchers from Latin American countries, from Venezuela and Puerto Rico and so on. That skill is really a plus for him. It’s good that he has it in his repertoire.”
Plawecki on dealing with Latin American pitchers:
“Last year, the whole rotation in Brooklyn was Latin. I took some Spanish in high school, but I’m by no means fluent. I know a little here and there to get me by and communicate with those guys in certain situations. It’s important for me to build a relationship with them and it’s important for them to feel comfortable with me back there.
“I can bounce ideas off them and feel comfortable talking to them about what I see. There’s no reason to treat them differently than other guys just because I can have English conversations with some guys.”
Plawecki on the development of his swing:
“I’m just making sure my hands are on time and I’m in synch with my lower half. When I get in trouble is when I start lunging. I need to let the ball travel, let it come to me. I get too overanxious. I’m trying to limit that. It’ll happen. That’s baseball. It’s just important for me to let the ball travel and keep a consistent swing and consistent approach and get consistent results. That’s what I think is improving. I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and let the rest take care of itself.”
Corpus Christi’s Asher Wojciechowski on piggybacking into a no-hitter in progress:
“That’s never happened to me. I’ve never come into a perfect game. That was a new experience there. David [Martinez] did a great job and worked really fast, and before I knew it, I was in the game. I knew the situation and just wanted to continue what was going on but not think about it too much. It was definitely a new experience coming into a perfect game.”
Wojciechowski on what’s led to his 18 scoreless innings to begin the year:
“I think so far this year I’ve been able to throw quality strikes and attack the zone and work quickly and mostly just throw quality strikes and not make too many mistakes. That’s been the key so far to this early start. Things are working out.
Wojciechowski on what he considers “quality strikes”:
“That means just staying at the bottom of the zone, staying out of the middle part of the plate and mixing my pitches well. Staying out of the middle of the plate and up in the zone. I’m elevating when I need to, but I’m mostly just staying down and staying on the corners and also pitching to contact. Quality strikes are down in the zone, so I’m working fast and getting ahead of hitters.”
Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker on right-hander Heri Quevedo, who’s making his stateside debut at 22:
“This is his first year from what I know. I haven’t seen any stats on the guy, but seeing what he has, his stuff is very impressive. It’s his first year of pro ball, and for his first real taste of pro action, it’s a good sign.
“I saw him a few times in Spring Training. I actually don’t know how he got over here, but his stuff is good enough to play at this level. He’s been piggybacking for us, and this was his third piggyback. His stuff is good and his arm is really live. He has a smooth, easy arm action, and the fastball really jumps out of his hand and he has a really good slider that jumps out of his hand.
“He’s throwing 92-96, and can play at 94-95, with easy arm action. The ball just gets on hitters really quick. He’s real smooth, and the ball just takes off late in the zone.
“I am surprised by his polish. A couple of times in his last couple outings, he’s tried to nibble or do too much and walked batters. This outing, he got back to letting his stuff play in the strike zone. This outing, I think, opened his eyes that he’s good enough to pitch here, pitch up in the zone. His first couple outings, like anybody here, he didn’t know what to expect and he worked around the strike zone too much and put himself in bad situations. He trusted his stuff and was poised today.”
Tacoma catcher Mike Zunino on calling games in Triple-A:
“You have to know what they want to throw in certain counts. I have to stay one pitch ahead. I’m just talking with the pitchers, laying out what we want to do. You build a foundation in the gameplan so we know what we want to do and how we want to do it.
“You realize what guys do in certain counts. You have guys who do a lot of hitting in certain counts, because that’s what guys like to do. They have their tendencies and their go-tos. You learn with each pitcher, and that takes time. It’s a process. Once the season gets going, that’s when you get in a groove with the pitchers. You figure out what guys can throw what pitch in any count and you build from there. You go out and gameplan and use the scouting report on hitters.”
Prospect Q&A: Red Sox LHP Henry Owens on Gaining Man Strength, Aiming for Price’s Fastball and Zito’s Curve, More
Henry Owens is very tall. Small forward-tall. Left-tackle tall.
As Fangraphs’ Mike Newman noted earlier this week in his scouting report of the 20-year-old left-hander, there is a lot to like about Owens, particularly if he’s not done growing.
I caught up with the California-born and -based Owens over the phone this afternoon. With two weeks before he heads to Spring Training, Boston’s 2011 first-round draftee (bio, stats here) discussed his strong debut season and strengthening that big-and-getting-bigger frame in advance of his next campaign, among other topics. Enjoy.
On his offseason goals: “I basically wanted to build my strength and stamina and increase my velocity. Basically, working on my legs and core. That’s been my main focus in the weight room. The way I have been throwing long-toss and my [bull]pen [sessions] since the first week of December, it’s felt like I’ve been throwing harder, so I”ll guess we have to see when the guns start showing up. I am really excited to get back into it, obviously, for my sophomore season.”
On increasing his velocity (which is mostly 90-92 mph): “It’s about the consistency of my velocity, so like my average fastball increasing two or three ticks. Just build off my stamina really. A few times last year, I would be cruising through the first innings and then has a little fall-off or lapse in the fourth or fifth, so I want to improve on that and go deeper into games this year.”
On his 2012 season: “I enjoyed the competition. It was a lot better than high school, and I liked that. I think that brings out the best in me because I’m a really competitive person, not just in baseball but in anything. I’m looking forward to the competition getting even more challenging this year because that will keep pushing to me to getting better and getting stronger.”
On what encouraged him about ’12: “My strikeout rate [11.51 K/9] was good, and toward the end of the year I started limiting walks a little better. At the start of the year, I was averaged four or five walks a game, and obviously that isn’t good as a starter. Once I limit the walks, the strikeouts might go down a little bit, but as long as I am keeping guys off base, that’s fine with me.”
On how he gave up fewer free passes: “I think the biggest thing was pitching more to contact and realizing it’s not a high school defense behind me, that I got all pros behind me. That helped my focus, and I started lowering my pitch count and going deeper into games.”
On April being his worst month, August his best: “It definitely [encourages] me. I don’t really go month by month. It’s more of a start-by-start thing, but it’s good to see. The Red Sox front office guys were very pleased with how I finished the year, so that was good, something to build off of.”
Thanks to the Boston Red Sox’s offseason of addition, MLB.com’s No. 70 overall prospect Bryce Brentz will very likely return to Triple-A Pawtucket next spring. If, however, Boston is stitched across his chest next spring, it will be his sixth different pro jersey. Here are the previous five, in a gallery.
Editor’s note: Lost and Found is an offseason series in which one underrated prospect from each of the 30 MLB clubs will be discussed in a short, snappy post.
Lost: Signed out of his native Dominican Republic as a shortstop in July 2007, Michael Almanzar averaged 101 games played over the first four years of his pro career, 2008-11. But he also batted .229 overall during that span.
Found: In his fifth Minor League season (second in the Class A Advanced Carolina League) this year, the righty-hitting third baseman/first baseman Almanzar raised eyebrows by reaching base safely in 16 straight plate appearances in July. In total, he also did this:
2012: .300 AVG — .353 OBP — 48 XBH: 12 HR, 36 2B — 33-77 BB-K — 10-14 SB-ATT — 124 G at Class A Adv. Salem
So Almanzar was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Red Sox’s returns: Almanzar has long flashed tools, but he consistently showed his skills in ’12. He still hasn’t played at Double-A and will likely begin next season there, which isn’t huge problem given that he turns 22 on Dec. 2. Whether he reports to Double-A Portland, the Red Sox’s affiliate, is another conversation altogether. See, because it took Almanzar five years just to find himself, he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 6 at the Winter Meetings in Nashville. To protect him from the proceedings, Boston’s brass would have to put him on its 40-man roster (which has only once vacancy at the moment) by next Tuesday, Nov. 20. If GM Ben Cherington and Co. elect to hold onto Almanzar, what exactly will they be keeping? A decent corner infielder with a potentially strong bat and gap-to-gap power. Potentially being the key word. Almanzar’s .195 batting average in the Arizona Fall League (entering his Surprise Saguaros’ season finale this afternoon) hasn’t completely quieted concerns about this lanky late bloomer and his still-too-long swing.