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PhoulBallz Interview: BlueClaws Pitching Coach Brian Sweeney

With a new season underway, the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws' pitching staff is being led this year by a brand new coach, former big leaguer Brian Sweeney.

Following the 'Claws' home opener on Thursday, Sweeney sat down to talk about his pitching staff including prospects Tyler Gilbert, Franklyn Kilome, Alberto Tirado and several others. Read ahead for that full interview.

Tyler Gilbert, image- Jay Floyd
-Tyler Gilbert had some moments, despite taking the loss in the home opener. What are your thoughts on his outing?

He was fantastic for four innings. I mean, I love what I saw. Four pitches for strikes, in command and attacking the zone. And the wheels fell off after a few hits in the fifth inning. You know, that’s unfortunate because he had a pretty good outing going for him.

-Is Gilbert dealing with any changes, such as updates to his grips or repertoire after a successful debut as a pro last year?

Yeah, everything’s— we’re always building. We’re building to get better with every pitcher. He has a new slider. The slider is new and has developed nicely into a weapon tonight that he used to get some punch outs, so he’s progressing very nicely.

-I spoke with skipper Shawn Williams, who expressed that weather was possibly impacting Kilome's efforts thus far this season. Do you think the cold weather is a big factor for him lately?

I think it’s a factor. A big factor? No.

Until you get into this weather, you don’t know how the ball’s going to feel, how you can grip, because even right now I can feel my fingers tips how they’re slick and that translates onto the ball and that takes a bit of an adjustment period. But, within one or two starts you should have a feel for what you have to do to prepare to make pitches on the mound.


-Kilome kind of made a name for himself last year with his velocity. Is that what you've seen from him?

Yeah, he’s some talent! He’s got a great pitchers’ body, a big, tall kid, long arms, long levers, long legs. The key is for him to get it working together. Get it working in those legs, get it working in that upper body and together. When that all happens, it’s magical.

He’s got a fastball, change, curve ball and those pitches need to be harnessed and commanded then (in) the future may offer something else, but at 20-years-old that’s where he’s at.

-Alberto Tirado was a guy who was a surprise to land on this roster. What can you share about him?

Just a great ability. What an arm! He’s got a rocket for an arm. I’m happy to have him here. He’s been at the next level, so he’s got experience at a higher level, so he can bring some experience in that regard to his bullpen mates and having him here and being able to work with him and teach him how important it is to harness that rocket of an arm is a fun challenge.

-Joe Jordan told me Tirado was slated to be a multi-inning relief guy. Is that going to remain his role?

I love to have him as a multiple inning guy. He’s now got three pitches that are weapons. His fastball, he spins that slider very well and now the change up. That equals up to multiple innings.

Mitch Gueller, image- Jay Floyd
-Mitch Gueller was a supplemental round pick in 2012 and maybe some would consider he took a long while to reach this level. What can fans expect to see from him?

A guy that’s going to compete on the mound and a guy that works hard that gets results. I like to say guys with good stuff get results on the mound and he did a great job last year in Williamsport and I’d love to see him repeat that this year.

-Robert Tasin seems to be in the closer spot for you guys. Is that firm or will other guys get a shot at that assignment?

At this level you kind of go closer by committee, but he had the, you know, last year he did a very good job in that role (for Williamsport) and (manager) Shawn (Williams) is very comfortable putting him in that position. As you saw, tonight we needed him to go multiple innings and all of these guys, the more innings they get, the better off they’ll be development wise.

-Shane Watson a former top pick by the Phils is back here with Lakewood. What are your thoughts on him?

Another guy that’s been here, knows what to expect from the league and from the cold. He’s an important part of the rotation with the experience and with his ability. Coming off the injury, he’s still growing and building. So, I look forward to what he brings. He’s getting stronger with each outing.

-In recent years it seems like there's always one pitcher with a big time pitch that's considered big league ready. Mecias, Pinto, others. Is there a guy on the roster this year with a brag-worthy offering?

A lot of these guys bring a lot to the table. As I look at the roster, they all bring something that’s great. I could go down the list and with Gueller’s change up, Gilbert’s whole repertoire, Kilome’s fastball, Koplove’s change up and slider, Leftwich’s sneaky "invisi-ball" I like to call it...

-(I laughed) What is that?!

You know, if he throws a 92 mile an hour fastball, he could throw it down the middle, but he’s got such a sneaky delivery that it gets on hitters and by ‘em. So it’s the invisi-ball.

Tirado’s arm. Every one of these pitchers has potential for a major league pitch, so it’s fun. It’s fun to watch it develop. You know, you see Tirado having a change up now. A guy that throws 97 miles an hour, 98 miles an hour to have feel for a change up. It’s so— it’s hard for me to pick just one guy because they all could be major leaguers in one regard.

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