Friday, May 24, 2019

Five Threshers named to FSL All-Star Rosters

Vierling w/ Lakewood in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
HELP SUPPORT CONTENT LIKE THIS AND KEEP IT COMING ALL SEASON LONG BY BECOMING A PATRON!- https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz

Selections for the annual Class A Advanced Florida State League were announced on Friday.  Relief pitcher Jonathan Hennigan, lefty starter Damon Jones, outfielders Simon Muzziotti and Matt Vierling along with infielder Nick Maton will represent the Clearwater Threshers in the event.

Hennigan, who was promoted to Double-A Reading this week after shining against FSL competition with a 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA and seven saves while striking out 27 in 20 innings of work for the Threshers.  The 24-year-old was a 21st round pick of the Phils back in 2016.

Jones has a 1-3 record with a 1.80 ERA, a .179 batting average against and a 13.3 K/9 mark though eight starts this season.  His 59 strike outs are tops in the league. The 24-year-old was the Phillies' 18th round draft selection in 2017.

Muzziotti, a 20-year-old lefty hitting native of Venezuela, is batting .306 with a pair of home runs and 15 RBI through 37 games this season. 

Maton, a third baseman and shortstop, sports a .298 average with three homers and 24 RBI in 38 games this season.  The 22-year-old lefty batter was the Phillies' 7th round pick in 2017. 

The righty batting Vierling has notched a .291 batting average with four homers, 21 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 44 games.

Vierling, the Phillies' 5th round pick last year out of Notre Dame, has played all three outfield spots for the Threshers this year.  He offered some thoughts on his first professional All-Star nod.

"I'm grateful to be put on the All-Star roster.  It'll be a great experience and I'm excited for it.  I'm also glad to be there and experience it with my teammates that'll be going as well," said Vierling.

The FSL All-Star Game will take place in Jupiter, home of the Marlins affiliate Hammerheads and the Palm Beach Cardinals, on June 15th. 

Interview Excerpts: Phillies RHP prospect Dom Pipkin

Earlier this week I published a feature on Class A Lakewood pitcher Dominic Pipkin. In the piece, which can be read by clicking here, the 19-year-old's success and outstanding skill set are discussed with quotes from the player himself along with his pitching coach.

Through nine appearances (four starts) for the BlueClaws, Pipkin sports a 2-1 record with a 3.73 ERA, a .261 batting average against and a 6.9 K/9 mark.

Below, I have included quotes from the talented right-handed California native talking about his pitch repertoire, his family which Phillies pitcher he draws comparisons to and much much.

-What sorts of feedback are you getting from the coaching staff of late?

They give all kinds of feedback. They give you pretty much every measurement your ball has, whether it’s vertical, horizontal. They have this ZXY-whatever. They tell you how hard you threw it. They tell you if it was effective. Spin efficiency. Spin rate. They give you every bit of information you could possibly ask for.

-Is it more complex than it needs to be?

They don’t make it too complicated. They know all the stuff, but they won’t overload your brain and tell you this, that and the other, you need to have this be there, and that be here. They just keep it real simply for you. They pretty much just focus on maybe spin rate, depending on if your delivery is good.

-What is your pitch repertoire right now?

I have four-seam, two-seam, change up, slider, curve ball. But, the slider’s more of a cutters, and the curve ball’s more of a slider. So, I just really gotta work on getting the 12-6 with the curve and regular slider (movement) with the slider right now.

-How does it make you feel when people are excited by your velocity?

I mean, I’m excited too. I’m throwing 96, 97, 98 or whatever I’m throwing and you look up at the scoreboard and you see it and you’re like, “Wow, I just did that!” It pumps you up a little bit. It’s just how it is. You see a big number and you get excited.

-As a guy that throws hard, do you ever give much thought to any sort of injury risk associated with the higher velocity?

Throwing hard always increases the risk of injury, but throwing a baseball in general is a risk of injury. It’s not a natural movement for the arm. You could throw 75 miles an hour and one wrong throw and your arm broke or your ligament tore or your rotator cuff tore or your labrum tore. I mean, throwing hard does increase the risk, sure. But I think if you take care of your arm, it’ll just last longer.

-Who are some of the guys in the organization that you bond most closely with?

I mean the group of friends that I made initially was Jimmy Smith, Logan Simmons, Luke Miller, Jaylen Smith, Corbin Williams, the list can go on and on. I have a lot more friends now than when I first got her, but it’s just like the first initial group that I meshed with right out of the gate.

-What has it been like when you've gotten exposure to big league rehabbers or guys getting work in? Is it a big difference?

Oh yeah, when any big leaguer comes down to rehab or a big leaguer is getting extra innings in spring training the crowd is noticeably bigger. Like, for a regular minor league spring training game like the ones I pitched in there’s nobody there, but Bryce Harper comes down for a live at bat or live batting practice (in spring training), there’s a hundred people there. It goes from like 10 to 100. It’s a noticeable difference.

-Is it worth paying extra attention to those guys? Are you able to pick up a lot?

It’s definitely worth it. It always pays off to pay attention because maybe you’ll pick up something off of that guy or that at bat that you can apply to someone else or something similar at least.

-You told me before that you get some comparisons to a particular Phillies pitcher from the coaches...

**To read the rest of these interview excerpts, become a patron over on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz!**

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood pitching coach Matt Hockenberry

Matt Hockenberry, image- Jay Floyd
Recently, I sat down with Class A Lakewood pitching coach Matt Hockenberry to talk about his pitching staff.

Hockenberry, in his second season as a professional coach, was the Phillies' 9th round pick out of Temple University in 2014.  He pitched for four seasons in the minors before making his coaching debut with the Gulf Coast League Phillies West team last year.


Among the players discussed were left-handers Manuel Silva and Ethan Lindow along with right-handers Kevin Gowdy, Kyle Glogoski, James McArthur and Ben Brown as well as plenty more.

Read ahead for all the exclusive remarks from Hockenberry.

-What can you tell me about Manuel Silva (0-1, 4.50 ERA in 4g), who joined the team a few weeks into the season?

To be honest I think he's got a bright future ahead of him.  He's the kind of guy that's just now starting to understand like the smart side of baseball.  Like actually thinking about what he's doing on the mound compared to just grippin' and rippin'.  The biggest thing for him development wise I think he's been with Hector Berios not only in spring training this year, but he had him last year in extended (spring training) and up in Williamsport and just things Hector did with his delivery allowing such a small frame to have that kind of output that's coming out of his hand it's awesome that he's able to do the things with the baseball that he does and he's just a true competitor in my mind.  He goes out there and he doesn't care who's in the box.  He's gonna try to get you out with three or four different pitches.

-What about Ethan Lindow (1-1, 2.41 ERA in 9g), who has been one of the team's most consistent pitchers?

He actually threw his bullpen a couple days ago and we were talking about who he would compare himself in the big leagues past or present and I found out that his travel ball coach when he was in travel ball in high school was Tom Glavine.  So, I mean, obviously, if Glavine was working with him that is a real reason why, for me, he's one of the most intelligent pitchers that we've got when it comes to sequencing his pitches and the new thing that they're calling "tunneling", working certain pitches off of the same tunnel, so they present in the same way.  And (he's) another guy that's a true competitor when he's got his rhythm and tempo.  And on top of that, he knows what to do with his pitches.  He knows how to work back and forth in the zone and then change up second time through the order, working in and out compared to back and forth and then he can also come up and down.  So, he's got a pretty good feel for the zone and then he's a workhorse.  He takes his bullpens seriously.  He takes his throwing program seriously.  And I'm sure out strength coach and our pitching coordinator would say the same stuff about his arm care and lifting program.

-Do either of those guys have a standout offering that would jump out versus other pitches or other guys?

I think both of them, to be honest, it's their change ups.  Silva doesn't throw his change up as much as he should. That's definitely one of his focus points moving forward, is to offer more change ups.  Especially to right-handed hitters.  But Lindow's change up, one hundred percent.  You know, that's a swing-and-miss pitch.  It's got good speed differential.  It does die off.  And he can locate it in any count.  Another thing with Lindow that stands out to me, it's not necessarily the pitch, but the ability to just locate his breaking ball.  There's been multiple times this year (when) he's in a 3-1 count with runners on base and he'll flip two in there and punch a guy out.  And the confidence with what he's throwing, I think, is really advanced for this level.  You know, there's still some things he's got to work on, such as commanding the ball inside to lefties.  But, yeah, overall I think both of them, their change ups are really good pitches.

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
-For Kevin Gowdy (0-1. 3.00 ERA in 6g), is the coaching staff excited for him to be going now after his career was put on pause for so long with injury concerns?

Oh, yeah!  Kevin's a workhorse.  Kevin does a lot of stuff off of the mound.  So, he does a lot of dry work with myself and some of the other pitching coaches during spring training and obviously when the pitching coordinator's in town, so doing a lot of delivery stuff.  Having a reconstructed elbow, that's a pretty significant injury and there's definitely a mental side to that (recovery) where you've gotta overcome it, trust it.  And I think Kevin is doing an outstanding job trusting that his elbow's healthy, 'cause it one hundred percent is.

The big thing with him is he's starting to realize he doesn't have to throw the ball as hard as he possibly can every time he offers it at the hitter.  Really preaching locating his stuff.  The sky's the limit for that guy.  You know, he's got an athletic delivery.  He's got an athletic build.  To be honest, the way he moves on the mound, he kind of reminds me of Nolan Ryan.  And I know that might be a stretch, but the way he wears his stirrups, the way his body moves down the slope, his arm action, there's so many good things that are going for Kevin right now.  Biggest thing is making sure he's staying on top of his throwing program and making sure that he's working hard in his bullpens and then, obviously, what he has done this year has transitioned.

-James McArthur (0-2, 5.56 ERA in 8g) has a good reputation, but hasn't shined like some of the other guys.  What's the outlook for him?

I'm the pitching coach, so I'm gonna say the sky's the limit for everybody, but "Mack" is- coming from college at Ole Miss and they have their philosophies on how they did things there and he's transitioned to the first full season.  He's had to face some adversity and part of that is because Kevin's UCL injury last year, he's been starting a lot, so McArthur's been doing a nice job mentally taking over the piggy back role and knowing that he's always going to come out of the bullpen when it's his day to pitch.  And the stuff that has potential coming out of his hand is electric.  He has a good, riding fastball.  So, with all the analytics that the Phillies are working with this year, and it's helping us develop guys, his ball doesn't drop with gravity, so he has a lot of success up in the zone. So, a constant reminder to him to pitch up more often, especially because he has two breaking balls that he can work back down in the zone with.  But, yeah, he's got one of the better arms on this staff, I believe.  And his (velocity's) constantly 92, 94.  I think there's still more in the tank.  We're working on it.  He's putting everything he can into his dry work and his bullpens.  Right now his focus is dominating hitters.  There's a lot of times he gets ahead with his fastball, but then he doesn't want to finish them with his fastball, so kind of teach him he's not a conventional "Hey, I'm gonna throw two fastballs and then I can get you out with off-speed".  He's the kind of guy that has a power fastball that he can really go after guys until they start proving they can hit it.

-What are the other two breaking pitches (for Mack) you mentioned?

Curve ball and slider.  So, he's got a curve ball that's got some pretty decent tilt, almost 12-6.  And then he's got a slider that when he's on time and he's out in front, it's a pretty good pitch that's got some depth and he does produce a lot of swings and misses on it.

-Who else on this pitching staff has a wipe out pitch?

Probably Kyle Glogoski (2-1, 0.79 ERA in 4g).  He has a wipe out change up.  Throws it with arm speed.  Throws it with conviction.  Looks like he's trying to throw it harder than his fastball and guys have a tough time picking it up out of his hand.

-Who else on this staff should we talk about?

(Ben) Brown (0-0, 0.00 ERA in 4g), he's done an outstanding job.  He was actually in extended (spring training) to start out the year and he has some fight in him.  Cleaning up his delivery a little bit and making sure he understands he can also throw at the top of the zone and work off his curve ball.  He's a real competitor, but another guy that's got the same ceiling as McArthur, sky is the limit, Dominic Pipkin.  Pipkin's done a really good job being willing to learn, willing to change.  We tinkered with his delivery a little bit free up his hands, so he's got a little more consistent release point.  But he's a 19-year-old kid that can run it up to 97 (MPH).  You don't see that a whole lot and normally when you do, those guys don't know where those balls are going.  But Pipkin challenges guys and he puts it in the zone.  Sometimes if he misses he misses, but it's pretty fun to watch, especially when his delivery is on and his timing and his delivery are there.  The ball jumps out of his hand and it's cool to see a 19-year-old kid have the success he's having at this level.

-You probably have more fun in your role than any other coach I have seen.  It's really clear to see and nice to watch.  If you can, comment on your spot and on your development through a new phase or career for you.

I mean there's so many different things to say.  Obviously, I thank Rafy Chaves for giving me the opportunity but it's my job to bring the energy, especially because our guys are so young.  It's funny because when I pitched here I was 22, 23, I was like, "I'm not young!"  But in the game you're young.  You've never experienced this level before.  You've never experienced what it's like to toe the rubber against other professional guys and it's easy over a long season to kind of loose energy, so I kind of give it to everybody too.  I don't just give it to the pitchers.  It's a position player crushes a ball that gets caught, it's picking them up.  You don't gotta be a hitting coach to pick that guy up.  But, part of it too that's part of development.  It's not just my development of like me being a better coach.  It's the development of the guys realizing like when you get to the ballpark, you've got to invest your energy here.  A lot of guys think, "I've gotta save energy for the game."  No, you've got to use the energy for when you're throwing your bullpens.  You've got to use your energy when you're taking (batting practice).  You've got to use your energy when you're practicing or running bases.  That energy that you're putting into that is what you're gonna get when it actually comes to game time.  And it's almost if you practice enough, those instincts take over.  You hear about muscle memory, repetitions, no- it's instincts! When we've got a guy that goes first to third on a slow ground ball to right field, that's instincts.  That's the kind of things we're trying to preach is "Do more!  Do more!  Be more aggressive!"  So even as a pitching staff, we're not the best.  The whole league knows that.  I think we're actually the most losing team in our league right now, but we're also the youngest.  And being able to show these guys that I don't care if we lose, but I care if we lose the wrong way.  You know, making sure we're taking care of the little things.  It kind of falls on deaf ears, 'cause that's the motto for anything in life.  The more that these young guys start to take care of the little things now, when they start to transition from (here) and they go to High A and the year after that they go to Double-A, they're gonna have a more narrow focus of what exactly they need to do to prepare and preparation is like a huge thing for us.  'Cause these guys have never seen that before.

So that's studying the other lineup.  Watching video of the other lineup.  Knowing who the other lineup's damage guys are.  And it's funny- we have a term called heat mapping.  We heat map the other team and then obviously there's some expletives in there, but it's being able to look at data and being able to look at what guys do statistically and with percentages and giving out pitchers a general focus of "This guy struggles with fastballs up."

I couldn't ask for anything better.  Obviously, being a big league pitching coach would be awesome, but you're not in the trenches up there.  Down here, you get to grind with the guys.  You get to be a part of their grind and, hopefully, I inspire them enough to take care of the things they need to take care of so that one day they can be making a lot of money without having to grind as hard.  'Cause they're gonna do it efficiently instead of balls-to-the-wall all of the time.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Lakewood RHP Pipkin is a Phillies prospect to watch

Dominic Pipkin, image- Jay Floyd
HELP SUPPORT CONTENT LIKE THIS AND KEEP IT COMING ALL SEASON LONG BY BECOMING A PATRON!- https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz

LAKEWOOD, NJ-- In his initial outing this season, his first appearance in full-season professional baseball, right-hander Dominic Pipkin surrendered a home run on the very first pitch he threw. Two errors and two additional runs later, the 19-year-old was an inning into his first full minor league season and wasn't about to let that sort of debut impact his outlook.

Pipkin moved forward, later surrendering another extra-base hit to Rangers top catching prospect Sam Huff, that one a double to go along with his round-tripper, but otherwise turned out a nearly flawless pair of frames to wrap up his outing.

According to Pipkin, he was initially in disbelief, but the impact of Huff's long ball may have helped him.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'Did that really just happen? The first pitch I threw just got smoked?', said Pipkin, describing his thoughts. "After that, it just turned something on a little bit. Fastballs came out harder, sliders were sharper."

Adrenaline can offer a heck of a boost. Especially for a young hurler that had never really pitched in front of a crowd.

"It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before," said Pipkin, who was drafted out of Pinole Valley High School less than a year ago. "I got on the mound that first time and you feel your knees shake a little bit and you’re like, 'Okay. This is real.'"

The situation is definitely real. So is the talent that accompanies the Phillies' 9th round pick from last year's draft. The Phillies believed so much in Pipkin's ability and potential that they signed the California native well over slot value for $800,000 in order to get him to turn pro and pass on his commitment to play collegiate baseball.

Equipped with some serious velocity, the six-foot-four 160-pounder also tosses a change up, a slider and a curve ball.

Lakewood pitching coach Matt Hockenberry likes what he sees from Pipkin and feels that the youngster is already mature beyond his years.

"He's a 19-year-old kid that can run it up to 97 (MPH). You don't see that a whole lot and normally when you do, those guys don't know where those balls are going," Hockenberry said.

Through eight appearances (four starts) Pipkin has tallied a 1-1 record with a 4.13 ERA while striking out 22 and walking 12 in 28 1/3 innings pitched.

Upon debuting as a pro last year, Pipkin notched a 1-2 record with a 3.64 ERA while striking out 18 and walking eight in 29 2/3 innings over 10 outings (eight starts).

Even when there's an outing that doesn't go his way, Pipkin, a student of the game, finds the good in the results, striving to develop and get better each and every time out.

"I’ve been completely satisfied with my pitching so far," said Pipkin. "There’s always something positive you can pull from an outing and then of course there are negatives when there’s a bad outing, but I’ve always been able to look for something. I’ve always had that silver lining."

An impressive talent, Pipkin has already shown why the Phils thought he was worth a considerable investment.

"Pipkin challenges guys and he puts it in the zone," Hockenberry stated. "Sometimes if he misses, he misses, but it's pretty fun to watch, especially when his delivery is on and his timing and his delivery are there. The ball jumps out of his hand and it's cool to see a 19-year-old kid have the success he's having at this level."

With high upside skills, a positive focus and aggressiveness on his side, look for Pipkin to start making headway as a premiere Phillies prospect.


**Patreon members got early access to this article. For exclusive content and early access to nearly every other piece of content I post, become a patron over on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz today!

Friday, May 17, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Threshers SP Damon Jones

Damon Jones w/ Lakewood in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty pitcher Damon Jones has been a standout performer for the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers this season.  Through seven starts, the 24-year-old sports a 1-2 record with a 0.76 ERA, a .152 batting average against and a 13.2 K/9 mark.

An 18th round pick of the Phillies out of Washington State in 2017, Jones has been a solid contributor since turning pro.  Initially, when he debuted with short-season A level Williamsport in 2017, he was used as a reliever, but was switched to a starting role last year with Class A Lakewood, where he went 10-7 with a 3.41 ERA over 23 outings.

This week I talked with Damon over the phone to discuss his tremendous success with the Threshers, changes to his mechanics, getting more fit over the off-season and plenty more.  The complete, unabridged version of this interview featuring Jones talking about the differences between MLB and minor league baseball along with his own confidence as well as his team's offense and more is available exclusively to Patreon subscribers.  Read ahead here for samples of my chat with Clearwater's ace.


-How are you feeling down there in the Florida State League?

I feel really good.  (It's my) second year with (Brad Bergesen) as a pitching coach, so I'm pretty comfortable there with familiar faces, with Marty (Malloy) as my manager too and a lot of those same guys from (last year's) Lakewood squad, so I'm feeling really comfortable down here. 

-The adjustment going up a level, is it kind of what you expected?  I would assume so, based on the performance.

Yeah, you see some better approaches (from the opposing batters).  Sometimes you get a little deeper in the counts.  And then there's familiar faces that maybe you've faced some years before, but it's definitely taken a step up.

-What's the pitch menu like now for you?  I remember when we talked last season, you describing your go-to pitch at that point was the fastball.  Has anything changed with the arsenal and is that fastball still as reliable as it was?

Yeah, the fastball is still sort of my go-to.  I have both the slider and my curve ball.  The slider I kind of changed post-spring training and it gets a lot more horizontal movement, so it's like a different look than the curve ball.  And then the change up we're still working on.  That's the pitch that, hopefully, I can get (in order) to become that complete package.  

-What type of feedback are you hearing from Bergesen of late?

So, I guess my first, maybe, four or five starts, I kind of had some mental lapses in terms of four pitch walks or walking guys and stuff like that, so we're just kind of working on queues to keep my delivery in sync and stuff like that.  That's been big.  Been doing that in bullpens and it's really helped especially the command of my fastball's gotten a lot better.  Both-- because outside fastballs were really what I was heavy on last year.  So, mixing in inside fastballs gives a whole other look and kind of keeps people off the breaking ball, people off the change up and it's basically a whole different pitch even though it's just a fastball.  

-When you start mentioning the improved command, I glanced over at your stats here and I see those first five starts' stats and you went from walking either three or four in every game to now walking just one total in your last two starts, which is proof of what you were talking about.  Can you talk some more about that refinement and those great results?

Sure.  We've been working on keeping my lower body and my arm in sync because it says I have a fast arm, so technically sometimes I drift forward, and then my arm's a little late.  So, it's just getting my arm out on time and, I don't know, just kind of thinking, "Where do I want this pitch?" as the last thought in my head before I pick up my leg and go.  So it's kind of like-- "laser focus" is kind of a way to put it, I guess.  Just being super intense on trying to pitch to that certain location instead of getting up there and just throwing it.

-Is there any variance to the velocity from last year to this year?

I'm sitting a little bit higher, I'd say.  Mostly 92 to 95 up to 96.  I hit a 97 in Ft. Myers, but it's staying a little longer into starts than it was in Lakewood.  But I also came back 20 pounds lighter and in a little bit better shape than I was at the start of last spring training, so...

-So, that was gonna be one of my questions for you...about your off-season routine.  So, let's talk about that. What did you do to drop pounds and was that the focus?

Well, yeah, when I talked with my strength coach last year, I was around 250, 245, and I kind of felt out of condition and stuff like that, so the goal was to get to 235, coming into spring training and I was actually down to 232.  A lot of running and stuff like that.  But I'm up to 238 again.  I've been eating a little more, I guess.  I ate really-- I wouldn't say really healthy, but I really watched what I ate and I didn't overeat and that really helps too.  And I was just up in Washington with my fiancee for most of the off-season working and doing some pitching lessons up there.  

-What was work for you?  Was it just pitching lessons or something else also?

Well, I actually worked at a place that kind of gets shipping crates from Japan, China, over in Asian countries and they would get shipped over to the port near Seattle and we would unload the cardboard boxes and they would go to different distributors I guess, like Target stores.  So, for 10 hours a day I was picking up boxes and loading them onto a truck and moving them side to side and it was all an assortment.  There was vacuums and microwaves and TV's and even like bikes and stuff, so I got a good workout doing that.  On top of that I was doing lifts at night because I started work at five in the morning.  

-Wow.  You started talking about it and I presumed you had some sort of business gig, in an office, and then you elaborate and it's manual labor! 

Yeah, my fiancee's brother actually works there and he drives a forklift there and I was one of the guys, they call them "swampers".  You move boxes to certain sides, so the forklifts can pull them out and stuff like that.  Yeah, I just did that for a couple months and then I went home and then I had strength camp here, in Clearwater, in December.  And then when I went back, I just wanted to focus strictly on baseball.  So, at the gym, they have a youth baseball program, so I got hired there doing pitching lessons three or four times a week.

-Excellent.  I wanted to ask you about the backstops there.  I know you have a couple guys there that you've worked with before.  Does that help, having a bond and solid rapport with your catcher to help you enjoy so much success on the mound?

My last two starts have been with Edgar Cabral.  I might have thrown to him once in my first spring training and once this spring training and then when he stayed with us in Clearwater he seems to call a really good game.  No offense to the other catchers, 'cause I've thrown well with them too, but I don't know, recently it seems like I don't even have to shake him off. He just seems to know exactly what pitch I have in mind and I hardly ever have to shake him off. 

To check out the rest of my chat with Damon Jones, support this content on Patreon!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Kroon's smash is the difference as Kingery rehabs with victorious BlueClaws

Matt Kroon, image- Jay Floyd
LAKEWOOD-- Matt Kroon's first home run of the season plated three in the bottom of the 8th inning to give the Class A BlueClaws a 4-3 victory over Hagerstown on Tuesday night at FirstEnergy Park.

Kroon's big fly came against Suns relief pitcher Ryan Tapani.

Following the game, the 22-year-old righty batter, Kroon, stated that his game plan heading into the at bat, with his team trailing by a pair of runs, was finding a pitch to drive.  The result, however, surprised even the young Phillies prospect.

"Having zero home runs on the season, I had no thought in my head whatsoever that I'm gonna go up there and hit a three-run home run," said Kroon.  "Funny things happen in this game.  Thankfully, it was able to happen to me tonight."

Lakewood reliever Kyle Glogoski notched the win, his second of the year, for the 'Claws while allowing an earned run over 3 2/3 innings of work.  Gilmael Troya recorded the save for Lakewood.

With Lakewood for the contest was Phillies utility man Scott Kingery, who was on a rehab assignment, as he works his way back from a right hamstring strain.  The 25-year-old went 1-for-3 with a fielding error as the shortstop, playing seven innings.

Following the game, Kingery said he felt fine physically.  He stressed the key for him now is to get his timing and feel for the game back after missing three weeks with the injury.

Kingery asserted that he anticipates joining Double-A Reading, likely for two more games, before he is activated on the big league roster this coming weekend.  The Fightin Phils host division rival Portland on Thursday at 6:45PM and Friday at 7:10PM.

The 25-year-old righty hitter made his professional debut with Lakewood after being drafted in the second round four years ago.

Scott Kingery, image- Jay Floyd
"It brought back memories," Kingery said of being back in Lakewood.  "It's the first place I came after I got drafted in 2015.  My host family I stayed with they actually came to the game to watch me and I got to talk to them.  It's fun being back here."

Originally slated to begin his rehab appearance on Monday in Lakewood, things were delayed one day due to a rain out.  Kingery took advantage of his time around the BlueClaws, bonding with younger players.

"It's good to just kind of come down here and get to know them a little bit," Kingery stated.  "It's a lot of guys I haven't met before, so it's good to get to know them." 

As is generally a tradition when well-paid major leaguers compete in the minor leagues on a rehab assignment, Kingery picked up a special post-game meal for the Lakewood players. 

"He's a great guy," said Kroon, who was 2-for-4 on the night. "He worked with us all day.  He's been a good guy to have around the locker room.  Good atmosphere with him around."

His presence was welcome around a team that has struggled to notch victories wins of late.  Prior to Tuesday's win, the BlueClaws had lost nine of their previous 12 match ups. 

Here's hoping whatever rubbed off from the big leaguer sticks around longer than the player did.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Interview Excerpts: Reading manager Shawn Williams

Last month I sat down with Reading skipper Shawn Williams to talk about several of his players.  Some of the quotes from that interview remained unpublished since that time.  Among the topics of discussion for the Double-A Fightin Phils were slugging first baseman Darick Hall, infielder Arquimedes Gamboa, starting pitcher Adonis Medina and more.

Read ahead for those exclusive interview excerpts...


-You've got a power hitting prospect on this team in Darick Hall.  I know he had a battle in spring training with Dylan Cozens going head to head.  What was that like?  Was it fun for everyone?

It was fun watching both of them  They squared off in a home run derby.  That's two guys that have big time power.  They do it in the game and they can really do it in (batting practice).  But, to see both of them squaring off, it was fun to watch.  And even (Deivi) Grullon was part of that too and Grullon put on a show.  So, it was just a lot of fun to see the guys in our organization and the power they have, how far they were hitting balls.  Just a great atmosphere for our whole minor league system.

Arquimedes Gamboa, image- Jay Floyd
-Arquimedes Gamboa is a guy with a good reputation that's part of this club.  Can you comment on him?

Yeah, he's a very, very good defender.  He's playing shortstop.  He's gonna play a little bit everywhere, second, third and short, to get acclimated to those positions.  He's done a lot of it.  I know in the fall league he played third.  In spring he's done all three.  It's just gonna make him a better, more round infielder.  And offensively, he keeps coming.  He's only gonna get better.  The more at bats he gets, the stronger he gets.  You know, he's got a good swing.  He's got a good idea in there with plate discipline.  He loves the competition, so I think this league's gonna be good for him.  And he'll compete and get some good at bats and he does a lot of good things on the field, with base running, hitting and defense especially.

-Adonis Medina, one of your pitchers, is among the Phillies' top ranked prospects.  What have you seen from him?

Three plus-plus pitches. He's got a really good fastball, breaking ball and change up and when all three are on, you're not going to hit him.  And the thing that he's learning, in a game when he doesn't have one of those pitches (going well), he's learned how to get through it.  (He's) another guy that's developing and mature. He's got three plus pitches and he's learning how to pitch.  And he's learning how to pitch when he maybe doesn't have his best stuff, which was great to see. But the stuff he's got is explosive.  He's a guy with a very high ceiling.

-Can you help get the nickname "MoYo" going for starting pitcher Mauricio Llovera?

That's actually what I call him. 

-I'm so happy to hear that.

Yup, that's exactly what I call him.

Friday, May 10, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood infielder Matt Kroon

Matt Kroon, image- Jay Floyd
Infielder Matt Kroon has been one of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws' most consistent hitters this season and he's been enjoying the success in his first full season as a pro player.

Through 26 games this season in the South Atlantic League, the Phillies' 18th round pick from 2018 sports a .289 average with five doubles, a triple and seven RBI.  

Primarily a first baseman, Kroon, the son of former big league pitcher Marc Kroon, has also played second base and third base for the 'Claws.


Kroon was the Phillies' 18th round draft selection last year.

I spoke with Matt about his success at the plate, exposure to professional baseball as a child, his teammates including last year's top pick Alec Bohm and plenty more.  Some excerpts from our talk are shared below, but you can check out the complete interview at Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.


-Were there any moments from childhood that stick in your memory that made you fall in love with baseball?

Growing up, I got to watch my dad play.  I got to go around in Major League clubhouses.  The one I remember the most was the Rockies back in '04.  That's when Matt Holliday was a rookie.  Todd Helton was there.  And I was shy growing up, butt I eventually grew some courage and got to talking with some of the guys in there.  Like, "What do you do?  How did you get here?"  You know, and they told me it's consistency.  It's finding your routine, sticking to it.  And I remember I took that and then I'd watch Todd Helton hit. Day after day after day, he'd do the same things.  Prepare the same way.  Same batting practice rounds.  Everything like that.  So, that's when it started to click to me that I needed to find my own routine and do stuff like that.  That's one of the biggest things I've been trying to do in pro ball is get into a routine with what I've found success with and try to grow on that.

-You mention being consistent and you've enjoyed some solid results of late.  How are you translating the results on the field?

I mean last year, going in straight from a college season to (the minor leagues), it was a lot on the body, it was a lot on the mind.  So, this year I got to get that full off-season in and I came back with a more mentally strong mind.  I came back with a prepared body that allowed me to get into certain routines, that allowed me to find that success and keep working on it and finding the little things with my swing and within the way I play defense that will help me bring my game to the next level. 

And the coaches here are, day in and day out, are helping you with whatever you need.  Whether it's video, tee work, flips.  Whatever you need the coaches are there for you and it's just a big help.


-Who do you room with and who are you close with on the team?

My roommate moved up.  I was rooming with Alec Bohm.

-What was Alec like? I feel like there were probably guys on the team that wanted that promotion to come for him, so he'd get the hell out of here and so they could get some more at bats.

He's a great guy.  From day one when I met him, when we showed up after the draft, he was a really cool dude.  Really open and into talking to everybody.  Always asks, "Hey, what's going on outside the field? Do you guys want to hang out?"  You know, just trying to make sure that he didn't put himself above anybody else.  And he didn't.  It was really cool getting to room with him, getting to know him.  I wish him all the best up there (in Clearwater) and hopefully I get to see him soon.  But like you said, somebody moves up, it opens up some opportunities for some other guys to shine.


To read the complete version of this interview, please subscribe and help support content like this at Patreon.com/PhoulBallz.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Phillies minor league stats and notes, 5/2/19

After nearly a month of minor league action, here is a rundown of some top names throughout the Phillies developmental ranks.  Some would be considered hot, while others are yet to warm up in the early stages of the long season.



Class A Lakewood BlueClaws (8-18 record, last place in SAL Northern Division)...

The team’s catchers have been contributors at the plate, each batting .300 or better.  Right-handed hitter Abrahan Gutierrez is batting .340 with three doubles and four RBI in 13 games while switch-hitter Rafael Marchan has a .310 average with six doubles and seven RBI in 17 games. Both backstops are natives of Venezuela.

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
Righty starter Kevin Gowdy has performed well for the BlueClaws, posting a 1.84 ERA with no decisions and a .140 batting average against through four starts.  He has, however, walked 13 while striking out 13 in 14 2/3 innings pitched.  Gowdy was the Phillies’ 2nd round draft choice in 2016 and is competing in full-season ball for the first time after missing two seasons due to injury.

Well touted hurler Francisco Morales hasn’t shined too much in the early going.  The 19-year-old right-hander sports a 7.02 ERA through five appearances (three starts).  However, he has struck out an impressive 24 batters and walked nine in 16 2/3 innings in his first turn at full-season ball.

Infielder/outfielder Cole Stobbe is off to a slow start this season, as the righty batting 21-year-old has posted a .154 average with a homer and three RBI in 17 games.  Stobbe, the Phillies' 3rd round draft selection in 2016, has played third base, first base, second base and left field this year.

Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers (11-14 record, third place in Florida State League North Division)...

Madison Stokes, playing primarily first base this season, sports a .298 average and has notched seven doubles, a triple and three homers while driving in 13 runs in 22 games.  The righty hitting 23-year-old was a 10th round pick last year out of South Carolina.

Left fielder Matt Vierling is batting .310 with three home runs, 10 RBI and six steals in 22 games.  The 22-year-old righty batter was the Phils’ 5th round pick last year out of Notre Dame.   

Right-handed starter Spencer Howard has a 1-1 record with a 2.25 ERA and a 13.5 K/9 mark through four starts.  The 22-year-old was a 2nd round pick of the Phillies in 2017.  Howard was ranked as the organization’s top prospect by this outlet heading into the 2019 season.

Damon Jones with Lakewood last year, image- Jay Floyd
Lefty Damon Jones is among the league leaders in ERA with a 0.77 mark through five outings.  The Phils’ 18th round pick from 2017 has a 0-1 record with a .135 batting average against and a 13.9 K/9 mark for the Threshers.

Reliever Connor Brogdon has looked solid in relief for the Threshers.  The 24-year-old right-hander sports a 1-0 record with a 2.04 ERA, a .155 batting average against with a 10.2 K/9 mark in nine appearances.  Brogdon was a 10th round draft pick in 2017.

Double-A Reading Fightin Phils (12-10 record, third place in Eastern League Eastern Division)...

IF/OF Grenny Cumana has performed well offensively, tallying a .345 average with a double and four RBI in 11 games for Reading.  The 23-year-old righty hitting Venezuelan is listed at 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds.  He was promoted to Triple-A for a couple of games last week as well to fill the void left when Dylan Cozens was in the big leagues, but has since returned to the Fightins.

Outfielder Mickey Moniak sports a .195 batting average with five doubles, two triples, a pair of home runs, 11 RBI and two steals in 20 games.  The lefty batting 20-year-old was the first overall pick in the 2016 draft.  

Outfielder Adam Haseley in batting .188 with four doubles, two homers and six RBI in 18 games.  The 23-year-old  was drafted in the 1st round in 2017 out of Virginia.

Cornelius Randolph, the third of Reading's trio of first round outfielders, missed time with a hamstring strain this season.  Back in action now, as of Wednesday, the 21-year-old is batting .231 with three home runs and eight RBI in 11 games.  Randolph was the Phils' top pick in 2015.

Ramon Rosso has been excellent in Double-A thus far.  Through four starts, the 22-year-old Dominican has a 2-0 record with a 0.89 ERA, a .237 batting average against and an 11.5 K/9 mark.  The right-hander has notched scoreless appearances in four of his last six regular season outings dating back to last year, allowing just two total runs in those games.  

Luke Leftwich, image- Jay Floyd
Reliever Luke Leftwich has not allowed a run through nine appearances.  The 24-year-old righty has posted a 0.41 WHIP and a .023 batting average against and has a 1-0 record in the Eastern League this year.  He has struck out 22 and walked five in 14 2/3 innings.  Leftwich was a 7th round draft pick in 2015 out of Wofford.

Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs (16-9 record, 2nd place in International League North division)...

Catcher Deivi Grullon is a force in the lineup this year for the ‘Pigs.  Through 17 games, the 23-year-old righty hitter has posted a .393 batting average with four doubles, four home runs and 18 RBI.  Last year the Dominican native was a Double-A All-Star and won the Eastern League’s All-Star Home Run Derby.

Andrew Romine leads the team in hits with 28.  The 33-year-old infielder sports a .341 average with three home runs and 14 RBI in 22 games.  Romine is currently enjoying an 11-game hitting streak.  

Through five starts, lefty pitcher Cole Irvin has a 2-0 record, a 1.82 ERA and a .265 batting average against.  The 25-year-old was the Phils’ 5th round draft pick in 2016 and was an All-Star for the IronPigs last season.

Reliever Austin Davis is enjoying success this year with Lehigh Valley, sporting a 1.20 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and a 10.8 K/9 mark in 10 minor league appearances. Davis spent time with the Phillies in the majors both this season as well as last season.  The left-hander was a 12th round draft pick of the Phils in 2014.  

Since a demotion to the minor leagues, starting pitcher Nick Pivetta has notched a 1-0 record and has struck out 23 batters in 12 innings pitched while holding opponents to a .182 average over two starts.  In four big league starts this year, the 26-year-old tallied an 8.35 ERA.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Phillies prospect Bohm earns promotion to Clearwater

Alec Bohm, image- Jay Floyd
HELP SUPPORT CONTENT LIKE THIS AND KEEP IT COMING ALL SEASON LONG BY BECOMING A PATRON!- https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz

Big news out of the Phillies' developmental ranks on Tuesday as one of the organization's top prospects, Alec Bohm, was promoted to Class A Advanced Clearwater after a scorching April in the Sally League.

Through 22 games this season with Class A Lakewood, the 22-year-old righty hitter touted a .367 average with nine doubles, three home runs and 11 RBI.

Many people, fans and insiders alike, were surprised when Bohm opened the 2019 campaign at that level.  Bohm, who is listed at six-foot-five 225 pounds, was not among that group.

"I really had no expectation as where to go (to start the season)", said Bohm.  "When it came down to it, where ever they told me to go, that's where I was going."

With assignments and promotions far away from his line of thinking, Bohm was most excited for getting a taste of the full-season grind, heading into the season.

During his brief time thus far in the Phillies system, Bohm asserts that the organization has made positive impressions on him, citing a great level of satisfaction with the developmental personnel and the front office.

"They really take the time to get to know you and help develop you as a player, not just have these little cookie cutter (ideas) of what they think each player should be. They develop each player differently," Bohm stated.

On the diamond, Bohm, who was the third overall pick in last year's draft, hasn't had a tough time adjusting to the professional game to date.  According to the Wichita State University product, the culture is where he's had to make the most adjustments.

"I didn't expect as much Spanish, I guess," Bohm said.  "It's been fun coming into it, picking up things."

Bohm, who has played both third base and first base this season with the 'Claws, says he paired up with another well regarded Phillies prospect, Lakewood middle infielder Luis Garcia, and the two have tried to teach one another something in their native tongue each and every day this season. 

He'll need to find a new study buddy with the Threshers.

Bohm is in Clearwater's lineup for his Florida State League debut on Tuesday night.

Other promotions from around the system on Tuesday saw infielder Jose Gomez, who was acquired from Colorado in the 2017 Pat Neshek trade, moving from Clearwater to Double-A Reading.  Also moving from Lakewood to Clearwater is righty pitcher Colton Eastman, a 4th round pick last year. Lefty pitcher Manuel Silva, 20, will fill a void on the Lakewood roster.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Interview Excerpts: Phils pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
HELP SUPPORT CONTENT LIKE THIS AND KEEP IT COMING ALL SEASON LONG BY BECOMING A PATRON!- https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz

Recently, I wrote a feature on talented righty hurler Kevin Gowdy's recovery from an elbow injury and mental hurdles.  Not featured in that piece are the interview excerpts below.

Through four starts with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, the 21-year-old sports a 1.84 ERA with no decisions, a .140 batting average against while striking out 13 and walking 13 in 14 2/3 innings pitched.

Read ahead for my exclusive quotes from Kevin.


-Speaking on his and the team's excitement level for the new season...

We’re really stoked.  It’s a really fun team with really good, really athletic team and we should be able to swing it a little bit and it’s gonna be a really fun year.

-On the group of guys he bonded greatly with during the rehab process...

It was Grant Dyer, who was here a couple years ago and Trevor Bettencourt, J.D. Hammer, Nick Fanti, a good amount of guys.  That was the main core of who I hung out with.  We really just got super close during that time, ‘cause everyone was going through something and you’re going to have a lot of bad days in rehab.  You’re going to have them in life, but when you’re having a bad day, someone will come pick you up.  I definitely formed some really close bonds and relationships with those guys.

-Offering thoughts on his backstops with Lakewood, Abrahan Gutierrez and Rafael Marchan...

I definitely have really good relationships with both and they’re both good pitch callers and they’re always working hard for you.  You have the confidence in them to throw a two strike breaking ball in the dirt or anything like that.  It’s easy to get on the same page with them and they’re always working hard for you.  We definitely have a lot of trust in them.

-Commenting on his pitching coach, former Phillies minor leaguer and Temple hurler, Matt Hockenberry...


He’s awesome.  I think him being in the game so recently, it’s easy to relate to him and he’s just always fired up to get guys better.  He comes to the park every day with a fired up attitude and he’s just ready to go.  There’s always something with him.  You can go up to him and ask him if he wants to watch video or let’s look at these charts or let’s work on my breaking ball and he always wants to help, even if it’s just playing catch with you.  He’s great.  I love working with him. 

-Talking about if he feels improvements to his mental toughness as a result of the difficult recovery path and thinking of moving on from baseball...

By far, for sure.  It’ll test you, for sure.  There were times I didn’t even want to play baseball anymore.  Just so frustrated with rehab and so over it, I guess.  I just wanted to do something else or go to school or go do something and I’m really happy I stuck with it.  I don’t think I would ever (have quit), but I’m really happy I stuck with it and everything’s good now.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Patreon Exclusive: LHP Bailey Falter answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

This month I sat down with Phillies left-handed pitching prospect Bailey Falter and asked him to share his thoughts on breakfast cereals, his favorite athlete, profanity, hip hop royalty and plenty more.

The 22-year-old was the Phils' 5th round draft selection in 2015.  Falter, a California native, sports a 1-1 record with a 2.93 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP through three starts in the Eastern League this season.

It's three minutes of fun with the Double-A Reading hurler.  Check out this Patreon exclusive by clicking here!

HELP SUPPORT CONTENT LIKE THIS AND KEEP IT COMING ALL SEASON LONG BY BECOMING A PATRON!- https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood skipper Mike Micucci

Mike Micucci, image- Jay Floyd
HELP SUPPORT CONTENT LIKE THIS AND KEEP IT COMING ALL SEASON LONG BY BECOMING A PATRON!- https://www.patreon.com/phoulballz

This season Mike Micucci took over as the 13th manager of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.

A draft pick of the Cubs in 1994, Micucci played six season in the professional ranks and has been coaching or working in the developmental ranks virtually since that time.

Recently, I sat down with the BlueClaws' new skipper to get to know him a bit.  He chatted about his local ties, his family and several of his players, including last year's Phillies first round draft pick Alec Bohm.  Read ahead for that interview.

-Firstly, I want to ask you about Alec Bohm.  Some people are surprised he landed at this level, on this roster.  What have you seen from him?

I mean honestly, we had talked a little bit. He basically showed up to our group on the last day of spring training. So, we haven’t even seen much of him. Obviously, we’ve heard a lot about him, read a lot about him. Basically, after a week, he lives up to everything you’ve heard. He’s very athletic. Kind of a student of the game. Very good at bats. There’s big time power in there with the upside. So, he’s obviously everything you would look for in a player.

-Do you think you would you be included in the group of people, including fans, media types and others, that were surprised Bohm was assigned to Lakewood?

Yeah, I would. But I’ve seen other things happens as well, so it doesn’t shock me. I’ve seen other organizations do similar type things with guys. But, for me, one of the things we talk about is you’re playing where you’re playing and you’re starting where you’re starting, but for the most part just go out and do your job and play well and you’ll be where you’re supposed to be. Whether that’s here or whether that’s in Clearwater or whether he ends the season in Double-A, you know, so we’ll see.

-What’s your coaching background before here and how do you land with the Phillies at this level?

So, that’s a pretty long list. I started with the Cubs as a player and then got into coaching fairly young over there after playing for seven years. Was a hitting coach. After there, went to Texas with the Rangers to manage. Managed in their system for four years, then moved to field coordinator with Texas in ’10 and ’11, when we went to the World Series. From there we left to go to the Angels to be a field coordinator-- I managed my first year there, then moved to field coordinator for three. From there to Seattle to be director or coordinator of instructional or whatever it is. You know, I really wanted to get back into managing, get back to being with younger players. I enjoy being with younger players. I enjoy being with the Latin players and the overall foundation of developing.

I knew Matt Klentak from when we were with the Angels together, so I kind of just reached out to him and Josh (Bonifay) called me and this opportunity landed, which, honestly is interesting because I moved away from this area about nine years ago to go to Texas. But we found a nice area in Texas to raise our family, around Dallas, a city called Frisco, Texas and we moved there. But it’s kind of funny because I grew up in North Jersey, went to Montclaire State, my wife and I got married and we lived in Manahawkin. Yeah, so this is like a home run, both from a professional standpoint to be with the Phillies and be with a great ownership group and being here in New Jersey. Back in New Jersey, where I have some roots.


-What’s the family situation? How many children do you have?

I have two kids. Yeah, married. My wife, (we’re) going on 19 years. My daughter Isabella’s 12. My son Andrew will be nine in May.

-How are they with the career movement and the job taking you all around?

It’s tough. Fortunately, my wife’s a teacher. So, they come out in the summer. They’re excited about that. They’re gonna see grandma and grandpa, all their cousins, aunts and uncles and stuff. So, it’ll be a really nice summer from that standpoint there. So, then the off-season’s nice. You’re around all the time there. And then there’s really probably that three-month window from when spring training starts to the time they get out of school that makes it tough, but they get a week off for spring break, so they were able to come out for spring training. The Phillies give us time off and we try to match it up to kind of put it in the middle, so it’s like four weeks or five weeks and then I’ll take my vacation and go home and see them and then (afterward) it’s another four weeks and then they come out for the summer. So, we always try to break it up where we never go more than four or five weeks apart.

They kind of know how to do it. The coordinator job’s a little different, ‘cause you're going to all the affiliates and then you get to go home. But they’re looking forward to it.

-Some members of the roster come back for a repeat with Lakewood.  Will you look for those types of individuals to take some leadership roles?

Yeah, I mean I think I try not to look at what happened last year or where guys played last year. I don’t want to have sort of a preconceived notion of what to expect. I want to come in and, from speaking with the staff as well, have kind of a blank canvas. But, yeah, if you look in the club house I think you have your pockets of leaders. Some of the returners and you have some of the younger guys, when you look at (Luis) Garcia and (Jonathan) Guzman. Those guys play in the middle and you see they have, like, leadership skills and leadership abilities, with the language barrier, amongst their group and their peers. We definitely see them doing it and we encourage them to kind of stand out and do it a little bit more. Obviously, I think Marchan behind the plate (is doing it too). And then the pitchers. I think there’s little pockets of leaders and something I think is also our job, is trying to show them how to play the game and what we consider the Phillie way, but also to learn how to be leaders, both in the clubhouse, on and off the field.

-I meant to ask earlier...how are your skills with Espanol?

Very limited. But the understanding of the culture is very good because I spent a lot of time in the Dominican at the academies and in the country. The understanding of what they’re going through…I think I make up for it in those other areas, what I lack in the actual interpretation. That’s why we always have somebody on staff that can really do that stuff.

-Your backstops, Rafael Marchan and Abrahan Gutierrez, what do you see from those two thus far?

I tell you what, that’s an impressive group. Both from the ages that they are and the level that they’re playing at. But not only their physical skills, but also, they’re both really smart and they have that grasp of the calling the game, the working with the pitcher, the game planning and stuff like that. So, big upside on both of those guys. I think it’s a nice problem to have.

-Do you have any pitchers assigned or targeted for specific roles out in the bullpen?

No. We don’t…it’s something that we don’t really—it’s not a philosophy of ours to have a setup/closer type of guy. It’s more trying to get guys to pitch in different situations. So, sometimes they will pitch in the back end. Sometimes that pitcher will pitch in the middle. But, basically, you’re looking for high leverage situations, get out, then you’re looking for to put everybody through that experience. Then somebody will come to the forefront of who’s the guy that pitched in the highest leverage situation and that could happen in the 7th inning. That could happen in the 9th. That could happen in the 5th. So, we’ll look to it more like that. And we also are going with more of a tandem type pitching staff, so we’ll see a lot more like a four-inning, one-inning type, where two guys will eat up the majority of the game.

-Back to your coaching staff, Christian Marrero I covered as a player. Matt (Hockenberry), same thing. Can you share some thoughts on your staff?

Yeah, they’re young, passionate, intelligent. They’re a great group to be around. I really enjoy the difference and I believe, also, that my experience can kind of help them as well. So, they’re good. They pepper me with questions. I know Josh (Bonifay) has really talked a lot about helping that group out. It’s a great place to be because not only are we trying to develop players, but develop young coaches as well.

-I talked to Matt last season, mainly about players, but I was also interested in his progress as a coach and he just seemed really hungry and passionate about it and I know he takes great pride in (being fluent with Spanish).

He’s impressed me a lot. Like, all of a sudden it just kind of rattles out of there and it’s pretty cool to see. It’s awesome.

-Thanks for all the time.  Before I let you go, I want to ask about Cole Stobbe. He was here last year and didn’t get to enjoy the success that this team had last year (going to the postseason). Are you hoping for big things from him? Do you see it coming?

Well, right now what we’re doing, is, as you can see, our team needs to be pretty versatile. You’ve got the two young guys in the middle (Jonathan Guzman and Luis Garcia), which need to move around, so you’ll see them flipping back and forth. Alec (Bohm) will play third base, but he’s also gonna play first base. Stobbe will play third base. He’s also gonna play first base.  He's also gonna play the outfield, he'll be in either of the corner positions.  We really believe deeply in the versatility.  That's kind of what we're focusing on right now is getting him to where he's comfortable on the field.  Any time you're putting somebody in a new spot, there's all those things that are going on in their head, but yeah, we're excited for him.  I've been focused mostly on the defensive stuff and getting him up to speed with some of the things he's gonna do.  I we just feel like at times, you just throw somebody over at first base.  First base can be a pretty tough position to play, from all the footwork standpoint, to just being around the bag, making sure you're protected.  Number one sometimes those throws go up the line, you see guys reaching across.  Obviously, he's in a position where he feels comfortable to make some plays there.