Category: Dailies

Tales from Exit 138: Spring Fever

As I have said before, when I think of the four seasons, I don’t think
of spring, summer, fall, and winter. I think of preseason, regular
season, postseason, and the Hot Stove season. Spring Training is
definitely my favorite season for a lot of reasons. I’m a fan of all
levels of the minor league system, and this is the only time of year
that they are all in one place. I can talk to three different guys on
three different levels all in one day, and so far, it has been really
interesting for me to see the differences in their attitudes or
perspectives depending on where they are in their development.

spring is also known for its seasonal allergies, and I contract the
same one every year: spring fever. It is not curable by any tangible
medications; rather, it is cured only by excessive exposure to spring
training. When I call in sick to school with a fever, I’m not exactly
lying, right?

I have posted the transcriptions to all of the
interviews so far, but sometimes the stories behind how these interviews
happen are nearly as interesting as the interviews themselves. I have
no idea whether or not these guys know that I’m not exactly official.
But what I do know is that they have never made me feel unofficial.
Sometimes I tack on “I’m doing some freelance work for the Portland Sea
Dogs…” but even if I don’t, they never ask whom I’m affiliated with.

have all also been extremely accommodating too. The fact of the matter
is that these guys have no obligation to anyone but the organization
right now. Their workouts are long and hard. But they sign autographs on
their way to other stations or on their way inside; and after they
workout or finish extra batting practice, they take five to ten minutes
to sit down with me.

In fact, when I asked Derrik Gibson if I
could interview him after he was done with everything, he mentioned that
he had to take extra batting practice, but asked if I was in a rush.
Normally it’s the other way around. I’m on the players’ time; I try to
do what’s convenient for them, but I thought it was really nice of him
to even ask.

Both Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini waited
while I finished up interviews with Gibson and Matt Price, respectively.
The last thing I want to do is make a player wait, but I also don’t
want to cut off my interviews. But they waited, and neither made me feel
bad about waiting. In fact, Middlebrooks mentioned that I had been waiting. Waiting is an inevitable part of what I do, but waiting is by no means something the players have to do.

Hernandez absolutely went above and beyond. He left after his workout,
which was obviously just an honest mistake, but he certainly did not
have to come back after having gotten back to his hotel. I was in my
car, ready to go to the big league game, when a red truck pulled up next
to me, and he got out and knocked on my window. We did the interview
right in the parking lot. 

I have definitely learned a lot so
far this spring from talking with the players. I learn more in a day at
the complex than I do in a week at school (this may or may not be due to
the fact that I also have senioritis).

Here are some of the most interesting things I have learned so far from talking to these guys.
pitchers will use or not use certain pitches depending on if the batter
is a righty or a lefty: maybe more changeups to the lefty because the
ball will get away from them, and with righties it will fade into them.
various improvements of both hitters and pitchers within each level:
hitters become a lot more selective and only look for certain pitches in
certain locations. Pitchers can throw all their pitches for strikes,
and they can repeat their mechanics. 
-How the pitchers handle
pressure–they will try and limit the damage with a double play instead
of trying to eliminate it completely.

-The impact that college
can have–both on and off the field. Whether it be learning how to pitch
to get outs, keeping the ball down in the zone, the advancement of the
arsenal, or even learning how to handle living on your own.

differences both mentally and physically between each of the infield
positions: the importance of reading bounces, and the differences in
reaction time. 

-The importance of repeating and mastering mechanics and fundamentals.

importance of a good mentality. Sometimes, you can’t think about trying
to be too perfect. Sometimes, you can’t always give 100% and you have
to realize that and give what you can to avoid injuries. 
Dwight Evans
aren’t the only thing I do at the complex, though. On Monday, I had the
opportunity to get a picture with Dwight Evans, and get his autograph
for my dad, who watched him when he was actually playing. He and Carl
Yastrzemski work with the minor league guys on hitting mechanics.

also briefly talked to Theo Epstein. He was at the complex presumably
checking out the great foundation of young players that he has built up.
Mr. Epstein is quiet–we only chatted for a minute–but he’s not

So even though I have been having a great time at
the complex, I have also been having fun at the games too. I much prefer when the pinch runners start to come in, or when the announcer
says, “Now playing left field, number 95, Alex Hassan.” These are the
guys I come to watch. I’ll include some of my favorite pictures of my
projects so far:
Alex Hassan:

Thumbnail image for Alex Hassan.JPGLars Anderson:
Lars Anderson.JPG
Michael Bowden:
Michael Bowden.JPG
Ryan Kalish:
Ryan Kalish.JPG
Ryan Lavarnway:
Ryan Lavarnway.JPG
Stolmy Pimentel:
Michael Almanzar:
Michael Almanzar.JPG
Oscar Tejeda:
Oscar tejeda.JPG
Kyle Weiland:
Kyle Weiland.JPG
Yamaico Navarro (far away shot, but it was his walk off hit):
Yamaico Navarro.JPG 

I’m thinking of making a flikr account so all the pictures can be seen because I take a lot. I’ll post it here if I make one. If you want players or updates on specific minor league players, let me know.

Meet Your 2010 Draft Picks: Chris Hernandez

Chris Hernandez was drafted out of the University of Miami in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. He had a fantastic 2010 campaign going 10-3 with a 2.64 ERA, 110 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.15. Hernandez discusses his struggles & adaptations in college, the pressure of the draft, and more.

Chris Hernandez was the first guy I asked for an interview on Monday. He was really nice and said he would do it after he worked out. So I interviewed Derrik Gibson and Will Middlebrooks, and I thought that I had missed Hernandez, and that he had left because I wans’t around. There was even the possiblity that he was still working out, but it was already past 1, and I don’t like being late to the big league games. So I went back to my car, started it, and put my stuff away, when a red truck pulled up next to me. I ignored it because I didn’t think it was anything significant, but then someone knocked on my window, and it was none other than Hernandez. He sincerely apologized and said that he forgot.

I was in complete shock, though, because this was seriously above and beyond. I seriously don’t expec these guys to wait around for me–I’m on their time, and I try to make it as convenient as possible for them.

The fact that Chris came back after he got back to his hotel really speaks to the kind of person he is. I wouldn’t have been upset if it hadn’t worked out–just try again next time, but he really followed through, and I really appreciated that. I mean this is a completely unofficial blog, and I’m loosely affiliated with the Sea Dogs (freelancing for them this spring). I’m still in high school. So I thought that was an unbelievably incredible gesture on his part.

You were drafted in the seventh round out of UM, but were you drafted out of high school as well?

Yeah, I was drafted in the 14th round by the
Detroit Tigers.

What were the deciding factors in choosing to go to college over going professionally?

Well, the first thing was that we had communications
throughout the summer, and we didn’t come to terms on both sides, and I thought
that going to school would have been a better idea because it would give me
three years under my belt just in case baseball doesn’t work out in the end, I
have something to fall back on, so I ended up going to school, and I don’t regret it
at all because I had a great time and it taught me a lot.


So what did you end up majoring in?

I majored in business management, so I have  two
more semesters to go, so I’m going to try and finish now in the off season… finish at
least one semester and, then I have one more left, and then hopefully get a
degree from the university, which is a pretty respectable thing, and that’s
something I’ve always wanted to have is a college degree.

UM is a great school for baseball, so how do you think pitching in college contributed to your development?

It taught me a lot–especially facing older guys with
aluminum bats, it taught me that I have to stay down in the zone–if not I’m going to
get hit out of the ballpark all day. Also, the pitching coach helped me out
there a lot: he helped me develop my mental game and know how to bounce back
from struggling because I did struggle some my sophomore year, so he taught me
how to deal with adversity, and the fact that I will struggle at times and how
to bounce back from it.


What did you struggle with sophomore year?

I just didn’t feel prepared going into the season. I came
back, and they were hitting me around the ballpark, and I couldn’t really find my
groove until the middle of the year, and I started getting back into things, and
I was able to fall back in the track some more, but it wasn’t the same as it was
my freshman or junior year.

How has your arsenal changed since you were in high school?

I still have the same amount of pitches. I did change from
the two-seam to the one-seam, which gives me a little more down action on my
fastball down and away, and I have developed my changeup a lot more, which is
something I didn’t have as much at the college level. I mainly relied on my
fastball and cutter, and every once in a while I showed a changeup just to show
it, and now I can throw a changeup for a strike, and it’s a big pitch that they
always talked about that you’re gonna need at this level, so that’s why I wanted
to develop it early and I had been able to.

What was your biggest challenge last year?

Dealing with the pressure of the draft throughout the whole
year, and trying to focus on the season, and trying to have a good season, and
being a leader to the rest of the guys because we were a young team and a young
staff, and it was a little difficult at times balancing both things–especially
at the end when the draft came around, but I was able to do it, and my year
actually came out just the way I liked it. I mean the draft worked its way out
somehow, and I just did what I had to do and everything fell into place

So then the draft was in the back of your mind at all times?

It was, yeah, it’s always something that’s going to be in the back
of your mind–especially since it’s kind of deciding your future, and if you want
to be a baseball player you need to go in the draft and try and go high to at
least get a little bit of money and make [it] your worthwhile being out here and
also teams have a little bit of interest in you, and it was a
tough thing to do balancing both sides of the spectrum, but it was good I was
able to do it, and it worked out for me in the end.

Are you kind of dealing with expectations now? Especially being the seventh round pick?

Yeah and no because I know, to me, when I walk into a place
for the first time, I don’t think people expect anything. They just like to see
what you can bring to the table, and I kind of just took this as something to have fun with instead of taking it you know to the point where
you’re struggling everyday because of how stressed out you are and I’m trying to
have as much fun as it with I can and enjoy being out here and enjoy just
playing out here, and it’s helping me out so far with the stress of being away
from home and the stress of everyday trying to fight for a job.

In college you probably had an everyday catcher right? But here youre gonna have catchers coming and going. Is this going to impact you at all?

I mean, it’s going to be a little different. I’m going to have to get
used to it because in college, my catcher was Yasmani Grandal (12th overall pick to the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 draft), and he knew my
game well, and I really could rely on him to call games, and here I’ll be able to
rely on guys more when we get into the season. There will be one or two catchers,
and they’ll more or less know your way but I’m going to have to start really
focusing on my strengths instead of relying on what the catcher is putting down
and shaking him off from time which I didn’t do in college.

So are you still going to let your catchers kind of think for you and call the pitches, or are you going to do that yourself?

I’m still going to let my catchers call the game, and if I see
something that I’m not comfortable with, or that I don’t like, I’ll shake it off
and re-address it later on in the game to make sure we are on the same page.

Did you ever pitch in the summer leagues like Cape-Cod?

No… Well, I only pitched my freshman going to sophomore year. I
pitched on Team USA.

How do you think that contributed to your development?

It’s a different experience: facing guys from other countries,
playing against them, and they were more developed at times, but it was a good
experience. It helped me in the way  I face guys with wood bats, but it didn’t
help much because I just try to go out there and do my thing, and plus it was
the end of the season, and you’re feeling tired already from a college season.


How was the transition from aluminum to wooden bats for you? Did you change anything?

The best thing is staying down in the zone, they really cant
hurt you, unlike if you stay down in the zone with aluminum, they can still hurt
you from time to time. With wood bats it’s a little more difficult: you have
to be able to put your bat on the ball a little more solid, put it in that sweet
spot. In that sense it kind of makes you relax a little bit because you can kind
of be OK with missing somewhat because of the wood bat.

What have you noticed in hitters as they have matured–even around here?

Watching the guys here–and watching them throw and watching
guys hits–I’m picking up things as to where hitters have better eyes hitters,
watch the strike zone a little better, so its going to be a little tougher to pitch
to guys and miss in the zone. They’re gonna be on the lookout for strikes, and
that’s going to be the main thing is throwing strikes instead of just missing off
the plate and things like that.

Are you prone to certain pitches in certain situations?

I’ve always pretty much relied on my cutter, and I’m trying to
change that and be able to throw any pitch in any situation, but for right now
that’s always been my pitch to go to and my pitch that I like, but for the most
part I’ve been working on trying to get my fastball, and my changeup, and my
curveball to throw in any situation that need be.

What about certain counts?

I really didn’t… like I said my out pitch was always the
cutter, but I’m trying to shy away from it, but using different pitches in
different situations so it’s not a pattern every time… hitters can’t pick up on
things like that.

What do you think fans overlook the most?

Some people think it’s a real glorious life, and it is when
you make it to the big leagues, but the minor leagues [are] a grind day in and day
out, and you’re out on the field for hours practicing and trying to get things
done, and a lot of people don’t see that.

If you had to hit against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?

Try and jump on first couple of pitches because I always come
out throwing strikes, and sometimes guys use that against me, and they’ll jump
out and jump on my fastball early and stuff like that, but for the most part
jumping out early on the first couple of pitches.

What are you working on this spring?

Using the fastball more and using it in later counts when I
got guys 0-2, things like that and putting away guys with the fastball.

What was the bright spot of your college career?

I’d have to say it was in college when we were
in Omaha (college world series) my freshman year. That was a good experience. I was able to start the
first game for us as a freshman, so it was fun and exciting. We didn’t get to win
that day, but I still felt good going out in front of all those fans. It felt
like something id like to keep doing for the rest of my life.

How do you think pitching in those big league games impacted your development?

It got me prepared for what I’m going to face at the top level,
which is the big leagues. Obviously it wasn’t as big of a crowd, but we still had
big turnouts at Miami, and big turnouts wherever we went to, so that was good
pitching in front of a crowd.

Will Middlebrooks on Salem, and what he has learned thus far in Spring Training 2011

Will Middlebrooks was drafted out of high school in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. A shortstop originally, Middlebrooks was converted to third base in his first full year of pro-ball. Last year in Salem, Middlebrooks hit .276 avg/.331 OBP/.439 SLG/.770 OBPS with 70 RBIs. Middlebrooks has already been called up to four games this Spring Training. In this interview, he discusses that process and what he has learned, as well as his 2010 season in Salem.

Will didn’t have to stay around for his interview. I had just started interviewing Gibson when Middlebrooks walked by and said, “I’ll wait over here.” He waited for ten minutes, which he did not have to do by any means. It obviously meant a lot that he waited, but I think it really speaks a lot to his character that he was willing to wait. He didn’t make me feel rushed at all.

What was the deciding factor, or factors, in choosing to go professionally over going to college first?

Well, it was tough because both my parents are educators, and
my dad is a coach, so education is important to them. I was [committed] to Texas A&M,
which is a pretty good academic school, and I was hoping to play football and
baseball there, so it was a tough decision but being able to start my career
early and just get a head start.

What was your biggest challenge last year in Salem?

I feel like the pitching was a lot better just in the jump
from Low-A (ie. Greenville) to High-A (ie. Salem), and just getting comfortable at the plate, staying
consistent with my approach. Within the first two, two-and-a-half
months, I had a real good beginning of the season

I hear a lot of guys say that the transition from Low-A to High-A is tough. What did you notice about the pitchers that made it that much harder?

Just being able to throw all their pitches for strikes. That’s just something the higher you get, everyone is more consistent–that’s
just the name of the game at this point. So especially going in this year, I’m
probably gonna be in Double-A (ie. Portland), which is supposedly the biggest jump in the minor
leagues. …Just pitchers being able to throw any pitch at any time for a strike.

So how did you adapt to that?

Like I said, just remaining consistent in my approach, and
knowing what pitches I can hit, and what counts, and just watching film and
studying the game.

A lot of the times, an organization will change a player’s position early on in their development. Is third base where you feel most comfortable right now?

Well they’ve already changed me: I was a shortstop coming in,
and I got a lot bigger as I got older; I put on some weight, so they moved me to
third within my first year of pro-ball.

So how was the transition from shortstop to third?

It was tough–There [are] a lot different
angles, a lot less time for reaction–it’s just something you have to get used to,
but I’m fully adapted to it now.

What do you think the biggest differences are between the positions mentally and/or physically?

Mentally, defense… as far as an infielder… it’s all the
same: just being ready, reading the bounces–it’s pretty much the same for everyone,
but at first base and third base, it’s a lot of reaction: you get a lot of hard
hit balls; you’re playing in a lot. Shortstops you’re more back a lot of time to
react to balls.

I noticed that you batted fifth a lot in Salem. Is that where you like to bat?

I could really care less, anywhere is fine with me. I like
middle of the lineup… a lot of guys seem to be on base; you get more opportunity
for RBIs.


Do you adjust your approach and/or mentality depending on where you bat in the lineup?

Maybe in the first inning is the first time
it would be different just because you don’t want your first batter up there
swinging at everything because in the game, you want your bigger guys who
hit in the middle of the order, who hit for power be able to see what this guy
has on the mound. You know, first, second, maybe even third batter see a few
pitches so maybe we can see the breaking pitches or his off-speeds.

What is your opinion on small ball? It seems like suicide squeezes are kind of a dying art.

It’s very important–especially when you get to the seventh,
eighth, ninth inning, if you need to move a runner over… I think you’re right, you
don’t see the squeeze bunt much anymore mainly because a lot of third basemen years ago were a lot bigger guys; they couldn’t move as well. Now third
basemen [and] first basemen are a lot more athletic. I think they can make those plays
and get the ball home. Maybe that’s why you don’t see it as much, but sac bunts
are just as important as they have always been.

If you had to pitch against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of at this point?

I know my positives: I could hit a fastball really well,
so I would attack myself with offspeed early in the count because I’m aggressive
early in the count: I look for fastballs.

What do you think fans overlook or take for granted the most?

Just the day-to-day grind. It’s tough–especially straight out
of high school it’s tough to adapt [from] being at home, being with your family,
in your comfort zone… then you’re here on your own for eight months. It’s tough, it’s
something you definitely have to get used to, but once you can get past the fact
of ‘I’m not home; I’m not going to see my family, my friends, my girlfriend… once you get
past that, and you say, ‘OK, I’m here; this is my job; this is my life now; I’m gonna
play baseball; you can focus on that, and it’s a lot of fun.

What is the biggest thing you’re working on this spring training?

Just staying consistent with my approach offensively and
defensively… my footwork defensively just getting good jumps on ballsat third base.

You have been called up a couple of times already this spring. Describe that process for us.

Normally we find out the day of, or the day before. I’ve been
lucky enough to go to four games, and I’ve started two of them, so it’s a lot of
fun. For me, I’m really just a sponge when I’m up there. I just want to soak
in everything, and see how they go about their business because ultimately,
that’s where we want to be, so just follow them, see what they’re doing, see how they
do their cage work, their defensive work before the game in BP, and just try to
change my game a little bit to how they do it.

What is the best thing you have learned so far?

Just effort level, really. You kind of have to pace yourself. With them, it’s 162 games–even more than that–just pace yourself. You cant be 100% everyday. If you have 90% to give, that’s what you give. If you push past
that, you might get hurt or you could be out for a few months.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Probably in Lowell my first year when we played the Futures
at Fenway, I had the walk off hit in the 12th inning, so that was a
lot of fun. I’d have to say that so far.

Gibson on Greenville

I had the pleasure of sitting down with infielder Derrik Gibson, who was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft. What I really enjoyed about my conversation with him was how in depth he went with every single answer. He would even transition into other, relevant topics, and I didn’t even have to prompt him. Gibson discussed his offensive struggles that came with his transition to Greenville, and what he is doing to adapt.

What was the deciding factor, or factors, in choosing to go professionally over going to college first?

There’s a restriction on how many hours you can put on the field in college, and
here I feel like I could start at a young age and develop
right away, and I think the other deciding factor was the academic
side. Going in the second round, the Red Sox pay: They give me a year… [if] I stop
playing baseball tomorrow, they give me a year to be a full-time
student, and my college tuition would be paid for so that made the decision–not easy–but I felt more comfortable.

What was your biggest challenge last year in Greenville?
[The] biggest challenge I guess was playing everyday… playing 140
game schedule. I’m not as physically mature–meaning like not as strong as some
guys who can maintain their strength over the season, so I think that was the
biggest side of it. and just being able to go in there day in and day out and
just try to perform. Even mentally, you know, when you [didn’t have] a so great day
the day before, and kind of coming back and being able to play, and go at it
again, and especially last year last year was a tough year offensively so it
tested me.
Talk about your transition to Greenville a little bit: do you think your offensive struggles had to do with a new level of pitching? Or what would you attribute it to? 

Probably both the pitching and the staying mechanically
sound with my swing, and even I guess mentally. You know when you step in the box,
you should be very confident no matter what your day was like before that, or
how your day is going that game, you should be confident each at bat, and the
pitching each step (ie. level) you get up it’s getting better. They can repeat each pitch, and
you pry see two to three good pitches and you keep going up, and they start to
grow smaller, and so it’s just learning to just fine tune those things, and [trying] to
build the confidence in the mechanics and just have confidence in yourself.

What is your biggest focus this spring?

I think the biggest thing honestly is not trying to be too
perfect. Just hit the ball where it’s pitched, hit it hard, and you can’t control what it does after it comes off the bat; all you can control is
if you put a good swing on it or not… And the same for defensively: I think just
it sounds cliché, and it sounds very simple, but just catch it and throw it to
first–just know what your situations are on the field.

A lot of the times and organization will change a player’s position early in their development. Now I’ve seen you play both second base and shortstop… where do you think you fit in best, position wise?

I would say shortstop because I feel like [that is where] I’m most
comfortable. Second base was a little tough for me because I hadn’t played there
before. I think in Lowell I made 17 errors flip flopping back and forth, and that
was a 70 game schedule, and then last year I played all short 122 games and made
22 errors, so last year was better because if you were to double the games in Lowell,
I would have, say, 34 errors so but I feel like I fit best at shortstop: most
comfortable, most confident there

Did you know where you would be playing… like the week before or something, or was it more random?

It was kind of like I had an idea the day that I’m getting
close to flip flopping with the other guy.. Like he’d go to short for a couple
games, and then we would flip flop, and then I would go to short, and then we
alternate between second, but it wasn’t like it was
planned out like ‘OK this day is where I’m gonna be, that’s where, and sometimes
it’s a little hard because it’s a little different, and to me I knew that I
wasn’t as comfortable at second base as I was at shortstop, so it was an
adjustment, and some games were a little tougher than others where I couldn’t
naturally just do it.

What are the biggest differences for you–mentally, physically, or both–between shortstop and second base?

I guess second base, your feet have to work a
little better. You have to put yourself in better positions to make double plays
feeds, or the ball [comes] off the bat a little differently, so it was just, I
guess, repetition of seeing it and getting used to it– where as opposed to shortstop, I played there most of my life, so I already had the repetition, so mentally
I just told myself: this is pry gonna take time, but I still try to work
hard and do what the infield coordinators tell me to.

Where do you like to bat in the lineup and why?

I pry like one or two just because I feel like you can
really establish what your team is going to do that night, and get to a
running start, being able to disrupt if you get on base–the pitcher
and the team–and then just getting on so the guys behind you in the three, four, five can drive you in and get on the board early. There’s no better feeling
going out the next innings knowning youre up 1-0 or whatever.

A lot of the times the guys in the one and two holes will bunt. What is your opinion on bunting, small ball, suicide squeezes? Do you think that technique is effective?

I definitely think its effective now because with that era
of baseball in the ’90’s of hitting the longball… I think it’s definitely coming
back to guys bunting and playing small ball, and one of my biggest
attributes is to run, and I definitely feel like it’s (ie. small ball) coming back, and I
definitely need to implicate it, and I’m a big fan. The Red Sox signed Crawford
who does it, and Ellsbury who does it, so it’s coming back and it’s good to see
baseball go back to how it once was played.

If you had to pitch against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of at this point?

Right now probably two seamers in… a fastball at
down and in, and then probably after doing that, probably a curveball or slider
away just [because] it’s hard–once they beat you up inside so many times–it’s hard
to get back; to individualize each pitch and so they set you up, and
so I would pry say that’s the toughest and that’s what I do to myself: hard in
and soft away.

As you have transitioned through the levels, what are the little things that you have noticed about the pitchers and how they advance through each level?

Like I said: the repetition. There, they can work both sides of
the plate. They’re going to throw, they’re going to nibble on the blacks of the plate, and
they can repeat good curveballs, good changeups, good sliders, and each one has
better life and better break to it than the levels before. As
we’re developing as hitters, they’re developing as pitchers.

What do you think fans overlook or take for granted the most when it comes to baseball–especially minor league baseball.

They expect us–especially with the young guys–to be almost major
league baseball ready, where all of us are different. And it’s that it’s a process. The guys that you see on TV, they’re not perfect, obviously, but they’re as
close to it as us, and I think that baseball is a game of failure. I
don’t know how much they understand that–I think they understand that, you know,
you hit .300 for ten seasons most likely youre a hall-of-famer and I don’t know
too many other jobs where you can fail 7 out of 10 times and still have a job.

What has been the bright spot of your career thus far?

I enjoy everyday of it. I mean, there are some days that are
tougher than others, but just being able to come out here everyday… good weather,
being able to live the dream… this is what I wanted to do since I could start
throwing a baseball, so I would definitely say just the all around aspect–the
goods and the bads–and just take it one day at a time.

Meet Your 2010 Draft Picks: Garin Cecchini

Garin Cecchini was drafted out of high school in the fourth round (143rd) overall in the 2010 draft. Originally committed to LSU, Garin discusses why he chose the Red Sox, rehab back from knee surgery, and his biggest challenge last year, which was far from physical.
1. How did the Fall Instructional League go for you? How did it contribute to your development? What did you see it as an opportunity for?

It went well. It was my first time to actually get out there. I had surgery six months before that, and I had tendinitis real bad in my
knee, so I didn’t get to play any and they just kept me back, and it was real
painful. The off season was [about]
getting my knee healthy and that pain going away, so I’m healthy now I’m 100% for
spring training.

2. When did you sustain that knee injury?

March 13th, and I had surgery the 19th.

3. Has the surgery changed your approach at all? Even something small like your batting stance?

No, I didn’t change my batting stance. It didn’t change [me] overall. It changed my thinking of the game: to not take the game for granted. I
mean you can get hurt any time and your career can be done.

4. What was the deciding factor in choosing to come here over going to college first?

Of course Boston with its history, and it was a great
opportunity for me, and it was just right for me–that was the main
factor. I’ve always wanted to play pro-ball, and this was a great opportunity. I
mean I had surgery, and I still got drafted in the fourth round, so it was a
great opportunity, and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

5. Do you think you lose anything in not going to college?

I don’t really think about that because I look in the present.
I don’t really look into the future or the past, but I made the right decision–I
know for a fact, but definitely I’m going to miss the college experience and
education, which I really wanted, but like I said this was a great opportunity
for me, and I couldn’t have passed it up.

6. Besides your knee last year, did you have any other big challenges?

Playing for dad. Its tough playing for your father. I mean
he has coached there for 26 years, and it’s a great program. He has five state
championships and national chapionships, but its still hard because you know
you’re always get that youre only playing because your dad is the coach…You have your haters out there, and everyone is going to say something about it no matter what.

7. How did you deal with that? Did you kind of take it in stride, or just ignore it?

I mean my freshman year it kind of got to me, but by
the time I was a junior or senior, I knew they were all just… jealous, and now my
brother was going through the same thing his freshman year, and now hes a junior and hes one of the top
prospects in the nation, and people are still saying he’s not good, and that’s
how its going to be, and that’s the game of life.

8. What was your development like in high school? Did you become better or mature between certain years?

I’ve definitely matured–and everyone will–and the biggest
maturity is from that sophomore to junior year. [That’s] when you get a lot better because
it’s a big jump. My motto is try to get 1% better everyday, and if you just
stick to that it doesn’t matterwhat… Mentally get 1% better, hitting, fundamentally, being a better
teammate 1% better… You’re gonna get better everyday.

A lot of the times, the organization will change a player’s position early in their development. Where do you think you fit in best, position wise? How open are you to trying others?

That’s really not for me to decide. That’s the front office
and the coaches, that’s what their job is.

So are you open to trying others?

Yeah I mean [wherever] they want me at, that’s where I’m going to
be. Like I said its not my role to choose that.

What is the biggest difference between each position skill wise? Obviously, you have to have a stronger arm if you’re a third baseman, but what about mentally even? 

Third base: that’s why they call it the hot corner. You get
balls that are hit really hard…third base
it’s a step to your left step, to your right. Shortstop, second base you’re gonna have
to go a little bit farther. It’s different, but you gotta learn and
develop into what they want to be.

Where do you like to bat in the lineup and why?

It doesn’t matter…like I said that’s what the staff decides. Wherever they put me that’s where im gonna go. I’m gonna try my best… I batted second or third in the Dominican League.

What is your opinion on small-ball? Do you think bunting runners over and suicide squeezes are effective, or do you think swinging away is?

There’s no doubt bunts are effective. I mean you gotta put it
this way: You get the bunt down… third baseman, pitcher, or first baseman has got to
catch the ball cleanly, he’s gotta pick it up out of his glove, and he’s gotta make
a perfect throw to first base while youre running, and that’s hard to do. So it’s
definitely effective, and I feel like our high school bunted a lot or sac’d
people over, and its definitely effective.

If you had to pitch against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?

I’d just throw a 95 mph fastball because my timing is off right now.

If your timing is off right now, how do you work to make that better?

It comes with time. Timing comes with time. It’s funny to say,
but you just see more pitches, and that’s how you get your timing back. I mean I
haven’t seen pitching since October, and I didn’t see a lot–I’ve seen three games
of pitching. Practically I haven’t seen pitches for a whole year because of my

The pitching definitely becomes more sophisticated at each level. What are the little things you notice that they do differently as you transition?

What I’ve seen is they spot up more… they wont leave a ball
over the plate because that’s a mistake, and if they do, they didn’t mean to. They’ll
paint corners… Other than that I faced good pitching all through high school and
summer circuit…Those were the best high school
pitchers in the nation. Those guys throw just as hard as these guys…they have curveballs, changeups… but these
guys [in the organization] are just more polished.

What do you think fans overlook or take for granted?

Some don’t understand that it’s everyday. It’s not like high
school where you play 3-4 times a week: it’s everyday or you have practice.

Tell us something interesting about yourself:

Both of my parents are coaches. My mom throws the best BP I’ve ever had in my whole life, out of anyone I’ve ever faced. It’s just right there,
she throws the best batting practice of any guy I’ve ever seen, of any woman I’ve
ever seen. She could throw to any team any day for however long.

Meet Your 2010 Draft Picks: Mathew Price

Matthew Price
Matt Price was drafted in the eighth round of the 2010 draft (263rd) over all. He had Tommy John surgery in October 2010. This is a transcription from my interview with him:

*You’ll notice that a lot of my interview questions are the same. This could either work really well or really poorly, and so far–for me at least–it has worked well simply because it has shown me that the game is relative. You can ask the same questions to a bunch of different guys, and rarely will you get the same one. It has been really interesting for me to hear all of the different responses.

1. When you were drafted out of high school, did you know that you were going to have surgery?

I didn’t know. I got hurt at the end of the year,
and there was a little bit of injury still there, and we had tried to rehab all
summer.  The Red Sox knew that there was something there, but we
had talked and hoped that rehab was going to work itself out. It wasn’t til
after instrux (ie. the Fall Instructional League), and throwing a few bullpens that we realized that the problem is
still there and we were going to need surgery.

2. What did the Fall Instructional League do for you and your development? What did you kind of see it as? 

I saw it as a chance to just get into the routine: Pick up
things like clues that verterans leave–just little tips that help get you going
and pick your feet up a little quickly as a rookie. I saw it as a
chance to just workout, get better get my feet wet a little bit.


3. You were drafted out of Virginia Tech, but were you drafted out of high school as well?
I was drafted in the 34th round by the Atlanta Braves in 2008.
4. What was the deciding factor, or factors, in choosing to go to college first over going professionally?

One of the things is that at 18, I wasn’t the most mature kid,
and I will be the first to admit that. I just felt that college would be a
chance to develop my skills, improve my draft position, and it was something I looked
as an opportunity to just get better

How do you think going to college contributed to your development?

It taught me sort of how to carry
responsibility for myself, and it taught me the things of living on your own,
which is going to be some of the challenge in professional ball

Do you think you lose anything in going to college over going professionally first?

There are some drawbacks: I say if I went out of
high school that could have been two years I could have been playing [professional] ball and
working my way up the system, but I mean you kind of weigh it out: you know, you just
weigh the pluses and minuses of it.

How has your arsenal changed since you were in high school?

[In] high school, I was more the fastball, try to overpower you, throw a
curveball kind of guy. Then college… just complete role reversal so it turned
into fastball, changeup kind of guy. I shied away from my curveball. Just a bit of
a role reversal.




What was your biggest challenge last year, and how do you plan on overcoming that this year?

[There was a] little inconsistency, and that I think that had to do with
not fully having a routine, and that’s something that I look to improve this
year is finally having a structured routine, and just focusing on baseball 24/7
and not having distractions like school, work, or tests, or anything like that.

Do you let your catcher do the thinking and call the pitches, or are you more prone to doing that yourself?

I like to do it myself because someone once told me if [you have]
any doubt, throw your best pitch, and if you don’t know yourself or know the
situation then you wont have confidence in your pitching. That’s where I feel
like its good to know and be able to think for yourself as a pitcher.

Have you pitched in any summer leagues?

In high school, I pitched a lot for the East Cobb Team
structure out of Georgia, and in college I played in Cape-Cod my freshman and
sophomore year


How did that impact your development?

Cape-Cod was one of the biggest developments for me because
it helped build my confidence going into one of the
top summer leagues as a freshman and making the all star team: it really helped
boost my confidence as a pitcher.

What do you notice about hitters as the levels get higher, and how they transition, and their various levels of sophistications (yes, I made up a word)?

It’s pretty cool to watch: [When] you watch high school hitters, you
see sort of a lack of discipline. [With] college hitters, you see more [discipline], and then here
you just watch hitters, [and] they know the counts; they study the game; they know about
the game, and what theyre looking for and your tendencies; and it makes it a lot
more of a thinking and a battle between the pitcher and the hitter.

What is your opinion on the lefty-lefty matchup strategy? Do you think it is effective?

I think it’s effective. There’s not many lefties in the game
to start with, and if you can ever get a lefty-lefty combo, it’s just that much
more unique, so I think it’s definitely effective–especially if you need that
quick out.

Do you change your approach depending on the matchup?

I always keep that in my mind–like if it’s a lefty, I’ll
probably keep two seam away from him, [and] bust him with a four seam vs if it was
a [righty,] [I]probably want to go four seam away, and two seam in. Just certain
characterisitcs like that I just keep that in mind

Are you prone to certain pitches in certain situations?

I had a little tendency in college: I got caught
up in my favorite pitch, which is a changeup. In ceratin counts if I got ahead
batters sometimes didn’t know that a changeup was probably going to be coming
so that’s definitely something to work on.

What about certain counts?

I think one of the things they teach you is variation. One
thing im trying to pick up on is, you know, one time through you can mix up
your look so the hitter never has a firm idea of what he should be expecting. That’s one thing im trying to work on right now

If you had to hit against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?

I wouldn’t look for the curveball as much. I would
probably look for the fastball or the changeup.

What do you think fans overlook the most when it comes to baseball?

I think when they watch the game they just kind
of get lulled to sleep, [and] they don’t kind of appreciate the talent that goes
into the game.

Are you going to have to change anything like your arsenal or approach because of Tommy-John surgery?

[No], I hope not and if its something that needs to happen,
then it will happen but right now I’ve been throwing for a few days, and
everything feels normal and hopefully that continues that way, and I don’t have
to change anything.

Tell us something about yourself: Fun Fact? Quirky tidbit?

I like to go bass fishing whenever I can.