Meet Your 2010 Draft Picks: Anthony Ranaudo

Anthony Ranaudo was drafted in the 11th round out of high school by the Texas Rangers, but he chose to attend Louisiana State University. During his time there, he led his team to a national championship. He went 12-3, posting a 3.04 ERA with a WHIP of 1.15. During his 2010 season, though, he was injured, and did not have the easiest time bouncing back. The Red Sox drafted him in the compensatory round, and he was the 39th overall pick. During the summer, he dominated in the Cape-Cod League, where he didn’t give up a run in 29.2 innings. In the following interview, Ranaudo discusses how he matured as a pitcher in college, how he is adapting to professional hitters, what he learned from his injury, and more.

If you’re interested, you can listen to the audio of the interview here:
Anthony Ranaudo.WMA

So how has it been here so far, playing professionally? Because in college, it’s more about winning, but here, it’s more about development.

Yeah, it’s totally different. There’s a bigger picture. It’s about longevity and staying healthy and having a good career, but I’m looking
forward to it. This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.

Were you drafted out of high school as well?

11th round by the Rangers.

What were the factors in your decision between going with the Rangers and playing at LSU?

At that time I was only 17–I’m kind of young for my grade–so
I was kind of young. I wasn’t ready to be on my own yet–just the demands
that pro ball would have had on a 17 year old kid, I don’t think I
was ready. I needed to go three years of college [to]mature and kind of
learn the game a lot more. Being in New Jersey I kind of played basketball–I played 20 games a year [of] baseball, so I needed to learn the game, be around the game more. Now I feel like I’m well suited for the game and
ready for pro-ball.

So when you say “learn the game,” what do you mean by that, and what did you learn in college?

[The] unwritten rules–just how to play the game, [and] awareness: what you need to do; how you need to prepare yourself; knowing
my body, knowing what kind of pitcher I am, knowing players around me, knowing
hitters–just the stuff that you learn… scouting reports and just the daily grind–college isn’t the same as pro ball–it was a stepping stone, and now I feel
like I’m ready to take on a full season here.

So what kind of pitcher are you? What’s your arsenal like? How has it changed since high school, and how have you changed? 

Well like I said, I’m more mature. In high school, I got rattled if I gave up a hit or didn’t do as well. I kind of unfolded a little
bit, and I think that’s what I meant when I said that I needed to go to college
and mature a little bit. Now I know that each time I go out there its
just one start;its just a piece to a puzzle. Like I said, it’s a long road, so I cant
get unraveled about one bad outing, or one bad pitch, or one bad inning, so I
think I’ve matured a lot since high school. As far as my arsenal, I throw a
fastball. I’m a fastball pitcher: I pitch my fastball; I throw anywhere from 90
to 95, anywhere around there, and then I throw a good curveball, and then
I have a pretty good feel for a changeup, so I throw three pretty solid pitches.

You were in the playoffs a lot in LSU–definitely a good college team to be on–how do you think that contributed to your development, being in those high-pressure situations?


I think [it has] prepared me tremendously. I’ve played in front of
the most hostile crowds, huge crowds you could pry play in college. Every
weekend LSU draws the best crowds in college baseball. We would have 10,000
almost every Friday when I pitched, so I’m used to pitching in front of big
crowds, and then we went to the most pressured situations in the regionals, the
super-regionals… I pitched in front of 30,000 in Omaha for our national
championship, so I think it’s [going to] benefit me–not necessarily earlier in my
career, but later in my career when, hopefully, I can make the big leagues, and
then I’m pitching in front of 30,000 people and millions of people on TV. Hopefully I can go back to those days where I can pitch and throw in front of
30,000 people in big situations and just tell myself that I’ve been there before,
relax, and just be me.

What was your biggest challenge last year?

Last year there [were] a lot of challenges. I got hurt, so that
was pry the biggest challenge I had to overcome, and when I overcame
that injury and I was finally healthy, I didn’t have anywhere near the success
that I was expected to have, and that I expected of myself, and that my my team
expected of me, so that was pry a really tough challenge to overcome. I did
overcome it: I had a good summer, and I think that those were all learning
lessons and life lessons, and that was part of what I said, me maturing, and I
think I’m a better pitcher now.

With you saying that you weren’t able to live up to your expectations and stuff like that, do you kind of attribute that to the injury?

No, I hate to blame stuff on the injury. I was healthy when I
came back–whether it was rushed or just being in not the greatest place
mentally because I had missed four or five weeks–I just wasn’t locating my
pitches as well, and it seemed like every time I missed a spot or something,
someone took advantage of it in a big way, and that’s why
all my numbers were inflated, I just didn’t hit my spots, didn’t have great
command of all my pitches; my curveball wasn’t as sharp, and that’s just all on
me. I just wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, and like I said, it’s just a
learning experience, and I’ll know better now if I ever get hurt again just to be
better prepared when I go back into the games.


Now in college obviously players can kind of take advantage
of your mistakes more because of the aluminum bats. So now that you’re here
pitching against wooden bats–obviously you’re gonna have more experience
starting with spring training–do you have to change anything when it
comes to wooden bats?


I think it’s gonna benefit me. As a pitcher, I’ll be throwing to
contact a lot, which means I’ll be throwing more to make the hitters swing, and
make the hitters put the ball in play, so that way I can go deeper into ball
games and have less of a pitch count and be more efficient as a pitcher. Whereas in college, if you throw more down the middle, if you throw to contact,
you’re more likely to give up cheap hits, and then hits that will go a lot
further, and hits that will be hit harder. With wood bats it’s [going to] be a little
more true, and you can throw to contact more and try to be more efficient.


So let me get this straight: in college you’re more of the strikeout
pitcher because if you make the mistake, they’ll be able to hit it, but
professionally you can pitch to contact more because its wooden bats, and they’re not
going to be bale to take advantage of your mistakes as much.


The hitters are obviously better hitters at this level, but
with that said, they’re still hitters, and the way a pitcher looks at it, the best hitters fail seven out of ten times. With
that said, you can throw to contact, and that’s what pro-ball teaches you: You throw
to contact, try to get outs quicker, try to keep the ball down so you can get
ground ball outs, and keep your infield and your team involved, and keep your
pitch count down, and go deeper into ball games, and hopefully, like I said, stay
healthy and have a longer career.

In college, you probably had the same catcher, but here you won’t have that: you’ll have guys coming in and out all the time. Are you going to be less comfortable because of that?

I don’t think I’ll be less comfortable: it’s part of the job–it’s part of the career–there will always be catchers going in
and out, always have a bullpen catcher or a game catcher, and youre
always [going to] be moving out, moving around throughout your career, so I don’t
think it’ll be that big of an adjustment. It’s something that never really has
bothered me or helped me really. It helped me a little bit in college because my
catcher was my roommate–one of my best friends–but that was a pretty rare
occasion so I don’t think it will bother me too much [here.]

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

I sit down with the catcher before I go out there,

and kind of give him a game plan of what I want, and if [he] and I are on the same
page, I just tell him ‘hey man, I’m just [going to] go with what you call.’ I very rarely
shake off unless I have a pitch that I definitely want to throw, and he didn’t
put it down, but most of the time, the catcher has the best view. They know the
hitter–they are the hitter–so I like to go with what catchers call, so that way
you’re both on the same page all the time, and that keeps the catchers confidence
up too, and that way you guys work better.

What do the catchers say when they come out and talk to you? I have always wanted to know that.

Just depends on the situation. Like I said, my
roommate from college would come out, [and] he would know what to say to me. He would
kind of just fire me up a little bit–probably not something I would say during
an interview–that’s the kind of stuff that he would say to me, but in a game
when a catcher doesn’t really know you, or he is just a teammate or whatever, he
just kind of tries to make you feel better, tries to tell you what’s going on,
tries to separate you from that moment: ‘hey take a breath, just relax, just take a
second real quick, I’m just coming out here just for you, just a break’ and you’re
like alright cool, just regroup, refocus. Then you step back out there on that
rubber back to competing.

You pitched in the Cape-Cod League and you dominated (no earned runs in 30 innings), what did that do for your development? What did you see that as an opportunity for?

Well I saw it first and foremost as an opportunity to bounce
back and overcome adversity. I went into last summer [with the mentality] this is [going to] either make me or break me as a ball player: either I can go into the
summer and have the same terrible summer I had at spring, or I can kind of flush
out spring and say, ‘Hey, this is a brand new start, and I can overcome adversity
and show people what kind of pitcher I am; what kind of makeup I have, and I had
a great focus all summer. I stayed with a great family: they allowed me to be who
I was, and get into a good routine, and I had a great coaching staff, and a great
routine, and great guys to back me up and to work with. I kind of just turned it
around and said, ‘I’m gonna make a change here. I’m gonna start new. I’m just [going to] go
out and compete and show everyone that I can overcome adversity, and that’s
definitely [going to] help me throughout my career, and that’s [going to] be a big turning
point in my life and in my baseball career.

Now that you’re playing professionally, you have to kind of anticipate a higher level of hitting. So what exactly are you anticipating?

I just know that–I haven’t actually pitched an inning in pro-ball –but what I have heard, and what I know is that pro-ball hitters
are very intelligent. They’ve been around the game a lot longer than college guys
and high school guys have. Some of these guys have been playing minor league
baseball or have even major league experience, and then when I get to the major
leagues they’ll all have big league experience. They’ll know pitchers; they know
tendencies; they know sequences, so I think the biggest thing for me is to learn
how to adapt to their type of game, and go off them, and make adjustments to the
way they hit, and counteract the way they’re thinking about me. I think that’s the
biggest test, but it’ll be fun.

Do you change your approach at all depending on whether or not the hitter is a lefty or a right-handed hitter?

Definitely. I kind of use different pitches in different
counts with righties and lefties. I might be more likely to use a breaking ball
early to a righty; whereas, I’ll use a breaking ball late to a lefty as a strikeout
pitch, and use a changeup more to a lefty than I will to a righty. It’s not
that different, but there are certain differences.

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

Staying healthy and longevity. Just knowing that this is [going to] be a 142 game season, or whatever it is for the minor leagues, and then I’m [going to] have to make whatever it is, 25-30 starts, and I’m pry [going to] have to pitch
120-150 innings, somewhere around there… maybe if I’m lucky, if I stay healthy, if I
have success. So just try and stay healthy, stay focused, and keep a good
attitude and just try and learn as much as I can about pro-ball in my first

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

I would make myself throw my fastball for a strike. I pry
would take all kinds of offspeed until I got a strike with the fastball, and
then kind of make adjustments, but I don’t even know what it would be like to
think as a hitter anymore. That’s weird, I’ve never thought that.

What do you think fans overlook or take for granted the most when it comes to baseball–especially the minor leagues or the college level?

Probably all the hard work that we put into the game and the
dedication. They just think that–not all fans but some fans–think that we just
come out here, [and] it’s a picnic. It’s a great game to play, but some people don’t know all the hard work–the time, the effort–they just
think that they come out here; they make a ton of money; they live the great life–and we do live the great life: we get to play a game that we love for our
career–but pry the hard work, and the effort, and the time behind the scenes that
go into the game, and all the things that peope don’t know about I would say.

What was the bright spot of your college career?

Definitely winning a national championship my sophomore year. That team, those guys on the team I’ll be friends with my whole life, and when you
win a national championship–those memories you make together, and the stuff that
we went through, the ups and the downs–just creates friendships that are [going to]
last forever, and those are definitely going to be the best memories of my
college career: the friendships that I’ve made and the teammates that I’ve
played with.


Alex Hassan Transcription

Alex Hassan was drafted out of Duke University in the 20th round of the 2009 draft. Hassan was originally drafted as a pitcher, but he ended up signing as an outfielder, and has played that position since signing with the Red Sox organization. Hassan had a great 2010 season in Salem, posting a .287 batting average and collecting 98 hits.  Hassan discusses how he ended up signing as an outfielder, as well as how he overcame his early offensive struggles in Salem last year.

You were originally drafted as a pitcher, so can you describe how that whole process went from being drafted as a pitcher being signed as an outfielder?

Before the draft, all the teams told me I was going to be a
pitcher, and were really looking at me on the mound. Then probably a month
before the draft, I pull my oblique and didn’t pitch. The last month before the
draft, I could only hit, and so I didn’t get drafted where I wanted to get
drafted, so the team that drafted me–the Red Sox–I told them I would go to Cape-Cod and work out there, and they could evaluate me there and decide whether or
not they wanted to sign me. So I went to Cape-Cod, and I had a really good summer
hitting, and I also pitched, but then by the end of the summer they just decided
that that I’d make a better impact in the outfield, so that was
when the decision was made that I was gonna be an outfielder.

How was the transition from pitcher to outfielder? If you’re transitioning from center to right field or shortstop to third base, it’s probably not as hard, but that seems like a really drastic transition.

I did both in college (Duke), so I split my time between the
outfield and pitching, and I think the only adjustment was getting used to
playing everyday, [and] only focusing on one position, the
transition was pretty good because it was a lot easier on my body only doing
one [position.]

What do you think you got out of your experience in college, and how did it help you for this stage?

I definitely feel like college prepared me really well for
pro ball. In college I had a lot of responsibility on and off the field, and
handling the academic aspect of college on top of baseball I think really made
it easier when I made the transition to pro-ball just to focus on just hitting
and playing the outfield.



What are the differences between each outfield position skill wise–whether it be mentally or physically?

I think [in] right field, you’re supposed to have a little bit of a
stronger arm, and maybe cover a little bit more ground, but I think that for
me, it’s going to be pretty important that I’m able to play both [positions] and play both well,
so hopefully I’ll just keep working out at both positions.

What was your biggest challenge last year in Salem?

I just got off to a tough start: the first
month I really struggled. After the first month, I just felt like I took a lot of
pressure off myself to do well, and I started doing a lot better. Just
overcoming a bad start was probably the most challenging thing.

What do you attribute the bad start to? Was it putting the pressure on yourself, or did it have to do with the pitching too?

It was more just putting pressure on myself. I just tried to
do too much just to try and show everyone that I belong on the team. That was
really it. After that first month I felt fine, and I did a lot better.

Because you used to be a pitcher, do you think you kind of have an advantage now that you’re more of a hitter just because you are more aware of the counts?

Not really. I would like to say yeah, but not really. I don’t
feel like I’m good at guessing what is coming anyway. I don’t really think too much
along with the pitcher–that’s just not my style of hitting, but I wish it really
helped me more.

If you were pitching against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?

If I were pitching against myself id probably get a hit

Obviously the pitching gets more sophisticated at each level. What are the little things you have noticed as you have transitioned?

It definitely gets challenging as you move up, but it’s the
same game no matter what level youre playing at. You can
control and have good at bats no matter where you are. Yeah, it gets tougher, but
you just have to remember that it’s the same game; theyre not inventing new
pitches, so you just have to go up there and hit, and hopefully things workout.


What do you think fans overlook or take for granted when it comes to baseball?

I don’t know if people realize how hard it is playing
everyday for seven to eight months straight, and sometimes you don’t feel physically well,
and I don’t think people understand that.

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

Just to have a clear mind and [to] enjoy everyday. I’m just
trying to have fun.

You have been called up a couple of times to the big league club. What do you take from that experience?

It has been a really valuable experience. You can learn a lot
just by listening and watching the way that the players go about their business,
and it has been a really valuable experience for me just to see what that level
is like.

What has been the bright spot of your career so far? Do you have a favorite memory?

I have really just enjoyed playing for the Red Sox, and this
organization. It has been a lot of fun… I don’t know if I have memory, but I’m really
fortunate to be in the Red Sox organization.

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.