Thursday, July 24th: Tommy Milone Earns 1st Win for Sacramento while Daric Barton Drives in 3 and Evan Scribner Gets Recalled by A’s

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Tommy Milone (6 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 8 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Tommy Milone (6 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 8 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  13

El Paso Chihuahuas            2

WP – Milone 1-0 / 5.40

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Tommy Milone

(6 IP / 6 H / 2 ER / 1 BB / 8 K / Win)

After enduring a rough outing his last time out, former A’s LHP Tommy Milone looked strong on Thursday, allowing 2 runs while striking out 8 over 6 innings of work to earn his 1st win for Sacramento. RHP Paul Smyth pitched 1 perfect inning in relief, while RHP Tucker Healy tossed 2 scoreless innings for the River Cats. Center fielder Nick Buss singled, doubled, tripled and drove in 4 runs, while left fielder Shane Peterson had 3 hits, including a double, and drove in a pair, and designated hitter Daric Barton drove in 3 runs for Sacramento. Meanwhile, the River Cats lost one of the team’s best relievers when RHP Evan Scribner was recalled by the A’s after the release of RHP Jim Johnson.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Exclusive: Skipper Ryan Christenson Gives the Lowdown on the A’s Top Prospects at Stockton

rcchristenson_4j13f5yu2Many A’s fans might remember Ryan Christenson from his days patrolling the Oakland outfield from 1998 through 2001. But he may have an even more important job now, as he’s been entrusted with overseeing some of the A’s top prospects currently playing for the Ports in Stockton. Four of the A’s top five picks from the 2012 draft and three of the team’s top four picks from 2013 all started the season with Stockton.

Christenson spent last season with many of the same players in Beloit, where he was considered to have done such a masterful job of managing the team’s top prospects that they made him the manager in Stockton this year. And with players like Daniel Robertson, Matt Olson, Renato Nunez, Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder and – until his recent promotion – Bruce Maxwell, the team is currently tied for first-place in the California League North second-half standings. A’s Farm recently took the opportunity to talk with the Stockton skipper to get his take on his talented cast of characters…

 

AF:  First off, let me ask you about Daniel Robertson. With the trade of Addison Russell, he’s now the guy in the spotlight as the A’s new shortstop of the future. So what have you seen from him at the shortstop position in the field this year, and have you seen any sort of evolution from last year to this year?

drrobertson480_szmaxxpi_ibplc2rl2RC:  As good as he was with us last year in Beloit, he is noticeably better this year. The guy makes all the routine plays. He comes out here to play every day…and he’s been solid for us at shortstop. The fact that I believe we’re leading the league in defense this year just kind of goes to show how strong we’ve been up the middle – and he’s been the captain of that.

AF:  Now what about at the plate? It looks like he’s been showing a little more discipline and taking more walks and getting on base a lot. So what have you seen in his approach at the plate this year?

RC:  I think his approach at the plate has been solid. He’s hit #1 and #2 primarily for us this year. I don’t think leadoff is a comfortable position for him, but he’s done it for us because that’s what we’ve needed – and he’s been getting on base a lot. For a 20-year-old, I think the power is starting to show its potential. He’s hit a couple balls this year that I’ve just been saying “Wow!” They’ve really come off the bat well with a lot of noise and have true carry. And he’s hit a couple home runs to right field, so I think the power that he has in that frame is coming around. The guy works his butt off in the weight room, so he’s just going to continue to get stronger. And as he comes into his twenties and gets some of that man strength, I think he’s really going to be a special player.

mo15095_4110106706138_1463379083_n4AF:  Well, speaking of power, what about your first baseman Matt Olson? He’s always had power, but he’s really been taking it to another level lately. What have you seen from him, and is there anything in particular that he’s been improving on or doing any differently this year?

RC:  His plate discipline has really impressed me this year. The fact that I believe he’s still leading all of minor league baseball in walks right now just goes to show what he’s able to do up at the plate. His eye is impeccable. He’s cut down on the swings-and-misses. He’s always had a pretty stroke. But I think the difference between last year and this year is that when he does get the mistake in the at-bat, he’s not fouling it off or missing it, he’s connecting with it. And he’s just so strong that if he does get it going in the right direction with any kind of trajectory, it’s going to go out.

AF:  What about your third baseman, Renato Nunez? Like Olson, his power seems to be hitting another level here lately. Has he been doing anything differently in his approach?

rnrenato-nunez-2013cRC:  I don’t think he’s been doing anything differently. I just think it’s a matter that they’re not missing that mistake when they get it. That’s kind of the nuts and bolts of what we try to preach as an offensive approach is to wait out that great pitch. It might be the first pitch of the at-bat, it might be the seventh pitch of the at-bat – and the walks and working the count are kind of a by-product of that mindset of getting that good pitch in the at-bat and not missing it. And that’s all he’s done here of late in this power purge is that he just has not missed his pitch. And he’s hitting it out of the ballpark, he’s been hitting it off the wall, he’s hitting doubles – the power shots are coming with regularity with him.

AF:  What about in the field? You had him last year and know he had an awful lot of errors there in Beloit. So where’s he at defensively this year?

RC:  I think he’s definitely showing some improvement in making the routine play. I think he might have had 40 errors over at third base last year. I think he doesn’t even have 10 to this point in the season. So it’s just a testament to the work that these guys do. Juan Navarrete, our infield coordinator, has a simple program that we go through every day as far as getting their ground balls and staying in that routine of consistently working on the fundamentals. He’s made some good plays for us, and he’s played a solid third base. He and Healy both have come a long way. [Ryon] Healy as well has shown tremendous improvement over there at third base, and I have no problem throwing either one of them over there and feeling very comfortable throughout the game.

AF:  That was actually the next guy I was going to ask you about, Ryon Healy. Obviously, he got off to a slow start and has really climbed a long way back and has really been playing great lately.

rh1223780bRC:  His start really wasn’t as slow as the numbers might indicate. The guy’s hit the ball the same the entire season. I really started feeling bad. We were joking around with him to start the season about how many line drives and hard fly balls he was hitting at people or guys were making diving plays on. So I wasn’t tremendously worried about him. He wasn’t overmatched by any means. And that was what I kept feeding the brass – he’s not overmatched here and I think this is where he belongs. And I’m glad they kept him here to continue to work through it. And hats off to him and the fact that he’s climbed up to where he is at this point. The way he started, if he gets off to any kind of halfway decent start, he’d have monster numbers right now. I like what he does – he’s able to put the ball in play pretty regularly, he’s not a big strikeout guy. And he’s just going to continue to get bigger and stronger and really continue to come into his own as far as his power stroke.

AF:  And you like what you’ve seen out of him so far in the field at third base?

RC:  I really have. He’s a guy who it was a new position for. He was a first baseman in college. In Instructional League last year, they moved him to third and he struggled mightily. But he’s put the work in. That’s my main credit to this whole team and why I enjoy being around these guys all the time. It’s easy for me to get them out on the field and get that extra work in. And to see it pay off with the numbers that they’ve put up as a club defensively really is just a testament to what they’ve done.

cpDSC03243dAF:  Like Healy, another guy you didn’t have last year in Beloit but who’s had a big role here this year is Chad Pinder, who’s changed positions and has been playing second base here for you. Where do you see he’s at at this point?

RC:  I got my first look at Chad in the Instructional League last offseason, and I was very impressed with his power, not just bombing balls to left but he’s got tremendous strength to drive the ball to the opposite-field gap. And he’s hit a few home runs here with us this year to the right-field side, so that’s very impressive. He’s got quick hands, and he’s really put the work in at second base. Bret Boone was in with us to start the season and got him comfortable and kind of changed his mindset. It was the first time he’d ever played on the right side of the infield after being a third baseman and shortstop in college. So, with him, I think just getting that comfort with the throw – that sidearm flip from second base as he’s going to his left – and getting used to the pivot there at second base and turning the double play. He’s definitely gotten comfortable. And we all know he’s got the arm to go to short or third if we need it. So he’s a special player – I think we’ve got something in him.

AF:  What about catcher Bruce Maxwell [who was recently promoted to Midland]? Tell me a little bit about where he’s at both at the plate and also behind the plate. His throwing has obviously improved tremendously.

bmDSC02921bxRC:  I think everybody believes that Bruce is going to hit. That’s what he is – he’s a hitter. So I don’t think that there’s any worry there. There’s some fine tinkering here and there. I think offensively his biggest challenge is just separating his offense from his defense. He would have a tendency to take an at-bat, be frustrated and go back behind the plate and make some silly mental mistakes as far as having some balls get by him, but he’s really cleaned that up…and he’s tightened his game up back there. He still has some work as far as just controlling the blocks consistently and not having the drops show up here and there. But as far as the way he’s thrown the ball, it’s been night and day from last year.

AF:  You’ve been with a lot of these guys for the past two seasons now. They seem like a pretty special crop of prospects to a lot of people. But you see more of them than anybody, so what’s your overall view of this group of players you’ve got here in Stockton?

RC:  I think everybody sees the talent on the field. It’s been a joy just to watch them play the game every single evening. But for me personally, just to be around them and see the way they interact in the clubhouse, to see the way they get their work done, to see the way that they influence not only the other position players but also the pitching staff and this group of 25 guys as a whole is really what makes them special. They really get it, they have leadership qualities, they’re just ballplayers and I just have to pinch myself when I think that the majority of them are still just 20 years old. But I’m excited for them. They’re great pieces for this organization. I don’t know what the long-term plan is for them. I know we’re in win-now mode in Oakland. So they’re valuable pieces. If they feel like they want to push them through and see them in Oakland one day, I would love that. But I know that they’re also valuable to help get a huge piece like what we’ve done with Addison Russell to get us [Jeff] Samardzija and [Jason] Hammel up there in the big leagues. So I’ve been blessed to be with them for two years and just enjoy being around them.

 

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Wednesday, July 23rd: Tyler Marincov’s 2-Run Homer Helps Snappers Win while Cats & Hounds Come Up Short

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Tyler Marincov (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Tyler Marincov (Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Beloit Snappers       6

Fort Wayne TinCaps  1

WP – Michaud 2-0 / 2.77

HR – Marincov (13), Mathews (7)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outifelder Tyler Marincov

(Home Run / 3 RBIs)

With Beloit down by a run in the top of the 8th, outfielder Tyler Marincov smacked a 2-run homer to deliver the winning run for the Snappers. Marincov walked with the bases loaded to bring home another run in Beloit’s 4-run 9th. Designated hitter Ryan Matthews also slugged a 2-run shot in the 9th, while catcher Philip Pohl, third baseman Luis Baez and outfielder B.J. Boyd had a pair of hits apiece. Starter Matt Stalcup was solid, allowing just 1 run over 5 innings of work, while RHP Joe Michaud tossed 4 scoreless innings in relief to earn his 2nd win for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Vermont & AZL A’s…

A’s Top Prospects Soaring At Stockton

Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton

Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton

This year, the biggest crop of top prospects for the A’s has been playing for the Stockton Ports in the Class-A California League. Four of the A’s top five picks from the 2012 draft class were all playing for the Ports until catcher Bruce Maxwell was promoted to Midland on Tuesday. And three of the team’s top four picks from the 2013 draft class were playing there as well until top pick Billy McKinney was traded. If you want to see what the future has to hold for the A’s, then you need to take at look at Stockton – and that’s just what we did!

A’s Farm took the opportunity to talk with seven of the team’s top players while in Stockton earlier this month, shortly before Bruce Maxwell’s promotion to Midland. It’s clear that they’re not only a talented, but also a tight-knit, group of players who’ve got their noses to the grindstone and are ready and willing to do what it takes to keep moving onward and upward as far as their talents will take them…

 

BRUCE MAXWELL

bmDSC02921bxThe A’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2012 out of Birmingham-Southern College, the 23-year-old catcher was just promoted to Midland on Tuesday. With his previous college experience, he’s always been a half-step ahead of his peers from the top tier of the 2012 draft. Maxwell has always had the ability to get on base, but he’s also worked hard to become a solid backstop behind the plate. He currently has to be considered the A’s top catching prospect and, now that he’s at Double-A, he’s just one step closer.

AF:  You came up to the California League last year and have been here for about a year now. Is there anything in particular that you’re working on or have been focused on trying to accomplish here?

BM:  One thing is just to stay consistent – that’s a big thing for me. Last year, I came out hot in the Midwest League and came out here and just kind of lost sight of what I was doing mechanically and mentally. Also, I’ve been trying to expand my game a little bit to the pull side of the baseball field. So just working on that and seeing the ball a little earlier, but also sticking to my middle-away approach is a big thing.

AF:  And what about behind the plate? Starting out, you didn’t have a whole lot of catching experience. But now you’re throwing out baserunners at a great rate and you seem really confident back there. What’s changed for you and how confident are you feeling now as a catcher?

BM:  I feel very confident. I can finally say I’m comfortable behind the plate. It just took repetitions. I was new to it. Just doing it day in and day out and getting used to what I can do and what I can’t do, what’s comfortable and what’s not, and just getting efficient at it. I’m throwing the ball very well. My footwork has gotten a lot better over the years, and so now I can actually feel confident and relax in a game and just do it naturally.

AF:  So was the key to being able to throw a lot of runners out for you just getting the footwork down?

BM:  Yes, it’s getting to my launch position as quick as possible with my feet. Behind the plate, you have such small room for error that everything has to be very efficient and very quick. I had a little more time as an infielder, so I had to shorten things up and be a little more exact. It took me years to try to master my footwork.

AF:  So now you’re at a point where you can just let your arm do the work.

BM:  Correct.

AF:  Let me ask you about a few of the pitchers here in Stockton. Seth Streich has been having one of the best seasons of anyone in the A’s system. What’s he doing right and what’s been working for him this year?

BM:  He just does his homework. He pays attention very closely when he’s not pitching. But when he gets on the hill, he just trusts in me and trusts in [fellow catcher] Ryan Gorton and his game plan. Sometimes he gets in trouble when he over-thinks, just like every pitcher. So we try to keep him in a very light and breezy mentality when he’s on the mound so he can just go out there and shove it at anybody who steps up to the plate.

AF:  And what have the most effective pitches in his repertoire been this season?

BM:  His fastball command is definitely a strength – in and out, up and down. And his changeup has been doing wonders for him as well. In this league, everybody can hit fastballs for the most part, but everybody struggles with the changeup.

AF:  What about Nolan Sanburn? He’s finally been healthy and been able to get out there on the mound and get some innings in out of the bullpen. How’s he been looking and what’s been working for him this year?

BM:  Nolan looks great. He got into a new mindset a few weeks ago just to go out there and put it on table and say, “Hey, here it is – see what you can do with it.” And ever since he’s taken that mentality, he’s been more efficient, he’s been throwing harder, he’s been throwing more strikes and he’s been dominating a lot more hitters. He’s got a great curveball, he’s working on a slider, but his fastball has been blowing people away.

AF:  Now what about Michael Ynoa? How’s he been throwing and where’s he at at this stage of the game?

BM:  He’s progressing just like everyone else. Last year, he threw 72 innings, so this year they’re trying to get his innings up. He’s doing better. When he goes out there and has the right mentality and actually believes in what he does, he dominates pretty easily – just trusting in his fastball and working on putting it where he wants to put it. He’s already got the stuff, he’s already got the movement, he’s already got the velocity. Now he’s just got to work on putting it where he wants to put it.

AF:  So it sounds like being confident, being aggressive and mastering his command are the keys for him at this point.

BM:  Definitely. The guy sits between 95-100 mph every outing. So if he can put 95 mph on a corner, then I think he’ll be something to reckon with down the road.

AF:  So how much time do you spend with pitching coach John Wasdin talking about things?

BM:  Being with Wasdin for the second year in a row, we know each other very well…but I spend a lot of time with him. We talk about everything throughout BP, before the games and sometimes even on the bus. This league’s a little different than the Midwest League – the Midwest League has more teams, so you have to have a little bit more of an in-depth scouting report. In this league, you play everybody a ton, so we tend to remember things. So we bounce ideas off each other. And we just kind of correlate and make sure everything’s running smoothly before we bring our pitchers in and talk to them and make sure we agree on everything.

AF:  What about working with the pitching staff? Do you enjoy that whole aspect of the game?

BM:  I love it. The scouting reports and the day-in and day-out stuff with our pitchers is very enjoyable. We have a great group of guys here. A lot of us have been around each other for a long time, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We feel very comfortable with each other, so it’s easier to notice things with guys because you’ve seen them over and over again. So the communication between pitcher and catcher on this team is easy…and it’s all constructive.

 

DANIEL ROBERTSON

drrobertson480_szmaxxpi_ibplc2rl2The A’s 1st-round supplemental draft pick in 2012 out of Upland High School in California, the 20-year-old infielder had been looked at as the second-best shortstop in the A’s system until the trade of his good friend Addison Russell. Robertson has impressed both at the plate and in the field this year, and his play undoubtedly made it a little easier for the A’s to deal their top prospect and install Robertson as the A’s new “shortstop of the future.” He has the second-most hits among A’s minor leaguers so far this season and his improved plate discipline this year has allowed him to put up the third-best on-base percentage in the A’s minor league system.

AF:  How surprising was it for you to see one of your best friends, Addison Russell, along with one of your teammates here in Stockton, Billy McKinney, get traded?

DR:  It was a surprise, no doubt. With me and Addison getting drafted, as well as Matt Olson, the same year, the last couple years we got real close to each other and did everything together when we had the opportunity. But that’s just how baseball goes – it’s a business. He has his new journey now, and I believe he’ll be successful no matter where he plays. I was surpised, but you’ve still got to go out and play the game.

AF:  There’s always a game to play tomorrow.

DR:  That’s right.

AF:  So are you still planning on staying together out in spring training now?

DR: That’s a good question. It’s up to him. The place is always open. He was the first one there. I’d love to have him there, but it’s up to him.

AF:  So as for you, how does it feel to know that you’ll now be sticking at shortstop and people won’t always be asking when and if you’ll be switching positions with Addison at shortstop in front of you and the path is a little clearer for you now?

DR:  You can say it’s clearer but, for me personally, I always just tell myself you’ve got to come out here and play every day. I felt my abilities were good enough to get to the big leagues no matter who was playing with me or beside me or the Addison question – it didn’t really affect me at the time. But like you said, I guess it’s more open, but that really doesn’t change my mindset at all. I just love coming out here and playing every day, and whatever happens after that is what happens.

AF:  Is shortstop a position you particularly enjoy playing?

DR:  I love playing short. I’ve done a lot of work to stay there, so I’d like to stay there as long as I can. I enjoy it. I feel like you’re the captain of the infield and you can just take control of the game on the defensive side. I love it – I like making that big play there.

AF:  Well, you’re definitely right in the middle of the action there. Now what about at the plate? This year, you seem to have really improved your plate discipline – your walks are up, you’re getting on base a lot. Was that something you were consciously focused on coming into the season and have there been any particular adjustments you’ve made this year?

DR:  I just think it’s getting at-bats under my belt. With more experience and just playing, that stuff’s going to come. I’ve always had a pretty solid approach, but I feel like now I’m really dialed into my zone and when I get my pitch, I’m not missing it. The walks have gone up…but nothing has changed. I didn’t go into the offseason thinking that I’ve got to work on my approach and get my walk numbers up. I just try to come out here and see the ball as well as I can…but I just think it’s been coming with more experience. Even the at-bats I got in big league spring training I think really helped me a lot too.

AF:  I was going to ask you about that. How was that experience for you, having the chance to spend a little bit of time in the big league camp for more than just a day or two this spring?

DR:  I got into some pretty good action there. And it was awesome. All the guys there treated me real well. Bob Melvin’s a great guy. I just soaked up the whole experience. It was my first healthy spring training I’ve had where I was out there every day. And to be put in that situation, I feel like it was a blessing. I learned a lot and I feel like my game got a whole lot better. Just seeing what those guys were doing day in and day out and how they went about their business, it kind of put in my head that I could do this – not that I had any doubts before. But all those guys up there are top-notch guys and real class acts. They welcomed me and I enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.

AF:  Was there anyone in the A’s clubhouse who was particularly friendly or took you under their wing a bit?

DR:  I was with Addison most of the time. But guys like Coco Crisp – he’s a great guy. Derek Norris talked to me a lot. And Stephen Vogt, I know him just from being around southern California. He went to Azusa Pacific, so we got to know each other pretty well. Nick Punto was awesome working on some ground ball stuff. Everyone was awesome.

AF:  You’re from California, so what’s it like for you to be back out here playing in the California League?

DR:  It’s an amazing experience. I was in Wisconsin last year, so my family didn’t really get to come out too much – I’m sure they didn’t really want to either! But it’s been great. When we go down to Bakersfield and Lancaster, it’s about an hour or two hours away and I’ve had my family there. And when we went down to Inland Empire in April, that was the first time that my family and friends and most people who are in my life got to see me play professionally since I signed. So it’s been a great experience being close to home and playing in front of friends and family.

AF:  Are there any particular goals you’re focused on or things you’re working on trying to accomplish the rest of the season?

DR:  Just maintaining what I’m doing. I love coming out here and playing hard every day…I don’t think there’s anything better you can do than come out and play baseball. I don’t like to put goals or expectations on myself because sometimes you can get out of what you’re doing and try to do too much. So I’m just trying to stay within myself and see the ball and hit it hard. And whatever happens after that happens.

AF:  Well, that plan seems to be working out pretty well so far!

 

MATT OLSON

mo15095_4110106706138_1463379083_n4The A’s 1st-round supplemental draft pick in 2012 out of Parkview High School in Georgia, 20-year-old first baseman is clearly one the top power prospects in the A’s system. Olson currently leads the California League in home runs with 28 and has the second-best slugging percentage among all A’s minor leaguers. His .393 on-base percentage and his 89 walks in his first 100 games certainly serve to endear him to the A’s front office as well.

AF:  So how’s the adjustment to the California League from the Midwest League been for you this year?

MO:  Obviously, the weather’s better. It’s a little easier transitioning from spring training to this as opposed to going from spring training to 35 degrees. I’ve got another year under the belt and kind of had a better idea what to expect going into this year.

AF:  Now what about your power numbers? You’ve always hit home runs, but recently you’ve been hitting even more. Is there anything in particular that accounts for that power surge?

MO:  No, nothing specific. If anything, it’s just waiting to get the right pitch to drive. I think my walk numbers have definitely helped my power numbers, because I’m being more selective and not getting myself out as much up there at the plate.

AF:  Your walk numbers have gone up and your strikeout numbers have gone down this year. Was that something you were specifically focused on coming into this year?

MO:  Yeah, obviously I struck out more than I would have liked last year. I still had decent walk numbers. But it’s just kind of my approach at the plate – not giving pitchers pitches, not getting out of my zone. And that was a big thing that Trick [former minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson] and [A’s special assistant] Grady Fuson and even [current minor league hitting coordinator] Marcus Jensen this year just wanted me to focus in on – just getting a specific zone and attacking that.

AF:  So now you’re really looking for your pitch in your spot and not settling for things that aren’t your pitch.

MO:  Right, just zoning in on certain stuff.

AF:  Now what about in the field? You’ve always had some skills out there. Are you feeling pretty confident out there around the bag?

MO:  Yeah, I take pride in being a defensive player as well. Sometimes, they stick the guy who can’t play anywhere else at first base. But I take pride in it. I know that I’m there to pick guys up, and I don’t want to be the guy bringing everyone down on the defensive side.

AF:  You got a start in the outfield the other night. How did that feel, and when was the last time you played a game in the outfield?

MO:  That was my first time in pro ball, since high school. But it’s definitely something I’m open to. Whatever keeps me in the lineup, and if I’ve got to go to the outfield, so be it.

AF:  Did the game look a little different from that far away?

MO:  It did, but it’s definitely something I could get comfortable with.

AF:  A couple of your buddies got traded away recently. How surprising was it for you to see Addison Russell and Billy McKinney get dealt?

MO:  I think it came as a shock initially for everybody. But it is a business. Our management wanted to get the big league team some help and they’re obviously pushing.

AF:  How has it been for you to play with this group of guys that you’ve been with for the most part since you were first drafted?

MO:  It’s awesome. We’ve got a great clubhouse. Everyone gets along. We’re having fun, but we know when the game starts, we’re there to work. It’s a great group of guys – I haven’t really had any problems with any of them. Anytime you can see people every day for six months and not get tired of them, that’s something to say.

AF:  It is! Is there anything in particular you’re focused on or any goals that you’ve got the rest of the year?

MO:  I’m just up there trying to put together good at-bats, play good defense and help the team win.

 

CHAD PINDER

cpDSC03243dThe A’s 2nd-round supplemental draft pick in 2013 out of Virginia Tech, the 22-year-old infielder spent most of his college career at third base and shortstop but has primarily been playing second base this season at Stockton. After struggling a bit last year at Vermont, he skipped over the Midwest League and went straight to Stockton, where he got off to a great start. And his 18 doubles and 11 home runs have helped him to have the third-best slugging percentage among all A’s minor leaguers.

AF:  You got off to a great start right off the bat in the California League this year. Is there anything in particular that accounts for your success this season?

CP:  I’m not sure – kind of just believing in myself. You know, I had a rough start last year and I kind of was down on myself and I don’t think I played my game. So I’ve just kind of refocused my mindset to just going out there and having fun and playing the way I think I’m capable of.

AF:  You were also dealing with some lingering injuries last year too, right?

CP:  Yeah, I got banged up a bit.

AF:  So you started out this year healthy and that gave you a good confident feeling that you could get back out there and get things started the right way.

CP:  Anytime you take five months off of baseball, you’re just chomping at the bit to get to spring training and get to a team. So it was awesome just to have that extra energy to get back out there. And it was great to see that they had the confidence to send me out to the California League, so that gave me a little bit of confidence.

AF:  Now what about in the field? You’ve been playing second base out here this year. I don’t know how much second base you’ve played in your life before.

CP:  I played a little bit of second base growing up – very little. In college, maybe like 5 innings at second base. I played the majority of my college career at third and then ended up moving to short during my junior year. So it was a transition for me. And from day one, when they threw me at second, I felt like a fish out of water – and I’m sure I looked like one too! I was struggling. But each day, going out there and doing the early work and getting the repetitions, it’s helped me. I think I’ve grown a lot and I still have a lot of growing to do over there and I’m excited for it.

AF:  So how surprising was it to see your buddy Billy McKinney get traded away recently? That must have been a bit out of the blue for you.

CP:  Yeah, it was. It was out of the blue. It’s something you obviously don’t think it about till it happens. It was a bummer. He was my roommate and I miss the kid. But I guess it’s part of the game. I don’t know, I wish him the best and he’s going to have a great career.

AF:  So are you roommate-less now in Stockton?

CP:  No, he was one of my four roommates. I’m still with Daniel Robertson, Matt Olson and Austin House. So I still have those guys.

AF:  Did you ever have the chance to spend any time in California before you started playing out here in the Cal League, and how does it compare to Virginia, where you’re from?

CP:  First time ever in California…The biggest thing is the weather, for sure. Out here, it’s perfect every day, not a cloud in the sky. At home, I’m sure it’s muggy, probably raining. It’d be awesome to have this type of weather every day to play baseball.

AF:  Is there anything in particular you’re focused on the rest of the season?

CP:  Obviously, continuing to work at second base and getting better over there. And then at the plate, not to change anything, but to continue to buckle down and work on my two-strike approach. I think that’s the biggest thing for me right now, but it’s not going to take away from me being aggressive early in the count.

AF:  What about your selectivity? The A’s are always big on plate discipline and taking your walks. Is that something they’ve spoken to you about at all or are they just letting you go out there and do your thing at this point?

CP:  No, I haven’t heard much on it at all. But it’s something that I want to do to make myself a better player. I’ve gotten myself out many times on two strikes, and on a lot on pitches that I need to lay off of, and it’s something that only I can handle and that I can do myself.

 

RYON HEALY

rh1223780bThe A’s 3rd-round draft pick in 2013 out of the University of Oregon, the 22-year-old first baseman/third baseman spent most of his college career at first base but has been working to add third base to his resume at Stockton. Along with teammate Chad Pinder, he skipped over the Midwest League and went straight to Stockton this season. And after getting off to a slow start in the California League, he now has the third-most hits among A’s minor leaguers.

AF:  The start of the season might have been a little frustrating for you, but you’ve certainly been turning it on of late. Did anything change in terms of your approach?

RH:  I would say the preparation definitely got a lot better. The pro game has been a lot different than what I was used to. And the coaching staff here has done a great job of getting me adjusted to that and getting me acclimated, so I give them a lot of credit.

AF:  Are there any specific adjustments you’ve made since the beginning of the season that have helped account for the success that you’re having now?

RH:  I think simplifying my swing, and also pitch selection’s been a big part of it. Getting my pitch and being able to do something with it. That’s really helped my success lately.

AF:  So being a little more patient and waiting for your pitch has been key.

RH:  Definitely.

AF:  What about the pitching that you’re facing here in the California League? How does it compare to the competition that you’ve faced in the past?

RH:  I think the main thing is consistency. A lot of these pitchers have a lot more control over more than two or three pitches. A lot of them are four-pitch guys and they can spot their fastball with the changeup, curve, slider. So that’s where the discipline comes in, getting my pitch to hit, because they have so many options. And if I stay disciplined in my zone, then I have a better chance of being successful.

AF:  Now what about playing third base? Obviously that’s a little new to you, but how are you feeling over there and how do you feel about your progress?

RH:  I feel my progress is getting there. It’s not where it needs to be, but I feel like it’s on the right track. Considering last year to this year, through instructs and spring training, I think the progressions have been made and it’s getting better and I’m feeling more comfortable. It’s still a work in progress, but I feel it has potential.

AF:  You’ve been playing with a new group of guys this year than you were primarily with last year. So how have you gotten along with this bunch of guys?

RH:  I haven’t played with a group of guys in a while that has this much fun on a daily basis. We’re at the park for eight to ten hours a day, and we have a great time together. As you can see from our record and our stats, we definitely get the job done in the field. And we have fun doing it, so that makes it more enjoyable to show up at the park and the clubhouse. Between the coaching staff and the players, we all have a very good time together.

AF:  Now I know you’re from California. So how nice is it for you to be playing back out here?

RH:  You can’t complain when you’ve got weather like this on a daily basis. You show up and the sun’s out. I’m from about five hours south of here, so my family gets to come out a lot. So that’s been a blessing this season.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that you’re trying to work on or focus on during the rest of the season?

RH:  I think continuing to do well in my preparation – the things that are controllable. Sometimes you can’t control the outcome of the game or the outcome of your at-bats or how many hits you get in a game. But I think the quality of my at-bats, I want to continue to have them be better and continue to get better. And also limit the amount of bad at-bats. I don’t want to have a stretch of ten bad at-bats. You want to limit them to two or three. And having them just be a bad at-bat, not a bad game or a bad week or a bad month. So cutting that time period down is what’s important.

 

JAYCOB BRUGMAN

BrugmanThe A’s 17th-round draft pick in 2013 out of Brigham Young University, the 22-year-old outfielder started the season in the Midwest League, where he was one of Beloit’s best hitters. But after the trade of Billy McKinney and Herschel Powell’s suspension, opportunity came knocking and Brugman was on his way to Stockton. In his second game with the Ports, Brugman homered, doubled and drove in 4 runs and has posted a .279/.323/.443 slash line since his arrival in Stockton.

AF:  You had a big night in just your second game here in Stockton, hitting a home run and driving in 4 runs, including the winning run in the bottom of the 9th. How did that feel for you?

JB:  It felt great. It’s always good to be welcomed in a home stadium in your first game and do well. It’s kind of nice.

AF:  When you first heard you were getting promoted to Stockton, were you expecting it or were you a little surprised, and how did you feel when you heard you were coming here?

JB:  During the season, I was thinking no way. But with the recent moves and changes, I kind of had an idea that it might be me, because I knew it had to be an outfielder, and I was just in the right place at the right time.

AF:  Now you were having a good season at Beloit. So what was really working for you there?

JB:  It really was a lot of different things, just making adjustments throughout the year, making adjustments to different pitching. You’ve really got to take one game at a time and not stress on your bad games. I was just really comfortable there…and stayed decently hot for a long period of time, and it’s easy to play every day when you’re swinging that well.

AF:  Is there anything in particular that you’re working on at this point in time?

JB:  For me personally, I’d like to work on swinging at better pitches and getting more walks. I really am a believer in getting on base and having a good on-base percentage. That’s the only way your team can win, and that’s what I want to do.

AF:  Well, you’re definitely in the right organization for that! Now I guess you were the one married guy on the team in Beloit. So what advantages are there for you to have that support system there for you, and are there any disadvantages?

JB:  Well, I love it. I love my wife and my daughter. If they’re with me, then I’m happier. And if you’re happier, then you play better – that’s the simple fact. They got to live with me for a couple months, and it’s a blessing to have them come to me wherever I am. And they’ll be joining me here, so that’ll be nice. No disadvantages, just sometimes a little less sleep than you want. And you obviously can’t go out partying at night with your teammates, but that’s not really my scene anyway, so it works out good for me.

AF:  Do you have any particular goals or anything you’re focused on the rest of the year?

JB:  Mainly just doing anything I can to help my team win. I just want to continue my success from Beloit over here – that’s all you can ask for. I’m just going to try to have fun and finish strong. That’s a big goal of mine is finishing strong the way you want – no regrets at the end of the season.

 

SETH STREICH

ssStreich2bThe A’s 6th-round draft pick in 2012 out of Ohio University, the 23-year-old right-hander has put together the best season of any starting pitcher in the A’s system this season while competing in the hitter-friendly California League. Streich leads all A’s minor leaguers with 111 strikeouts while walking just 22 and posting an impressive 3.01 ERA over 107 2/3 innings for Stockton.

AF:  You’ve been having a great year so far. So what accounts for your success this season?

SS:  I think the main thing is just hard work and the consistent approach I take – just staying focused day to day.

AF:  Tell me a little bit about your approach on the mound.

SS:  Well, in its basic sense, pitching is about disrupting timing and keeping hitters off balance. And that’s one of the main focuses I’ve had this year, just trying to move the ball in and out.

AF:  How’s your fastball command been this year? Are you pretty confident that you can put it where you want for the most part?

SS:  Most of the time. It’s still not where I want it to be, but I’m working on it every day. And I think from last year to this year, I’ve made a lot of strides in being able to locate the fastball.

AF:  What about your changeup? It seems like it’s been a pretty strong pitch for you this year. Do you feel a greater sense of confidence in your changeup at this point?

SS:  Yeah. With my changeup, it’s just a matter of working on it every day. I feel like I’ve made strides with my changeup.

AF:  You’ve been with your pitching coach John Wasdin for a couple of seasons now. What does he bring to the table for you?

SS:  I’ll never say a bad word about that man. I look up to him. He’s been extraordinary, and not only with my life on the baseball field but off it. The man’s awesome. He’s a great pitching coach, and it’s been great to be around him the past two years.

AF:  Do you feel it’s particularly valuable to have someone who’s been there in the major leagues and knows what it takes?

SS:  It goes without saying. The guy had a great career. I think he’s very underrated. He’s been all over the world to play baseball. And it’s just awesome to be around him on a day-to-day basis.

AF:  Now I know you’re from Pennsylvania. Had you ever spent much time out here in California before coming out here to the California League?

SS:  No I hadn’t. And now that I’ve spent this much time out here, my eye allergies are killing me. I don’t know what’s going on. It’s been a great time, but sometimes I struggle to keep my eyes open.

AF:  So I guess it’s amazing that you can see the plate at this point! So is there anything that you’re working on or focused on the rest of the season.

SS:  Just trying to build on the success that I’ve had. I’m not trying to change too much up, because I’m trying to stick with what’s working for me. I’m just trying to stay balanced and see where it takes me.

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm. You can also get our weekly A’s minor league newsletter e-mailed to you free by signing up here.

Tuesday, July 22nd: Shane Peterson Singles in Winning Run in 13th for River Cats as Drew Pomeranz Is Solid in His Third Start for Sacramento

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Outfielder Shane Peterson (3 for 6 / RBI)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Outfielder Shane Peterson (3 for 6 / RBI)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  3

El Paso Chihuahuas          2

WP – Savery 6-1 / 2.51

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Shane Peterson

(3 for 6 / RBI)

With two outs, the bases loaded and the game tied in the top of the 13th inning, outfielder Shane Peterson stepped to the plate and singled home the winning run for the River Cats on Tuesday. It was the third hit of the night for Peterson, who was last week’s Pacific Coast League Player of the Week. Second baseman Jose Martinez singled, doubled and drove in 2 runs, while first baseman Anthony Aliotti had a pair of doubles and scored twice. Starter Drew Pomeranz was solid, allowing just 1 run and striking out 5 over 6 innings of work, while RHP Evan Scribner gave up the tying run in the bottom of the 9th. LHP Joe Savery pitched 2 perfect innings in relief to pick up the win, and RHP Seth Frankoff tossed a scoreless frame in the bottom of the 13th to earn his 1st save for Sacramento.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Monday, July 21st: Zach Neal Pitches Sacramento to Victory as Andy Parrino Returns to River Cats and Renato Nunez Homers to Help Stockton Win

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Zach Neal (5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Zach Neal (5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  6

El Paso Chihuahuas          1

WP – Neal 3-5 / 4.48

HR – Whitaker (3)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Zach Neal

(5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / Win)

RHP Zach Neal delivered an impressive start for Sacramento on Monday, allowing just 2 baserunners on a pair of singles while walking none and striking out 3 over 5 innings of work to earn his 3rd win for the River Cats. Neal also had to endure a 67-minute rain delay in the middle of the 4th inning before returning to the mound. RHP Tucker Healy gave up 1 run in 1 inning of relief, while RHP Paul Smyth pitched 2 perfect innings, and RHP Jeremy McBryde tossed a scoreless 9th for Sacramento. Designated hitter Josh Whitaker homered for the second straight night, while third baseman Jose Martinez had 3 hits, and first baseman Daric Barton drove in 3 runs for the River Cats. Meanwhile, shortstop Andy Parrino was optioned back to Sacramento, while infielder Colin Walsh was placed on the disabled list. And River Cats outfielder Shane Peterson was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Sunday, July 20th: Lou Trivino Pitches Snappers to Victory while Rehabbing A’s Outfielder Josh Reddick Homers in Ports Loss

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Lou Trivino (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Lou Trivino (7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Bowling Green Hot Rods  0

Beloit Snappers              4

WP – Trivino 5-8 / 5.33

HR – Vollmuth (9)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Lou Trivino

(7 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Lou Trivino turned in his best start of the season to help the Snappers win their second straight on Sunday. Trivino allowed just 2 hits over 7 shutout innings to earn his 5th win for the Snappers, while RHP Sam Bragg pitched 2 perfect innings in relief to pick up his 4th save. Outfielder Tyler Marincov had his second straight multi-hit game, posting a pair of doubles and driving in a pair of runs, and first baseman B.A. Vollmuth homered in his second straight game for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Stockton & Vermont…

Saturday, July 19th: Snappers Win Behind Marincov’s Big Bat while Tommy Milone Struggles for Cats and Josh Reddick Goes 0 for 4 for Ports

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Tyler Marincov (3 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Outfielder Tyler Marincov (3 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)

 

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Bowling Green Hot Rods  4

Beloit Snappers              5

WP – Adkins 1-3 / 5.40

HR – Marincov (12), Vollmuth (8)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Tyler Marincov

(3 for 4 / Home Run / Triple / 2 RBIs)

Outfielder Tyler Marincov had a big night for Beloit on Saturday. Last year’s 8th-round draft pick for the A’s singled, tripled, homered and drove in 2 runs, including the tying run in the bottom of the 6th to help the Snappers snap their 3-game losing streak. First baseman B.A. Vollmuth singled, homered and drove in a pair, including the winning run in the 6th, while second baseman Melvin Mercedes, outfielder Justin Higley and designated hitter Ryan Mathews had a pair of hits apiece. Starter Hunter Adkins allowed 4 runs and struck out 6 in 6 innings of work to pick up his 1st win, while RHP Brendan McCurry struck out 4 in 2 scoreless innings of relief, and RHP Bobby Wahl pitched a perfect 9th to post his 4th save.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Midland, Stockton, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Friday, July 18th: Hounds Win in a Walk-Off Thanks to Kent Matthes Grand Slam while Josh Reddick Homers in 9th to Help Ports Win

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Designated Hitter Kent Matthes (Grand Slam)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Designated Hitter Kent Matthes (Grand Slam)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

San Antonio Missions     3

Midland RockHounds  5

WP – Hassebrock 4-0 / 6.32

HR – Matthes (5)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Designated Hitter Kent Matthes

(Grand Slam)

With the bases loaded and Midland down by two runs in the bottom of the 9th, designated hitter Kent Matthes slugged a grand slam to give the RockHounds the walk-off win on Friday night, and the Hounds have now won 13 of their last 15 games. Catcher Beau Taylor and third baseman Jefry Marte had a pair of hits apiece in the game. Starter Shawn Haviland had a solid outing, allowing 2 runs and striking out 6 in 6 innings of work, while LHP Frank Gailey tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief, and RHP Blake Hassebrock picked up the win after giving up an unearned run in the top of the 9th.

Click here for more on Sacramento, Stockton, Beloit, Vermont & AZL A’s…

Exclusive: Get the Inside Scoop on Sacramento’s Top Players from River Cats Manager Steve Scarsone and Pitching Coach Rick Rodriguez

After spending two seasons mentoring A’s minor leaguers as the manager at Midland, Steve Scarsone is now midway through his second season as the skipper in Sacramento. Meanwhile, Rick Rodriguez is the long-time River Cats pitching coach, though he also served a brief stint as the A’s bullpen coach, and he’s had a hand in developing many of the A’s most talented young pitchers. We spoke with both of them last week in Sacramento, just a day before one of the River Cats’ top players, shortstop Andy Parrino (who was the first player we’d asked the skipper about), was recalled by the A’s…

 

STEVE SCARSONE

ssscarsone_steve_river_cats_n-304bAF:  I wanted to start off by asking you about a couple of guys who’ve been real staples for you here this year in Sacramento. First off, Andy Parrino. What is it that you like about him, what does he bring to your team and what can you see him bringing to a major league team as well?

SS:  Well, right off the bat, we’re talking about a guy who plays solid defense. He’s a top caliber shortstop, and I believe he can help any major league team defensively. He’s also shown that he can have some flexibility at second base and third base, and I know that last spring we used him in the outfield a little bit as Bob Melvin was trying to get an idea of how he could fit in with that club up there. What Andy does here is give us great stability in the infield. I think the pitchers are better when he’s back there. And I think the rest of the fielders rise a little bit to try to stay at his level because of his knowledge of the game, his preparation and the way he anticipates what’s going to happen. As a former infielder myself, he’s just a joy to watch, to talk with and strategize with, and he will apply what we want to do. That I think is his biggest asset to this club or to a major league club. Now this year, he’s swinging the bat much better than last year. Last year, he had a little off year. So this year, he’s back on track with that. He’s currently leading our club in home runs, which isn’t a lot, but someone’s got to do it! And he’s just a guy who works hard every day, goes out and plays hard every night and really cares about his performance, the team’s performance and winning – and that’s a great combination.

AF:  The other guy who’s been a real lock for you in the lineup every day this year is Shane Peterson. What does he bring to your team and what skill set could he have to offer in the majors at some point?

SS:  Well, just like Andy, Shane spends a lot of time preparing himself for the game defensively and offensively. He’s shown that he’s able to play all three outfield positions. He’s done most of his time in center field this year, mostly because of the other personnel we’ve had on the club, but it’s given him an opportunity to showcase himself as a center fielder. He’s kind of been trying to beef up his stolen bases to show that he can steal some bags, so he’s brought that to our club. I think he’s been a much smarter hitter than in the past years that we’ve been together in terms of his planning and staying with his plan. And he’s just a very likeable guy. The club follows him naturally and he goes out there and plays hard every night, just like Andy. The two of those guys are really examples of why we’ve had success this year. It’s guys like Andy and Shane and their approach to every game and that never-quit mentality that’s pushed us over the top in so many close games.

AF:  A couple of new guys here I wanted to get your impression of. Josh Whitaker came up not too long after he was pretty seriously beaned in the head at Midland, which was a little scary. Now that he’s up here with you, what have you seen out of him and what are your impressions so far of Josh Whitaker?

jw53436225e2696.preview-300bSS:  I’ve gotten a chance to see Josh a little bit through the years…I was initially concerned that he was pushed up here a little quick after coming off the concussion stuff. But be that as it may, it looks like he’s taken a little bit of time to get himself acclimated. I know he’s just trying to get himself going again after the injury, and then at a higher level. So I’ve taken that into account when I’m making my evaluations or observations. What I’ve seen over the last two series is a guy who’s starting to feel a little bit more comfortable at the plate. He’s starting to become more aggressive. For a bigger guy, he plays a very good outfield. He’s made a couple of really nice catches, and his arm has proven to be something that people are going to have to take note of. He’s had a couple of outfield assists already, and he’s not afraid to let it loose. So, I think we’ve got something here.

AF:  Now what about one of your newest additions, who was claimed off waivers from Toronto, outfielder Kenny Wilson? A lot of people don’t really know that much about him, so tell me what you can about Kenny Wilson at this point.

SS:  He’s a guy who’s kind of been bouncing around a bit, A-Ball, Double-A. He spent a couple years as a switch-hitter. I think if you go back and look at his numbers a few years ago, you’re going to think he wasn’t doing much. But he was attempting to switch hit. He’s since abandoned that and he’s just a right-handed hitter now. He’s got some speed, he’s going to steal some bases, which I know will fit in well here, as well as up above. It’s going to be fun to see how he develops.

AF:  Another guy I want to ask you about is Tommy Milone. For you, as the manager here, what’s your approach when someone who’s clearly major league talent ends up on your roster here?

tm140238643_display_imageSS:  I’ve gotten to know Tommy over the last couple of years, so there’s already a familiarity there and a mutual respect I would hope. So when you have a guy like Tommy coming down and he’s done everything that they’ve asked him to do in Oakland and yet here he is, it is a little different situation. I think all of us who’ve been in the game for any number of years, you’re going to be asked to do things that maybe don’t make sense in your head but it’s for a bigger cause. I think Tommy’s pretty grounded as an individual and he understands some of the business end of it. I’m sure he wasn’t happy, and I’m not going to be the one to make it worse for him. So it’s an open-arms type of situation. It’s how can we help you transition. And you kind of give a guy like that a little bit more leeway.

AF:  I know you’re in touch with the minor league operations staff all the time, but how much communication do you have with the major league staff about the players here?

SS:  It’s not a daily thing. It’s more as situations present themselves. Most of my communication on that end is from [A’s assistant general manager] David Forst bringing down ideas or suggestions on where he would like things to go. We try to facilitate what they want done here. But I don’t expect Bob Melvin to be calling to see how things are going or if I’m doing okay. I’d be worried if he did. He’s got his hands full…We make nightly reports, so most of the information is there. And every once in a while, there might be a question. Like maybe I’ll get a call about Tommy and how he’s doing transitioning, and I’ll try to be as honest as possible.

AF:  Well, you’ve got another winning team here this year in Sacramento. But not only is it a winning team, but you seem to be having an awful lot of big, dramatic wins – a lot of walk-off wins. So how much fun has it been for you to manage this team this year?

SS:  First of all, it’s been a great time. It’s a great bunch. We’ve had some fun games. We’ve had some late-inning heroics and stuff. Those are always exciting and help fuel the grind of a season. But I’ve also been doing this for a while, so I’m not hanging on every single win or loss. I’m looking at the bigger picture – we’ve got to keep moving them forward, keep moving them forward. They’re a great bunch because they work hard and they really do kind of just go with the flow and there’s no sense of panic – and it’s evident in as many late-inning wins that we’ve had. If we fall behind, we don’t panic. And I think that’s a huge thing. When you think about a minor league game and a major league game, what’s the difference? The difference in a major league game is that you have to win. Winning that game is the only thing that they’re concerned with. Down here, we do strive to win, but we’re not going to jeopardize a player for a win…But you get in the tight games late, now the heat’s up. It simulates more of what an everyday major league game is going to be like. So the more games that we have that are tight like that, the better-suited these guys are going to be when they get into a big league game. So the more we can create a game intensity here, I think it’ll be a greater benefit to these guys moving up…That’s kind of what’s happening in our whole organization. I mean, you see them up there and they’re not phased by the pressure – and we’re trying to be the same way.

 

RICK RODRIGUEZ

rrrick_rodriguez_2011_05_24bAF:  Having an experienced guy like Tommy Milone back here in Sacramento, for you as a pitching coach, what’s your role with him like at this point?

RR:  Well, just to kind of find out exactly what he’s done in Oakland. I know from talking to Curt Young, our big league pitching coach, that they had done some things. So I want to get on the same page and kind of find out exactly from him what they’ve been doing and just try to continue it, because he has been throwing the ball very, very well. So that’s kind of what I have planned for him.

AF:  So basically just trying to continue through with the program that he’s been on.

RR:  Yeah, he knows how to pitch. He knows what he’s doing. It’s just kind of looking for things that he wants me to look for in his delivery.

AF:  Now a guy here who got a long look in spring training and looked really good down there in Arizona is Arnold Leon. The other night, he struck out 13 guys over 6 innings but gave up a couple of home runs, which did him in. But tell me where Arnold Leon’s at, what you like about him and what he needs to work on.

RR:  Lately, Arnold’s been doing a really good job of using his fastball more. I think that’s what he needed to do. He’s been more aggressive moving it in and out of the zone. His curveball was kind of a little bit loopy in the beginning of the year. He changed his grip and got a little bit tighter, so I think that’s helped him. His command’s always been pretty decent. His changeup was okay in the beginning, but it’s getting better now – it has a little bit later sink. So everything I think is starting to hit now and come together for him.

al628x471eAF:  Would you say that sometimes Mexican League pitchers try to be a little too fine and aren’t always as aggressive with their fastball as they ought to be?

RR:  When he got here last year, his fastball was very good, but his curveball was a little bit sharper. So I think he started to use his curveball a little bit more early and got away from using the fastball. So we were talking and we just decided he needed to use his fastball. He has a very good fastball with very good velocity and very good movement on it – use it, get ahead with it. And use that breaking ball a little bit later in the count instead of maybe over-exposing it too early in the game.

AF:  So it sounds like being aggressive with the fastball is really the key to his success at this point. Now I wanted to ask you about a new guy here who you probably haven’t had the chance to see whole lot of yet, and that’s Tucker Healy. He’s put up amazing strikeout numbers in the A’s system pitching out of the bullpen. He got into a couple of rough games here to start. But what have you been able to see out of him so far here?

RR:  I’m really just starting to get to know him and assess his strengths and what he needs to work on. From what I’ve seen, it looks like he has a good aggressive fastball and a nice little breaking ball. He’s not afraid to go after hitters. But it’s just more observation right now and just kind of seeing what he does and not give him too much instruction.

AF:  Is there anyone on the staff who you feel has made a big improvement or come a long way over the first half of the year?

jlJosh+Lindblom+Oakland+Athletics+Photo+Day+GzH80HnKvQXl2RR:  Well, Josh Lindblom. He didn’t have the best start in the world. And lately, his starts have been a lot more consistent in terms of having quality pitches and quality location. Unfortunately, he was just starting to get in that groove and he got hit in the ankle, so now he’s out for however many weeks. He was a guy who was really coming along. And hopefully, maybe it’s not as bad and he can come back and still pitch towards the end of the year with a few weeks left and then see what happens.

AF:  What’s the status of his ankle at this point?

RR:  I think he’s just going to go in a boot right now and just kind of rest it for a couple three weeks and then maybe just get another X-ray and see where it is…but it’s unfortunate that had to happen because he was making some good progress.

AF:  Is there anyone else you’ve seen make some real progress this year?

RR:  Well, Paul Smyth. He’s had quality outings against both left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters. He’s spotting his fastball. He doesn’t have that 95 mph fastball, but he’s in that 89-91 mph range with tremendous movement. He’s got a great slider. I think when he got here last year, left-handed hitters were hitting him a little bit better. But he’s made a great improvement on getting left-handed hitters out. He’s throwing strikes. He’s not afraid to come in in any situation. He’s very versatile – he’s pitched in the beginning of the game, he’s pitched late in the game. If you call down there, he’s ready to go. But he’s made tremendous improvement.

AF:  You’ve had a few experienced guys in your bullpen this year. Can you tell me a little bit about the guys you’ve been counting on down there this year?

RR:  Yeah, like Evan Scribner. He’s been very professional. He’s a very good pitcher. He’s been around. I had him when I was up in Oakland in the bullpen. He was very good up there. Fernando Rodriguez has been throwing the ball well. He’s coming back from Tommy John surgery. His velocity is up there now. His curveball is very sharp. I think the more times he gets out there, obviously the better off he’s going to be. So he just needs to pitch. Those two guys have been the mainstays of our bullpen. Jeremy McBryde has come a long way. Starting the year off, we really didn’t know where he was going to pitch. He kind of did a little bit of long relief, in the middle, some other stuff. And lately, he’s kind of been in a closing role with Scribner. And he’s excelled, he’s done very well, especially against right-handed hitters, and even against left-handed hitters. But he’s a guy who definitely can close a game just as well as Scribner can, or even Fernando coming in too. And then you’ve got Joe Savery from the left side, who has a very good fastball and breaking ball. Since he’s our only lefty, we’re trying to put him in situations where he can be used like he would be used in Oakland. And he’s been throwing the ball well. All in all, it’s been a good year. And I think guys are now starting to hit their stride, so that’s a good thing!

 

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