Month: May 2017

A’s Farm Report for Week of May 8-14: Brugman Returns, Gossett Gets Hot, Blackburn Goes Cold & Stockton Goes on Skid

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

 

After missing the start of the season with a leg injury, outfield prospect Jaycob Brugman‘s bat in now back in action for Nashville. Pitching prospect Daniel Gossett has been getting hot after a slow start, while his teammate Paul Blackburn has been cooling off after a fast start. And despite a promising pitching staff, the Stockton Ports have been struggling.

You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this weekly minor league report originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

Click here for this week’s updates on Nashville, Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Sunday, May 14th: Ports Drop 7th Straight Despite Brown’s Big Bat while Sounds & Hounds Both Get Blanked

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Seth Brown (2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Outfielder Seth Brown (2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports          4

Lancaster JetHawks  11

LP – Shore 1-3 / 3.12

HR – Brown 2 (7), Vidales (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder Seth Brown

(2 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 2 RBIs)

The Ports hit three home runs at The Hangar in Lancaster, but it wasn’t enough to keep Stockton from suffering its seventh straight loss on Sunday. Right fielder Seth Brown belted a home run in the top of the 2nd inning to tie the game 1-1, and then slugged his second solo shot of the day in the 7th to give him a team-leading 7 round-trippers on the season. Second baseman Josh Vidales smacked a solo shot of his own in the 6th, while third baseman Mikey White doubled twice and drove in a run, but that would account for all of Stockton’s scoring on Sunday. Starter Logan Shore had his rockiest outing of the season, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits over 4 1/3 frames to suffer his 3rd loss, while LHP Will Gilbert surrendered another 6 runs in just 1 2/3 innings of relief for the Ports.

Click here for more on Nashville & Midland…

Saturday, May 13th: Olson’s 2 HRs Help Sounds Win while Hounds Fall despite Walter’s Solid Effort

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Albuquerque Isotopes  3

Nashville Sounds       7

WP – Jensen 1-0 / 3.31

HR – Nunez (9), Olson 2 (7)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Matt Olson

(3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

The Sounds used three home runs to win their second straight against Albuquerque on Saturday. First baseman Matt Olson hit a 2-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 1st to give his team an early lead, then slugged his second 2-run shot of the night in the 6th. Olson also singled but was left stranded in the 8th, and the 23-year-old is now 5 for 15 with 3 home runs over his last 4 games for the Sounds. Left fielder Renato Nunez belted a 2-run blast of his own in the 3rd. It was his team-leading 9th round-tripper of the season for Nashville. RHP Daniel Mengden allowed just one base runner through the first three innings of his second rehab start for the Sounds. But he then allowed a pair of runs before exiting with two outs in the 4th and ultimately ended up being charged with 2 earned runs on 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 5 over 3 2/3 innings of work. RHP Chris Jensen picked up the win after allowing 1 run in 1 1/3 innings of relief, while RHP John Axford pitched a perfect 6th inning in his first rehab appearance for the Sounds. And working on the back end of what was basically a tandem start, RHP Raul Alcantara threw 3 scoreless frames to notch his 1st save for Nashville. Meanwhile, outfielder Jaff Decker cleared waivers and was sent back to the Sounds on Saturday.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Friday, May 12th: Gossett Pitches Sounds to Victory while Boyd’s Bat Helps Hounds Win Again

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (6 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (6 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Albuquerque Isotopes  1

Nashville Sounds       3

WP – Gossett 1-2 / 4.15

HR – Barreto (5), Parmelee (4)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Daniel Gossett

(6 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

RHP Daniel Gossett turned in his best start of the season for the Sounds, allowing just 1 run while striking out 7 over 6 innings of work to earn his 1st win on Friday. And the 24-year-old has now given up just 3 earned runs and struck out 16 in 16 innings over his last 3 starts. RHP Zach Neal, who’s now working out of the bullpen with Jharel Cotton‘s addition to the rotation, LHP Ross Detwiler and RHP Simon Castro each tossed 1 scoreless inning in relief, with Castro getting the final three outs in the 9th to notch his 3rd save for Nashville. Shortstop Franklin Barreto hit his 5th home run, a 2-run shot, in the 1st to give the Sounds an early lead, and right fielder Chris Parmelee followed with a solo shot in the 2nd. Left fielder Jaycob Brugman collected 3 hits, while center fielder Ryan LaMarre had a pair of singles as the Sounds snapped their four-game losing streak on Friday. In other news, A’s RHP John Axford was sent to Nashville on a rehab assignment and is scheduled to make his first relief appearance on Saturday, while RHP Daniel Mengden is set to make his second rehab start on Saturday for the Sounds.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Thursday, May 11th: Martin Helps Hounds Mount Comeback Win while Sounds & Ports Both Drop 4th Straight

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Shortstop Richie Martin (2 for 4 / Double / 2 Runs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Shortstop Richie Martin (2 for 4 / Double / 2 Runs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  3

Corpus Christi Hooks     1

WP – Trivino 4-0 / 0.61

Prospect Of The Game:

Shortstop Richie Martin

(2 for 4 / Double / 2 Runs)

The RockHounds were shut out on 3 hits through the first 7 innings on Thursday. And the Hounds were down 1-0 in the top of the 8th inning, when shortstop Richie Martin doubled and eventually came around to score the tying run on right fielder J.P. Sportman‘s sacrifice fly. Then, later in the same inning, designated hitter Tyler Marincov singled in center fielder Brett Vertigan, who’d also singled, to provide the margin of victory for Midland. Martin also singled to lead off the 6th but was left stranded and later came in to score an insurance run for the RockHounds in the top of the 9th. Starter Heath Fillmyer allowed 1 run over 4 innings of work and exited with his team down by a run. LHP Brandon Mann and RHP Lou Trivino each tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief, with Mann extending his scoreless-innings streak to 17 1/3, and Trivino picking up his 4th win. RHP Kyle Finnegan pitched a perfect 9th to post his 5th save as the Hounds won for the eighth time in their last nine games.

Click here for more on Nashville, Stockton & Beloit…

Wednesday, May 10th: Butler Pitches Snappers to Victory while Ports Fall in Extras

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Brendan Butler (6 2/3 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Beloit Snappers Pitcher Brendan Butler (6 2/3 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

MIDWEST LEAGUE  (Class-A)

Beloit Snappers          9

Lake County Captains  1

WP – Butler 1-2 / 1.82

HR – Goldstein (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Brendan Butler

(6 2/3 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 1 BB / 5 K / Win)

RHP Brendan Butler has been one of Beloit’s best pitchers so far this season, and he delivered another strong outing on Wednesday, allowing just 1 unearned run over 6 2/3 innings to earn his 1st win for the Snappers. No longer laboring under the innings limit imposed by the tandem-starter system, Butler turned in his longest outing of the season, and he’s now given up just 4 earned runs over his last 31 innings of work. RHP Jesus Zambrano pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings to pick up the save for the Snappers. Catcher Jason Goldstein singled, walked and slugged his 1st home run, while left fielder Luke Persico singled, doubled, walked, drove in a run and stole a base, and designated hitter Kyle Nowlin singled, walked and drove in 2 runs with a pair of sacrifice flies for the Snappers.

Click here for more on Stockton…

Tuesday, May 9th: Ports Fall despite Shore’s 5 No-Hit Frames while Olson & Chapman Homer and Manaea & Bassitt Make Rehab Appearances for Sounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Logan Shore (5 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 4 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher Logan Shore (5 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 4 K)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports         0

Lake Elsinore Storm  5

LP – Lyons 1-1 / 2.19

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Logan Shore

(5 IP / 0 H / 0 ER / 2 BB / 4 K)

Last year’s 2nd-round draft pick for the A’s, RHP Logan Shore, turned in an impressive outing for the Ports on Tuesday. The 22-year-old held Lake Elsinore scoreless over 5 no-hit innings and struck out 4 before exiting after throwing 68 pitches, 44 for strikes. It was his longest outing of the season after having worked as part of a two-man pitching tandem in all his previous appearances. Shore has been solid all season for Stockton, putting up a 2.37 ERA over his first 30 1/3 frames for the Ports, and he’s now allowed just 4 earned runs while walking 3 and striking out 20 in his last 18 1/3 innings over his last 5 appearances for Stockton. (You can see our recent interview with Shore here). LHP Jared Lyons took over after Shore’s exit and allowed 1 run in 1 2/3 innings of relief to take the loss, and RHP Nolan Blackwood then surrendered 4 more runs in his 1 inning of work for the Ports. Stockton was shut out on just 4 hits in the game. Catcher Jose Chavez singled, third baseman Mikey White doubled, and shortstop Eli White had a pair of hits for the Ports in the loss.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Beloit…

Getting To Know: A’s Pitching Prospect Logan Shore

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

ls624519bIt was a surprise spring training start in late March that gave many A’s fans their first look at Logan Shore. Donning a nameless jersey with the very spring training-esque number of “92” emblazoned on the back, the 22-year-old faced an Angels lineup that featured most of the team’s best big-league bats.

Shore, who had just been selected by the A’s in the second round of the amateur draft the previous summer, set down the first seven batters he faced, including reigning American League MVP Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, both on strikeouts. He didn’t allow a base runner until the third inning and, in his fourth and final frame, the kid from Coon Rapids, Minnesota retired the mighty Trout once again.

Shore would complete four full innings, allowing one run on just two hits while walking one and striking out three Angel batters. Although that one run earned him the loss that day, his impressive performance in a last-minute start opened a lot of eyes in the A’s big league camp.

Consistency and control have always been a big part of Shore’s success. Over the course of his college career at Florida, he walked an average of just 1.8 batters per 9 innings while compiling an ERA of 2.42 and increasing his strikeout rate every year. This year, in his age-22 season at Stockton, he’s currently sporting a 9.9 K/9 rate and a microscopic 1.1 BB/9 rate.

So far this season, Shore has surrendered one earned run or less in five of his seven appearances for the Ports, and he’s set to make his eighth appearance of the season for Stockton on Tuesday at Lake Elsinore. We took the opportunity to chat with Shore last weekend in Stockton and discussed his first season with the Ports, the organization’s recent tandem-pitching experiment, and what’s it’s like to have the chance to start his pro career alongside his long-time Florida roommate, A.J. Puk

 

AF:  A lot of folks got to see you for the first time in spring training, in that late-spring start you made against the Angels, when you struck out Mike Trout in the first inning. How much did that experience increase your confidence heading into this season at Stockton?

LS:  I think it was two starts before that that I was pitching against the Cubs and got to face [Anthony] Rizzo and [Wilson] Contreras over there, and I ended up striking out Rizzo twice. So, it was actually that which gave me confidence, especially going into that start, because I’d never faced big league guys before. It was my first full season in pro ball, so I didn’t have a whole lot of experience facing guys anywhere near that caliber. So really, for the Angels game, I was told the day before that I might start, so I was just going into it with an open mind and gave it all I had. There wasn’t a whole lot to lose.

Logan Shore

Shore in his Gator days

AF:  You’ve always done a great job of maintaining control of the strike zone and limiting your walks. But from your freshman year at Florida up through this season at Stockton, you’ve also been increasing the rate at which you’re striking out hitters every single year. What have you been learning and utilizing that’s helping you miss bats with greater frequency?

LS:  You know, honestly, my fastball has gotten a lot better as far as my velocity. I’m up two to three miles per hour since my last year in college. I think the command to both sides of the plate right now, from spring training until now, is the best in my career; on top of that, just throwing my changeup behind in the count and late in the count for swings and misses. My breaking ball has gotten a lot better too. That’s still going to be a work in progress but, for the most part, it’s gotten better from last year.

AF:  When we spoke with Brett Graves last week, he mentioned that he was pretty into TrackMan, and he gave us some insight into what he’s been looking at with A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. Is that something that you’re also focused on?

LS:  You know, I never really looked at it before. We started getting the information in instructional league last year. Gil loves it and has helped us understand the numbers and statistics and all that goes into it, and I think it does help. Like Brett said, it’s good to see how your data matches up against guys who are pitching in the big leagues. You look at spin rate, velocity, etc. I try not to look too in-depth into it and get too caught up in it, but it’s really amazing to see how my stuff matches up with guys who have been pitching in the big leagues for ten years.

AF:  You and left-hander A.J. Puk both came out of Florida together. So how has it now been for you to have the chance to come up through the A’s system together?

LS:  Being drafted with him was the best thing that happened since starting pro ball. Going back to college, we always joked about being drafted together to the same team. We roomed together our freshman, sophomore and junior years at Florida, so we’ve always been roommates, and now we’re roommates here again. But yeah, we always joked about being drafted to the same team but really never considered that it would actually happen. What are the odds?

AF:  Do you remember facing your current Stockton teammate Mikey White when he was at Alabama?

LS:  Oh, yeah. There are a lot of SEC guys. Anyone that comes from the SEC knows how tough it is to play in the SEC, so we sort of have this bond.

Logan Shore

Long-time teammates and roomates A.J. Puk & Logan Shore

AF:  The eight-man tandem pitching rotations that the A’s have been experimenting with, what were the positives and negatives that have come out of that?

LS:  Now we’re going to the five-day rotations with a couple of tandems. There were some positives and negatives. For me, the positives were that I was able to pitch out of the bullpen, which is something I had never done before. So learning how to come in when there was a runner on first and two outs and you have to get out of the inning, or learning how to come in when you’re up by one run in the seventh and finishing out the game. The negatives for me were also that I had never pitched out of the bullpen. I developed a good routine in my first year of pro ball, and then changing it up was kind of tough, because you think 5-man rotation, and you’re doing this, this and this. I had it all mapped out in my head. And we come to the next season and it gets kind of flipped on us, which is totally fine. I mean, it turned out that it worked pretty well, so I feel good, I feel fresh.

AF:  How is your relationship with catcher Sean Murphy behind the plate? I know you had a chance to pitch to him a little in Vermont last year and a little bit here in Stockton.

LS:  Before Murph got hurt… I loved throwing to Murph. I threw to him in short-season last year. He does an outstanding job, as well as all of the other catchers. Everybody does their homework and they’re all phenomenal behind the plate.

AF:  Random question time – what’s favorite type of music?

LS:  Right now, it’s been country.

AF:  Same with Brett Graves. Have you two been listening to music together or what?

LS:  [Laughs] He was probably the biggest impact on me during spring training. He was always there for me, always helping me with everything and kind of telling me what to do, where to go, where to be.

AF:  Have you been given any idea when you might be joining him in Midland?

LS:  Nah, that’s the fun part of the game. You never really know when you’re going to be promoted or anything like that. So, for me, it’s first year of pro ball, just trying to work hard every day.

AF:  What’s your favorite professional sports team besides the Oakland A’s and the Minnesota Twins?

LS:  [Minnesota] Wild.

AF:  True to your home state! Thanks for the chat. We’ll look forward to seeing you in Oakland.

*          *          *

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Monday, May 8th: Sportman Helps Hounds Win 7th Straight while Mengden Makes 1st Rehab Start for Sounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder J.P. Sportman (2 for 4 / Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Outfielder J.P. Sportman (2 for 4 / Home Run / 3 RBIs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders       3

Midland RockHounds  7

WP – Naile 1-0 / 3.52

HR – Sportman (4)

Prospect Of The Game:

Outfielder J.P. Sportman

(2 for 4 / Home Run / 3 RBIs)

A big 5-run 5th inning helped the RockHounds sail to their seventh straight victory on Monday. The inning was highlighted by right fielder J.P. Sportman’s 3-run homer. Sportman also singled in the game, and the 25-year-old has now gone 10 for 21 over his past 5 games to raise his average to .333, which puts him among the top ten in the Texas League batting race. Center fielder Brett Vertigan had 3 hits, including a double, and drove in a pair, while shortstop Richie Martin singled twice, scored twice and swiped a pair of bases for Midland. Freed from the recent tandem-starter restrictions, RHP James Naile turned in his longest outing of the season, going 5 strong innings while allowing just 1 run to earn his 1st win for the RockHounds. Meanwhile, 21-year-old RHP Grant Holmes is set to take the mound for Midland against Frisco on Tuesday.

Click here for more on Nashville & Beloit…

Talking Ports Prospects with Stockton Skipper Rick Magnante

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton manager Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969. He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his third season with Stockton.

Just before left-hander A.J. Puk’s impressive performance on Saturday, in which he allowed just one infield single and struck out 9 over 5 scoreless innings, we had the chance to chat with the Stockton skipper about the recent changes to team’s tandem-pitching rotation and well as many of the Ports’ most promising prospects…

 

AF:  First things first, you’re switching up the starting rotation a bit. You’re getting away from the eight-man tandem rotation and are stretching out a few of the guys now. Is that right?

RM:  Well, it’s a little bit of a hybrid now. There will be a couple of guys that piggyback. There will be three guys that get their own start: [A.J.] Puk, [Logan] Shore, and [Evan] Manarino. Those will be the three that will be on their own, and they’ll match up with what’s in the bullpen on that given day.

AF:  Do you have a pitch count for Puk, Shore and Manarino as they get stretched out? What could we expect from an innings standpoint?

RM:  I think we’re going to gradually increase them to where they can get back to 75-85 [pitches], and toward the halfway mark of the season, toward 100 and back on a starter’s number as it relates to what’s expected in the big leagues.

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

AF:  Puk’s previous three starts [prior to Saturday] were a little different than his first three. His BABIP was .522, everyone was making good contact against him, and he had three consecutive losses in those appearances. Was he trying something new?

RM:  I don’t necessarily think that he’s trying anything new. I think he’s just understanding that he’s in a professional environment now facing professional hitters. And when he’s making the pitches he’s capable of making, he’s pretty untouchable. But when he doesn’t make those pitches and falls behind or gets deep into counts, these guys – you have to give them credit – they can hit a little bit and it’s what they’ve been doing.

AF:  Back to the tandem-pitching experiment. How do you feel about it?

RM:  I think as far as getting guys more appearances, I get that, but I think we should mirror the model of what’s going on in the big leagues. If the big leagues are going to go to this same format, then I fully understand it. If they’re not, then I’m not sure if the Petri dish experiment is truly working. So, we’ve already amended it.

AF:  Let’s talk about some of the bullpen arms. Between Nolan Blackwood, Carlos Navas, Jared Lyons and Matt Sergey, they’ve managed to allow just 4 runs in their 41 innings of work. Everyone knows some of those names in the rotation, but for those who might not know much about the arms in the pen, tell me about a few of them.

Nolan Blackwood

Nolan Blackwood

RM:  Blackwood can pitch. They [the A’s] like him. He’s a down-under guy and it sinks at 91-92. He’s got the frisbee slider going the other way. He’s hard to pick up with a lot of deception.

AF:  Do you think Brad Ziegler with a slightly better fastball would be a good comparison for Blackwood?

RM:  Probably. This is really my first look at Nolan. I didn’t have him last year. He’s had a few appearances here and, like anybody, he’s probably a little nervous or anxious and maybe sometimes tries to do a little too much. On certain days, there’s one pitch that works. He’s got a sinking fastball at 90-92 – you don’t need to go to the frisbee slider if they’re not swinging at that. And if you don’t have the slider, then you’ve got to go with whatever your best pitch is. So he’s learning.

AF:  I wanted to ask you about Carlos Navas. He pitched very briefly in Triple-A last season, he’s 24 and he pitched extremely well in the Venezuelan Winter League to guys who are bit older than him, and he hasn’t given up a run yet this year here in Stockton. What’s his ceiling?

RM:  There’s no telling. He may move quickly through this organization as the need arises and he’s seasoned. He’s been able to combine a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer, and if he can keep himself on line – that would be his biggest Achilles heal – he doesn’t always work down the slope. He can get left-to-right and that’s when he starts to yank the stuff. This year, his mechanics have been better, he’s been more on line, he’s got two-plane action and he’s got a very good slider. He’s durable, he’s strong, he competes, and he’s got great character, so we all pull for him.

AF:  Casey Meisner has looked much better recently. He hasn’t allowed a run in a couple of his recent appearances. How do you view his development?

RM:  He’s just kind of working through it. You know, he’s a big, tall, rangy guy and sometimes those guys have a more difficult time repeating [their delivery]. It’s confidence as well. In his mind and in the mind of the organization, he probably had a very disappointing season [last year]. He’s a high school draft guy without a lot of experience, but he had a real solid season in the South Atlantic League and in the Florida State League when we traded for him. He came here and stepped right into a role and competed. And then last year was a hiccup for him.

AF:  Although Brett Graves has moved on to Midland, both he and Evan Manarino have done such a great job this year in Stockton. Both pitchers have had their finest strikeout-to-walk ratios of their careers. What are you doing with two guys like that to help them develop?

Evan Manarino

Evan Manarino

RM:  You have two guys who really have a feel to pitch. And they really treat this as an opportunity. They’re students of the game. They assess their performances and they write things down to remind them of what they did right or wrong in their previous outings in terms of how they attacked the hitters. For me, Manarino is Tommy Milone. That’s who he is. He’s unflappable out there. His fastball wouldn’t bust your lip, but he never throws it in the same place twice. It’s the same with the changeup. He mixes his pitches and keeps hitters off balance. He has to be very control-and-command oriented because, the fastball, if it’s not located, is hittable. He’s a pitcher. Graves, on the other hand, he’s got 92-94 in the tank, so he’s got a litmus-test fastball. So with him, it’s commanding the breaking ball and attacking hitters and knowing how to get people out.

AF:  Logan Shore, I believe, at Florida topped out at about 92 mph. Is he getting a little more on his fastball, and how is the development coming along on his slider?

RM:  Yeah, I think his velocity has been somewhere between 91-94 – he’s probably sitting somewhere around 92. I think that’s probably his comfort level. Right now, it’s basically fastball, change and a developing slider. I actually talked to him before we came out today and he’s really working hard to figure out a grip and get comfortable, and he really believes he’s got a slider when he throws it right. It’s a good pitch, but just doesn’t have the consistency yet.

AF:  Offensively, we’ve seen a few guys really hitting well of late – outfielders Skye Bolt and Tyler Ramirez, shortstop Eli White and, despite his slow start, infielder Mikey White has shown some power of late. Is there anyone you’ve been particularly impressed with?

RM:  I think the guy that really had a terrific April and was pushed a little bit in terms of his matriculation through the system has been Eli White. I think he got off to a great start, and I think he’s a guy who has the tools and the skill set and, with some development – maybe a season under his belt – could be a guy that will really surprise.

AF:  Skye Bolt is a guy we’ve all been focused on because of his tools, and he’s currently in the top ten in the California League in on-base percentage. What is he doing differently this season?

RM:  I think he has just made some strides in his basic approach to hitting. He just seems to be more on time, his pitch recognition is better, his path is more consistent. He’s got a lean, sinewy kind of body that doesn’t really say “power,” but when the ball comes off the bat, it can be electric at times. I would kind of liken him a little bit to [Josh] Reddick in terms of that kind of profile or prototype.

AF:  About the injuries to first baseman Sandber Pimentel and catcher Sean Murphy, how long should we expect that they’ll be out?

Sandber Pimentel

Sandber Pimentel

RM:  Pimie…I don’t know. We got him here kind of hoping we could rehab him to begin the year. And we got him back on the field, but then he swung a couple of times and he had to shut it down. It’s a back issue. I’m not an orthopod, so I can’t tell you, but we all thought it’d be better to send him back to Arizona and give him more hands-on treatment to see what happens. Certainly we’d love to have him here because he’s an impact guy for us. If we have him and we have [Chris] Iriart—a lefty/righty combo at first-base and DH—we’ve got some thump and some dangerous guys in the lineup. So, we certainly hope he’ll be fine. With Murph, it’s just a little wrist problem and those are quirky. Those are things that can be hard to work through.

AF:  Catcher Jose Chavez joined the team with Murphy’s absence and hit two home runs in his first six games. Is he someone we can expect to get more and more time while Murphy is out?

RM:  I think so. I think Chavy will get the lion’s share of the catching when Murph’s not capable of playing. And everybody’s always been very complimentary of Chavy’s ability to catch and throw – that’s his forte. It’s the bat that’s always been a little suspect as he has developed through the minor league system. Now he’s getting a little better feel on how to hit. He’s a little stronger. He’s a little more mature. He’s had more experience. So, hopefully we’re starting to see that if this guy has the ability to get to the big leagues, he’ll have a serviceable bat that’ll allow him to play some.

AF:  How much of a defensive drop-off do you see between Murphy and Chavez?

RM:  I would say in the receiving end, probably not too much. I think Murphy is a prodigy. I think he’s advanced and has a baseball IQ that shows that not only can he catch, and he can really throw, but he also has an idea on how to help his pitchers attack hitters and exploit their weaknesses and take advantage of that – and that’s a thinking man’s catcher, and that’s something you can’t really grade out unless you see it every day on the field.

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