Tag: Brett Graves

Monday, June 19th: Sounds Suffer Pair of Shutout Losses while Puk Makes Double-A Debut & Vermont Starts Season

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Chris Smith (6 IP / 8 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Chris Smith (6 IP / 8 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

GAME #1

New Orleans Baby Cakes  1

Nashville Sounds             0

LP – Smith 1-2 / 2.03

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Chris Smith

(6 IP / 8 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 5 K)

The Sounds were shut out on just 2 hits in the completion of a game that was suspended after 3 scoreless innings on April 30. RHP Zach Neal was the game’s original starter, but RHP Chris Smith took the mound when play resumed on Monday. The 36-year-old was outstanding, allowing just 1 run over 6 innings of work, but he still ended up suffering his 2nd loss for the Sounds. Third baseman Jermaine Curtis and second baseman Joey Wendle notched Nashville’s only hits in the loss.

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A’s Farm Report: Pitching Prospects Update – Puk, Gossett, Blackburn, Holmes & More

by Bill Moriarity / A’s Farm Editor

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

This week, we wanted to take a look at the pitchers currently appearing in all the A’s affiliates’ starting rotations. From A.J. Puk to Grant Holmes, from Daniel Gossett to Paul Blackburn, there are plenty of promising pitching prospects currently making their presence felt on the mound.

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

 

NASHVILLE SOUNDS

Current Starting Rotation: RHP Paul Blackburn, RHP Chris Smith, RHP Corey Walter, RHP Michael Brady, RHP Daniel Gossett (recently replaced by LHP Dalton Sawyer)

Daniel Gossett

Daniel Gossett

As most A’s fans know, RHP Daniel Gossett was scratched from his scheduled start for the Sounds on Saturday so that he could be available to make his major league debut for the A’s this week, filling in for injured RHP Andrew Triggs. Gossett’s season got off to a bumpy start. The A’s 2nd-round pick in 2014 posted an unsightly 6.27 ERA in 4 April starts, but put up a much more impressive 1.54 ERA over 6 starts in May. Overall, the 24-year-old has struck out 54 while walking just 19 with a 3.41 ERA over 60 2/3 innings for the Sounds. As solid as Gossett has been, RHP Paul Blackburn has possibly been even more effective. His season has been almost the opposite of Gossett’s. The Cubs’ 1st-round supplemental pick in 2012 was almost unhittable in April, with a 1.64 ERA, but he took a bit of a dip in May, compiling an ERA of 5.12. In his 2 starts in June though, the 23-year-old has allowed just 1 run and 5 hits over 13 innings of work. He’s also on the A’s 40-man roster, so a call-up at some point this season would be easy. But 36-year-old veteran RHP Chris Smith has probably been the Sounds’ best starter on the whole. He’s posted a 2.96 ERA over 51 2/3 frames, threw 6 no-hit innings in his last start, and is currently riding a 12-inning scoreless streak. RHP Michael Brady was a free agent signee in the offseason. He started out the year in the bullpen, but he’s been working out of the rotation recently and has now made 6 starts for the Sounds. The 30-year-old has compiled a respectable 3.67 ERA, but what’s most notable about him is the fact that he’s walked just 6 while striking out 42 over 41 2/3 innings for Nashville. RHP Corey Walter is a fairly recent arrival in the Sounds starting rotation, arriving from the RockHounds at the end of May. The 24-year-old was, by far and away, Midland’s best starter, putting up a 2.44 ERA for the Hounds, and he’s posted a solid 3.38 ERA over 4 starts for Nashville. The newest addition to the Sounds rotation is LHP Dalton Sawyer, who was called up from Beloit to fill in for Gossett on Saturday. The 23-year-old was the Snappers’ best pitcher, striking out 64 over 56 innings while compiling an impressive 2.25 ERA for Beloit. And last year’s 9th-round draft pick for the A’s turned in a quality start for the Sounds on Saturday, allowing 3 runs over 6 innings of work. But it’s unclear whether or not he’ll continue to stick around Nashville while Gossett is away. After his recent stint with the A’s, RHP Daniel Mengden was set to rejoin the Sounds starting rotation until he was sidelined by a lat strain, and he’s now doing time on the disabled list, as is RHP Raul Alcantara, and rehabbing RHP Chris Bassitt has been sidelined for the time being after experiencing some discomfort in his return from Tommy John surgery.

 

MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS

Current Starting Rotation: RHP Grant Holmes, RHP Heath Fillmyer, RHP Brett Graves, LHP Evan Manarino, RHP Joel Seddon

Grant Holmes

Grant Holmes

Former 1st-round draft pick for the Dodgers, RHP Grant Holmes, was having a mostly disappointing season for the RockHounds until fairly recently. He had a 6.27 ERA in April and 5.52 ERA in month of May, but since the calendar turned to June, it’s been an entirely different story. The 21-year-old has struck out 17 while walking just 1 over his last 14 frames, threw 8 shutout innings in his last start and didn’t allow a hit until the 7th inning in that game. Overall, Holmes has notched 69 strikeouts over 62 innings for the Hounds this season. 23-year-old RHP Heath Fillmyer, who impressed while splitting time between Stockton and Midland last year, has been mostly mediocre for Midland so far this season, compiling a 4.22 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP over 13 starts for the RockHounds. RHP Brett Graves and LHP Evan Manarino were two of Stockton’s best starters in the early going. Graves was the first to earn his promotion to Double-A by putting up a 2.55 ERA and striking out 29 in 24 2/3 innings for the Ports, while Manarino posted a 3.21 ERA and walked just 3 batters over 47 2/3 frames for Stockton. Things have been a little tougher in the Texas League for both of them though. Graves has compiled a 5.97 ERA over his first 7 appearances, while Manarino has a 6.75 ERA after his first 3 starts for Midland. RHP Joel Seddon has recently stepped into the RockHounds rotation. The 24-year-old made 26 starts for Midland last year but started out this season in the bullpen, and he’s now made a pair of starts for the Hounds. In his last appearance on Friday, Seddon allowed just 1 run over 7 innings of work for Midland. There was room for Seddon in the RockHounds rotation with RHP Corey Walter, who had been the Hounds’ best starter, being promoted to Nashville, RHP James Naile sidelined since mid-May with an abdominal/oblique strain, and RHP Ben Bracewell‘s recent banishment to the bullpen.

 

STOCKTON PORTS

Current Starting Rotation: LHP A.J. Puk, RHP Casey Meisner, RHP Dustin Hurlbutt, RHP Angel Duno, RHP Brendan Butler

Logan Shore

Logan Shore

Stockton’s starting rotation originally consisted of the A’s top three draft picks from last year’s draft – LHP A.J. Puk and RHPs Logan Shore and Daulton Jefferies – but currently, Puk’s the only one still pitching. Last year’s top pick for the A’s has looked dominant at times, though he has been a bit inconsistent, as might be expected at this stage of the game. The 22-year-old has twice allowed just 1 hit over 5 shutout innings and has had outings where he’s notched as many as 12 strikeouts. Overall, he’s compiled an ERA of 3.98 while striking out 87 and walking 22 over 54 1/3 frames for the Ports. Shore was looking good until he was sidelined with a lat strain in mid-May. When the 22-year-old landed on the disabled list, he’d compiled a 3.12 ERA while striking out 32 and walking just 6 over 34 2/3 innings for Stockton. Unfortunately, Jefferies only had the chance to throw 7 innings before undergoing Tommy John surgery. RHP Casey Meisner, who struggled mightily for Stockton last season, has been showing signs of turning things around a bit lately. Though he has an ERA of 4.68 for the season, he’s also struck out 67 while walking just 19 over 59 2/3 frames, and he just threw 6 2/3 shutout innings in his last start on Sunday. RHP Dustin Hurlbutt put up a 2.84 ERA in April, then posted a 5.32 ERA in May, and now has a 2.77 ERA in 2 starts in June. But his peripherals have consistently looked pretty good, and he’s struck out 58 and walked just 16 over 55 2/3 frames for the Ports. RHP Angel Duno has a 1:4 BB:K ratio but a 5.46 ERA for the season. The 23-year-old Venezuelan has been hurt by the long ball, surrendering 10 home runs over 61 innings of work. RHP Brendan Butler is the newest addition to Stockton’s starting rotation. The 24-year-old was one of Beloit’s best starters, compiling a 2.32 ERA for the Snappers, and he threw 5 scoreless innings in his first start for Stockton. He seems to have taken the place of RHP Boomer Biegalski in the Ports rotation, though it’s not clear if Biegalski may end up serving in something of a tandem situation with Butler. Biegalski has been a big victim of the long ball since his arrival from Beloit, surrendering 10 home runs in just 37 innings, leading to a bloated 5.84 ERA. LHP Evan Manarino and RHP Brett Graves had been two of Stockton’s best starters, but both have been promoted to Double-A Midland.

 

BELOIT SNAPPERS

Current Starting Rotation: RHP Brandon Bailey, RHP Matt Milburn, LHP Zack Erwin, RHP Mitchell Jordan & RHP Jesus Zambrano (tandem), RHP Abdiel Mendoza (recently replaced LHP Dalton Sawyer)

Brandon Bailey

Brandon Bailey

The Snappers starting rotation had been surprisingly effective this season, but the recent promotions of two of Beloit’s best starters – LHP Dalton Sawyer and RHP Brendan Butler – could change things a bit. The top remaining starter in the Snappers rotation is RHP Brandon Bailey. Last year’s 6th-round draft pick for the A’s has put up a 2.51 ERA while striking out 52 and walking just 13 over 43 innings of work. Meanwhile, RHP Matt Milburn has mostly struggled, posting a 5.60 ERA over 13 appearances for the Snappers. LHP Zack Erwin, whom the A’s acquired from the White Sox in the Brett Lawrie deal, recently returned to the rotation after starting the season on the disabled list, and the 23-year-old has pitched well, compiling a 1.69 ERA over his first 3 appearances. Last year’s 10th-round draft pick for the A’s, RHP Mitchell Jordan, and 20-year-old Venezuelan RHP Jesus Zambrano represent the sole remaining starting-pitching tandem in the A’s system, and both are sporting ERAs over 5.00 at this point in the season. With Sawyer’s promotion to Nashville, 18-year-old Panamanian RHP Abdiel Mendoza was called upon to take his spot in the rotation. The youngster surrendered 4 runs in 2 1/3 innings in his first appearance, but it’s unclear whether or not he’ll continue to occupy the fifth spot in the Snappers starting rotation. RHP Dakota Chalmers, the A’s 3rd-round draft pick in 2015, was reassigned to the Vermont roster after struggling with his control. The 20-year-old walked 29 in 29 innings while also striking out 47. He’s set to get a restart when the Lake Monsters start their season next week. RHP Michael Murray had been pitching well for Beloit before landing on the disabled list in mid-May, putting up a 2.54 ERA over his first 8 appearances. LHP Ty Damron had also been playing a part in the Snappers tandem rotation but, although he hasn’t been placed on the disabled list, he hasn’t appeared in a game in the last two weeks.

*          *          *

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Thursday, June 8th: Butler & Biegalski Pitch Ports to Shutout Victory while Rosa Helps Hounds Mount Comeback Win

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

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

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports  5

Modesto Nuts     0

WP – Butler 1-0 / 0.00

HR – Bolt (6)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Brendan Butler

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

RHPs Brendan Butler and Boomer Biegalski, both of whom started the season with Beloit, teamed up to shut out Modesto on 5 hits on Thursday as the Ports prevailed for the eighth time in their last ten games. Butler, who was promoted to the Ports on Tuesday, struck out 5 over 5 shutout innings to earn the win in his first appearance for Stockton this season. Biegalski then came on to strike out 4 in 4 scoreless frames to complete the shutout and pick up his first save for the Ports. Center fielder Skye Bolt slugged his 6th home run, a solo shot in the 3rd, and then singled in a pair of runs in the 7th, while left fielder James Harris singled, doubled and drove in a run, and shortstop Eli White had a pair of hits for the Ports. In other news, Stockton infielder Trent Gilbert and LHP Will Gilbert were sent to extended spring training in Arizona to rehab from recent injuries.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Beloit…

Friday, June 2nd: Olson Hits 2 HRs in Sounds’ 4th Straight Victory while Hounds Win in a Walk-Off

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (3 for 5 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds First Baseman Matt Olson (3 for 5 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds  12

Iowa Cubs                 3

WP – Smith 3-2 / 3.35

HR – Olson 2 (14), Nunez (14)

Prospect Of The Game:

First Baseman Matt Olson

(3 for 5 / 2 Home Runs / 4 RBIs)

A big 7-run 1st inning made it easy for Nashville to notch its fourth straight victory on Friday. First baseman Matt Olson led the attack, launching a pair of home runs – a 3-run blast in the 1st and a solo shot in the 7th. Olson also singled and scored in the 9th, while left fielder Renato Nunez homered, doubled and drove in a pair. Olson and Nunez now have 14 home runs apiece, tying them for the team lead. Third baseman Matt Chapman collected 3 hits, including a double, and drove in a run, and right fielder Ryan LaMarre singled twice, walked, drove in 2 runs and swiped a pair of bases for the Sounds. RHP Chris Smith turned in an outstanding start, striking out 8 over 6 shutout innings to earn his 3rd win for Nashville.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Saturday, May 27th: Puk Pitches Ports to Victory with 5 Scoreless Frames

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher A.J. Puk (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher A.J. Puk (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / Win)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

Stockton Ports                      4

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes  2

WP – Puk 3-4 / 3.43

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher A.J. Puk

(5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 4 BB / 8 K / Win)

LHP A.J. Puk turned in his second straight impressive start for Stockton on Saturday. Last year’s top draft pick for the A’s threw 5 shutout innings while allowing just 1 hit, walking 4 and striking out 8 with a fastball that was reaching into the upper-90s on the night. Puk earned his 3rd win for the Ports and has now allowed just 1 hit and 1 run while striking out 15 over his last 10 1/3 innings for Stockton. LHP Will Gilbert gave up 2 runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief, but RHP Nolan Blackwood tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to post his 4th save for the Ports. Shortstop Eli White collected 3 hits, including a pair of doubles, while left fielder James Harris and third baseman Mikey White each singled in a run, and catcher Sean Murphy and center fielder Tyler Ramirez had a pair of hits apiece for the Ports.

Click here for more on Nashville, Midland & Beloit…

Monday, May 22nd: Gossett’s 8 Shutout Innings Lead Sounds to Victory while Puk Pitches 5 1/3 No-Hit Frames in Ports’ Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (8 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 6 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (8 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 6 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds         9

Sacramento River Cats  3

WP – Gossett 2-2 / 3.59

HR – Olson (11), Chapman (9), Wendle (4)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Daniel Gossett

(8 IP / 4 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 6 K / Win)

RHP Daniel Gossett delivered his best start of the season on Monday, allowing just 4 hits while walking none and striking out 6 over a career-high 8 innings of work to earn his 2nd win for the Sounds. And the A’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2014 has now allowed just 4 earned runs in 19 innings over his last 3 starts. RHP Aaron Kurcz gave up a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 9th for Nashville. First baseman Matt Olson homered for the second straight night, belting a 3-run blast in the 3rd inning and singling in another run in the 5th, while third baseman Matt Chapman slugged a solo shot in the 4th, and second baseman Joey Wendle drilled a 2-run drive in the 7th to help the Sounds win their second straight over Sacramento. In other news, Nashville manager Ryan Christenson told Sounds play-by-play man Jeff Hem on Monday’s pre-game show that he didn’t expect catcher Bruce Maxwell, who’s currently on the disabled list with an oblique injury, to be back before mid-June at the earliest.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Wednesday, May 17th: Schrock Hits 2 HRs in Hounds’ Loss while Nashville’s 3 HRs Aren’t Enough to Help Sounds Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (3 for 4 / 2 HRs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  4

Frisco RoughRiders       7

LP – Finnegan 0-1 / 3.38

HR – Schrock 2 (5), Munoz (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Second Baseman Max Schrock

(3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs)

Despite having his team fall for the fourth time in their last five games on Wednesday, second baseman Max Schrock had a big night at the plate for Midland. The 22-year-old prospect got off to a slow start in April but has been heating up in May, and the 5-foot-8 infielder muscled up to mash a pair of solo home runs in Wednesday’s contest for the Hounds. Schrock’s first round-tripper in the 4th inning gave the RockHounds the lead and, after falling to a two-run deficit, his second solo shot tied the game in the 6th. Just before Schrock’s second big fly, shortstop Yairo Munoz homered for the second time in the last two days to give the keystone combo back-to-back jacks. Munoz also doubled, stole third and scored a run on center fielder J.P. Sportman‘s RBI single in the 1st. Starter Brett Graves had a rare rough outing, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits over 5 frames, while RHP Ben Bracewell tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief and left with the game tied, but RHP Kyle Finnegan gave up a big 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to suffer his 1st loss for the Hounds.

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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…

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…

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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