Every Sunday, we interview Pawtucket’s manager for our pre-game show. It’s called ‘The Sunday Gospel with Manager Arnie Beyeler” and here were a few of his thoughts going into Sunday’s games at McCoy Stadium.
April means cold, raw, windy nights in New England. What’s the biggest effect on the players?
“Everybody has got to play in it – it works on both sides – but it’s not much fun to play baseball on a wet field when it’s spitting rain and windy and cold. Your body doesn’t react very well, it’s hard for the pitchers to get a feel for the ball, and it’s hard to feel the bat from a hitter’s standpoint. Baseball is not meant to be played in conditions like that, but they often play the World Series under those conditions so you have to deal with it and it’s part of player development.”
It’s early, but a couple of really good hitters in Daniel Nava (3-for-33) and Ryan Kalish (9-for-42) are off to slow starts. Have you noticed anything specific with those two guys?
“It’s nothing more than getting off to a slow start. They both swung the bat fairly well in spring training, but when you come up here and the lights go on, it’s a different ballgame. They just have to get back on track. Like all young guys, they’re going to have their ups and downs, and we just work with a plan for them every day. They’ll get it going – a lot of it is just confidence. That’s a big factor in this game.”
Josh Reddick, on the other hand, is off to a great start. He’s batting .500 since you moved him from the leadoff spot to number three in the order. He would prefer not to bat leadoff. Does the organization consider a player’s preference when making out the lineup?
“We did consider that and we knew coming in that he didn’t like hitting leadoff. We talked about it and discussed it, but that’s kind of where he fit and he’s going to do what’s best for the team. But we decided to flip-flop some things to shake the lineup up a little bit. I’m all about putting guys in favorable positions and he’s doing well there so there’s no sense in moving him around again. I think part of our job in development is to see where these guys flourish. Along the same lines, Lars Anderson has always been a guy that has hit well in the five-hole. But it’s all relative. You’re only the leadoff hitter once, so a lot of it is psychological. I think some guys like to hit in spots where they’ll have more RBI opportunities, but look at Tony Thomas – he’s been hitting ninth and he leads our team in RBIs. It all comes down to who is getting on base around you.”
Kris Johnson pitches today. He’s obviously struggled at the Triple-A level, but he pitched very well for you in 2008 at Portland. If you could pinpoint one thing that K.J. needs to do better to have success at this level, what would it be?
“I haven’t seen him much at this level, so I really don’t know. He’s been throwing strikes and going after hitters aggressively, so maybe it’s just a matter of finishing hitters off. Finding a pitch or a location that allows you to finish guys off when you get ahead. That’s what all successful pitchers do – when they get ahead in the count, they work to contact with quality strikes. To be fair to him, I really haven’t seen him enough up here, but a few years ago, he was finishing hitters off and working to contact with quality strikes.”
People wondered how Hideki Okajima would react to starting the year in Triple-A. He’s pitching very well as he has not allowed an earned run in 5 outings – how much communicating have you done with Hideki through his translator Jeff.
“We talk with him, but he’s a veteran guy and he knows what he has to do. The veterans in our bullpen understand what they’re here for and they’re down here to perform and keep themselves in a favorable position so if something happens in Boston, they’ll have an opportunity to get back to the big leagues. All of these guys are smart enough to realize that, and they’ve come out and worked hard. They are the leadership group of our team and they know how to go about their business. There’s not a lot of maintenance that needs to be done with those guys because they’ve been there before and they get it.”
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The PawSox and Buffalo Bisons continue last night’s suspended game (tied 1-1 in the 9th inning) on Sunday at 1:05, followed by the regularly scheduled game.
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