After missing 5 PawSox games to move my wife and son to Cincinnati and call the Bengals first pre-season game on Friday night, it was great to be in the PawSox booth with Steve Hyder on Saturday.
PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler got me up-to-date on some key issues in a Q-and-A on Sunday morning.
Arnie, the team is a half-game up in the division and 1 ½ up in wild card race with 22 games to go. The final three weeks should be pretty exciting.
“It should be a good time. We kind of hope when we start the season that we give our guys a reason to come to the ballpark over the last couple of weeks of the season. The guys have done a great job and battled all year. It’s been a nice season.”
Kyle Weiland wasn’t bad last night (4 ER in 5.1 IP) but he hasn’t been sharp in three starts since returning from Boston. What have you noticed?
(Photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
“It seems like he got a little bit out of his routine up there. Any time guys go up there and get into the bullpen and don’t know exactly when they are going to pitch, they get out of their routine a little bit and he hasn’t got it going quite as strong as when he was here earlier. I don’t think he threw badly last night – it wasn’t like he gave up a bunch of runs. He faced a big leaguer last night in Brian McCann and he got him a couple of times. But Kyle threw well-enough to give us a chance to win last night.”
Junichi Tazawa made his second appearance for Pawtucket last night and has tossed 4.1 scoreless innings so far. You managed him in 2009 before Tommy John surgery. How does he look now compared to then?
“The stuff is not quite as crisp yet. The fastball velocity was better before, but he’s locating it very well and working down in the zone. He’s throwing a better slider now than he did a couple of years ago. The curveball isn’t quite as sharp, but he’s getting the feel again for that pitch. We’re seeing the split-finger a lot more – when I had him in Portland, he pitched in the rain all of the time and didn’t like the feel of that pitch and didn’t throw it very much. The goal for him this year is to be consistent every time out. The performance is kind of secondary. We need him to post-up every three or four days and get his work in. Usually with guys that have come back from Tommy John surgery, the second year is when the velocity comes back. It can be frustrating for those guys because they don’t have their best stuff, but on the flip side, it helps them because they learn how to pitch a little bit.”
Do my eyes deceive me, or is Junichi much bigger physically than he was before?
“He sure is. Our training staff does a great job with those guys. A lot of times when guys get hurt, they get the opportunity to work on strength and things that they don’t get to work on as much when they are playing every day. For pitchers, they can’t throw so they work out and get stronger. The young guys really benefit from stuff like that.”
Ryan Kalish is 4-for-12 with 2 doubles and 2 stolen bases since coming back from shoulder and neck injuries. He doesn’t look like a guy that missed three months does he?
“He’s doing a nice job. It’s nice to have him back in the lineup, but he’s kind of limited. We’re still building him back up, but he’s just happy to be back on the field and playing again. Hopefully, we can keep getting him reps to give him some options in September.”
Ryan Lavarnway looked like Ted Williams in his first month with the PawSox. We knew the league would adjust and he’s hitting .172 in his last 17 games. How are teams getting him out?
“I think he’s getting himself out. When he first got up here, he was doing a great job discipline-wise of getting into good counts and laying off off-speed stuff. Now it seems like he is pressing a little bit and missing the fastballs when he’s getting them. Then when he gets behind in the count, he’s chasing pitcher’s pitches. He had a special month where every ball that he hit well went into the gap and through a hole. It seems that right now, every ball that he’s hit hard has been caught. That’s baseball. He’ll get rolling again – he’s just pressing a little bit and trying to do too much right now.”
The PawSox open an 8-game homestand on Tuesday and next Saturday, you get to play a game at Fenway Park. Are you excited about that?
“It’s great. Being a career minor league guy, it’s neat to go to a big league stadium. It’s special because the place is going to be full. We’ll also get to see some of our other guys in the first game (Portland vs. Binghamton) and that will be fun. It will also be nice to have our guys play in front of the front office people so they can put their ‘eyes on the guys.’ It’s definitely exciting.”
The PawSox will look to maintain their grip on first place as they face Gwinnett on Sunday at 2:05. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 1:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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