Today the Red Sox affiliates played the Rays affiliates: Triple-A and Double-A were home, and Low-A and High-A were in Port Charlotte. The Lowell Spinners had a five-inning simulated game.
I had to make a lot of tough decisions regarding this day. Mike Antonellis told me that the minor league games had been canceled yesterday because it was supposed to rain; though it never did. I was a bit hesitant in making the drive because there was a 60% chance that it was going to rain today, and I didn’t want to drive all that way for nothing.
As the illustrious Han Solo would say, “never tell me the odds.”
Weather reports are rarely accurate, anyway, so I decided to take the risk. But then I had an even tougher decision: to go to the last game ever played at City of Palms Park, or to go to my last minor league spring training games of the season.
Guess what I chose?
I don’t doubt the fact that I will be back at the complex for extended spring training as well as my fair share of Gulf Coast League games; but it was my last minor league spring training game ever at the complex.
Minor League Spring Training is the paradigm of intimacy. But I can already tell just from hearsay that I won’t have the same kind of access that I do now at the new complex. The players are quite accessible now. Some of the pitchers sit in a covered area and watch the game and hang out; some hang out in the bleachers; and some just gather behind home plate to chart and collect foul balls.The only thing preventing me from picking their brains about all the intricacies of pitching and hitting is my respect for their personal space. The last thing I want to do is be invasive. They’re always willing to give me an update on how they’re doing, though.
I went to the minor league complex because that’s where my heart is. I feel a personal connection with a lot of the guys because I’ve had the chance to talk to them. I always talk about how I find the “human element” of the game to be so interesting, and I have really had the opportunity to see that a lot this spring. They tell me about their struggles, and I know major league players struggle too, but I think it’s different for a minor league guy. They haven’t made it yet. Many are experiencing failure for the first time; many are trying to perfect their mechanics and adjust to a new level of pitching at the same time. They don’t have the comfort of a multi-year, multi-million dollar contact.
When these guys go 0-4 in a game; when they give up 4 runs in an inning; and when they make errors, it’s not for lack of effort. The majority of the minor league players were there a good two weeks before their official reporting dates. They work their butts off every single day. They’re supposed to make errors; it’s all part of their development. They need to fail in order to learn how to succeed.
I could talk about their work ethic forever, but I have some relevant updates from today.
-I heard that Brandon Workman and Chris Hernandez will start in Greenville, though this is neither certain nor confirmed. Everything about rosters is educated speculation at this point. Workman was disappointed with his first spring outing, but he was pleased with his outing yesterday: he threw four innings of no-hit ball. I think starting in Greenville would be good for both of them, and I don’t expect either of them to be there for long.
-Ryan Khoury, who fouled a ball off of his calf last Friday, said he was feeling better.
-I caught up with Jason Garcia a bit. He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2010 draft. He lost 15 pounds in the off-season and added some velocity to his fastball. He is now topping out 93-94 mph rather than 90-92. He pitched in the Gulf Coast League after signing and had a 3.03 ERA in his 29.7 innings. He has been pitching with Greenville a lot this spring, and hopes to start there.
-I spoke to Jose Iglesias a bit, too. I was really impressed with how good his English is. This is only his second full year in the United States, and his English is better than my french–and I’ve been taking French for six years.
Here are how the lineups looked today:
(The lineup actually didn’t look like this at all; but I suppose it doesn’t matter because it was a simulated game).
Tommy Hottovy P
6. ? (missed this, apparently)
7. Juan Carlos Linares
8. Jose Iglesias
9. Aaron Bates
I saw Swen Huijer and Jacob Dahlstrand pitch for Lowell. Huijer had a good outing and pitched to contact. Dahlstrand struggled a bit with his placement, which led him to leaving balls over the plate, and hitters were taking advantage of it. His off-speed stuff looked nice, though.
Felix Doubront started the game for Pawtucket. It is still uncertain whether he will head north with Pawtucket or stay in extended spring training for a bit because his preparation for Opening Day was slowed due to elbow discomfort. He gave up no earned runs in his two innings of work.
I was going back and forth between games, but I did see that at least Yamaico Navarro and Ryan Kalish had multi-hit games. Josh Reddick and Lars Anderson both had singles. Juan Carlos Linares hit a home run.
Michael Bowden also didn’t give up any earned runs over his two innings of work. I didn’t see his second inning, but in his first inning of work, he walked the first batter, induced a fly ball, and then a 6-4-3 double play. Bowden only has one minor league option left. I know that he can be effective in the ‘pen, so I hope the Sox use him wisely.
Chris Carter was sporting a mohawk and playing for the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate. Dan Hoard noted that he is better suited for the American League, so he can DH. Originally drafted by Arizona, Carter spent three years in the Red Sox organization.
I discussed where Weiland might start the season with Dan, and he speculated that he could be their fifth starter. Antonellis said that this was likely and that Caleb Clay will probably be called up to Portland. It is also relevant to note that Clay shaved his mustache.
It was really nice to catch up with Dan. He has been nothing but welcoming to me when I have come up to Pawtucket. He went through Syracuse’s Newhouse program as well, so it was really nice and encouraging to talk to him about that.
In the Portland game, Mike Antonellis notes that Tommy Hottovy pitched really well. Will Latimer, Dennis Neuman, and Justin Erasmus all pitched as well. It was great to see Erasmus get a taste of Double-A experience. He pitched the last inning, and threw 13 pitches, nine for strikes. He induced three fly balls to get the save. Ryan Dent came in to play shortstop for Portland, so I would say he starts the season there.
I hope to be back at the complex on Saturday. The schedule says that it’s a camp day, so I’m assuming that there will be a workout. That is essentially the last day for players who will be assigned to a full-season affiliate. I had a great time at minor league spring training, and I’m truly going to miss it.
It was great to be back at the Red Sox’ Player Development Complex after a week without it. The more I go; the more lost I feel when I’m not there. It was an unusually foggy morning–even when I arrived at the complex, but it cleared up by the time they started infield drills.
Bryce Brentz and Derrik Gibson were taking early morning outfield and infield drills, respectively.
Ryan Khoury fouled a ball off of his left calf yesterday (3/25). He didn’t play today, and he will rehab tomorrow. He should be back within the next few days; it’s nothing too serious.
Kyle Weiland is still working out with Pawtucket, and he started for them today (not sure about his line; I got there late). It is still unclear as to where he will start the season. I think it all depends on whether or not Alfredo Aceves sticks with the big-league club in relief, or starts the season in Pawtucket’s rotation. It seems like Aceves is likely to start the season in Pawtucket with Matt Albers and Dennys Reyes sticking with the big-league club. Weiland certainly is capable of making the jump to Pawtucket now, but I don’t think spending a little more time in the Eastern League will hurt him.
Ryan Dent continues to workout with Portland, and he has been in their lineup rather consistently so far this spring. With Iglesias as an essential lock for Pawtucket, Dent could fill the shortstop hole in Portland. Dent is fantastic defensively, but he still has some work to do when it comes to his offense, which is obviously normal at this stage.
I asked Renny Parthemore how he was doing in passing, and he said that he felt a lot better. He had a frayed labrum last year and did not play.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lucas LeBlanc, who was drafted in the 11th round out of Delgado last year. The interview will be on SoxProspects within the coming weeks, so I will post a link to that here when it’s up. LeBlanc also played for Triple-A today.
Here are how the lineups looked today. I was able to grab all of them:
De La Cruz 8
B Moanaroa 3
*John Killen (I think he was the starting pitcher for them, but I’m not sure).
Jason Garcia P
Wilson P, followed my Michael Lee, and then Will Latimer.
Weiland P, followed by Christian Santeliz
Because the Red Sox affiliates were playing the Twins affiliates, I was able to split my time between the two complexes. I watched Drake Britton pitch two innings, then watched about an inning of the Greenville game, then drove over to watch Portland and Pawtucket.
Drake Britton was absolutely lights out. In his first inning of work, he struck out the side He threw 14 pitches, nine for strikes. He struck out the first batter he faced on three pitches. In his second inning of work, he threw 12 pitches, eight for strikes. He pitched to contact more in that inning, inducing two ground balls and striking out one.
At one point, Britton missed high three times in a row, but then threw three straight strikes. He has this one offspeed pitch that has incredibe movement that was fooling batters all over the place. I think it’s a curveball, but I’m not sure.
Derrik Gibson was hit by a pitch in the elbow. The trainer came out to see him, but he stayed in the game–at least for a bit. He took a couple of free swings behind the dugout after that inning with the trainer, but I didn’t see if he got back in or not.
I watched the Greenville game for about an inning, and I had the pleasure of meeting Sean Coyle’s girlfriend, Elizabeth. She informed me that Sean hit a single and stole two bases. She also talked about his great work ethic. I didn’t know that the players have to get to the complex around 7 am to hit in the cages.
Jason Garcia started the Greenville game. He gave up two home runs (when I was watching), but he was probably just leaving the ball up in the zone. He was drafted last year in the 17th round, and only played in the Gulf Coast League, so it’s impressive that he’s playing with Greenville.
Daniel Nava had his foot wrapped up on the trainer’s table when I got to the Twins’ complex. I don’t have any details, though.
Mike Antonellis, the radio broadcaster for the Portland Sea Dogs, informed me that Ryan Lavarnway absolutely crushed a ball for a home run. Oscar Tejeda also hit a deep double. With Federowicz and Lavarnway both slated to start the season in Portland, it will be interesting to see how their playing time is divided. At this point, Lavarnway’s bat is more advanced, and Fedrowicz’s defense is more advanced. That being said, Lavarnway could take on a more DH-heavy role.
I had the pleasure of hanging out with Mike for the majority of the game. You can follow him on Twitter here. Mike is really one of the most genuinely nice guys I’ve met, and he is really someone I admire and will try and emulate. He has a great rapport with all the players, and he has a great understanding of how things work. He has really been so helpful to me over the past year, too, and I can’t express how grateful I am. He and Chris Cameron let me write game stories when I was in Portland, and he also let me interview Luis Exposito for the radio. Having those first-hand experiences were really invaluable. This spring, he has let me do freelance writing for his blog and the Sea Dogs website. I really appreciate everything so much.
As much as I have enjoyed getting to know the Red Sox prospects, I have also really enjoyed getting to know, or at least meeting prospects from other teams. I ran into Twins pitcher David Bromberg again. He was their minor league pitcher of the year in 2009. He will be pitching on Monday.
Another prospect I have enjoyed getting to know a bit is Brandon Henderson, a pitcher in the Rays system. He was drafted in the 15th round last year. In nine games in the GCL last year, he went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. He scattered 13 hits over 22.2 innings, striking out 28. He last pitched on the 24th, and gave up his first unearned run of the spring. He went two innings with one walk and one hit. He is definitely a pitcher you should keep your eye on.
I should be going back on Tuesday. I have tickets to the major-league game, which will be game played there. These tickets are courtesy of Helen, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the major-league workouts. Somehow, though, I am tempted to stay at the complex and watch those games.
**Update** Tyler Wilson and Hunter Cervenka pitched in an intrasquad game on Sunday. Jon Lester was the opposing pitcher. Tyler Wilson threw 14 pitches over two innings, yielding no walks, no runs, and striking out one. This information comes from Tyler’s mother, Pam.
Keith Couch was drafted out of Adelphi College in the 13th round of the 2010 draft. He spent the season in Lowell where he posted a 4.39 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP. Couch discusses how he has changed since high school, his biggest challenge in Lowell last year, and what he has been working on this spring.
How do you think pitching at Adelphi contributed to your development?
It helped me grow. I was a little kid out of high school, so it just helped me mature, [and] grow into my body, and get
on the same level as everyone else.
How has your arsenal changed since high school?
I’m throwing harder. It’s the same as high school, I’ve just
grown up more.
What was your biggest challenge in Lowell last year?
Getting used to a full professional lineup, [and] having guys who
can all hit because it’s not like that in college. That’s the biggest thing I think
because one through nine you [have to] go all out instead of just easing up on the
seventh, eighth and ninth guys.
You might start the season in Greenville, which is obviously a much longer season than Lowell. How are you preparing?
I think its [going to] be better than it was in Lowell because in
Lowell, I had a month and a half after the draft, so I wasn’t throwing against batters in game situations, so its [going to] be easier if I go straight
through the year.
Do you let the catcher call the pitches, or are you more prone to doing that yourself?
No I like to do it myself. I like to call my own game. I just
know what I want to do, and how I want to set people up.
What did you notice about the hitters transitions as you went from college to professionally at Lowell?
They were just more consistent. You just [have to] bear down on
the lower half.
How do you change your approach, if at all, depending on if the batter is a left-handed hitter or a right-handed hitter.
For righties I attack with my sliders, and
with lefties I use my curveball and changeup more.
Do you have an out pitch?
What do you think fans overlook or take for granted when it comes to the game?
How much time we put into it. Everyone thinks, ‘oh this guy
makes an error he sucks,’ and alright, he messed up one time. It’s a game where
you succeed when you do good 30% of the time… It’s just the amount of hours we
put in we’re here from 7. I’d like to see people hating on me come out
there and do this.
If you had to hit against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of at this point?
The fact that I throw strikes; I’d swing early in the count. That’s the thing people started to realize last year because I would throw
strikes early. So first pitch swings.
What’s the biggest thing you’re working on this spring?
Changeup. Just making it better because I never used to throw
it, so I’m trying to make it better so I can throw it a lot.
On Friday, the Red Sox minor league affiliates played the Twins minor league affiliates again. During minor league spring training, the Red Sox only play the Twins, Rays, and Orioles affiliates because they are the closest proximity wise (in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, and Sarasota, respectively).
I caught up with Brandon Jacobs on his way into workouts. He sliced his lip open in a collision at home plate on Thursday in the Low-A game against the Rays. He said he was going to take it easy, just do some cage work, and make sure that he doesn’t have a concussion.
Jeremy Hazelbaker has been particularly impressive to watch during batting practice. He has been consistently hitting balls to the warning track. Pete Hissey also looks impressive. They were both taking batting practice for Double-A Portland.
Derrik Gibson says that he has been feeling good at the plate.
Here are how the lineups looked for the Single-A teams.
De La Cruz
In his first inning, Ranaudo, the 39th overall pick, threw first pitch strikes to every batter he faced. His fastball was hitting 93 mph, his curveball 83 mph, and his changeup 84 mph (via Chris Mellen’s radar gun). He threw this one changeup (for a second pitch strike, I believe) that was particularly impressive.
In his second inning, he struggled a bit with his command, and he kept missing high. Chris Hatfield speculated that the organization may have changed his mechanics because he was using his legs more.
David Renfroe and Jason Thompson both connected for doubles.
Renny Parthemore threw hard in his innings for Lowell. This was good to see because he missed the 2010 season with a frayed labrum (via Jonathan Singer).
I caught up with Kris Johnson during the games. He has been battling some weakness in his shoulder, so he has spent the last three weeks rehabbing it, and he is still throwing bullpens. He pitched in the Dominican Winter League, which he described as a completely different atmosphere because every time someone got a hit, it was like winning the world series.
I also did an interview with 13th round pick, Keith Couch, which I will post later today.
I’m sad that my week of “march madness” is over, but I’m not done with spring training yet. I plan on going back at least on next Saturday. If you have anything in particular that you would like me to keep an eye out for, drop me a comment, an e-mail, or a tweet.
I’m also very excited to announce that I’m going to start working for the Sox Prospects website. I will probably be doing some Q&As and feature stories along with Jon Meoli, and I’ll definitely cover the Gulf Coast League.
Workouts start later and end earlier, it seems. They hardly start doing PFPs and infield drills until 10 (the players stretch and throw forever). Players are mainly split up by level, but some players are bumped up to the next level. For example, Hassan has been working out in Pawtucket because guys like Juan Carlos Linares have been up with the big league club. Some guys bat or pitch in lower levels just to get at-bats or innings in.
I talked to Chris Hernandez in the morning. He had pitched for Salem on Thursday. He doesn’t describe himself as a power pitcher. His off-speed stuff is phenomenal, though.
Brock Huntzinger threw for Double-A Portland on Thursday. He said he was topping out between 88-92 mph, and that he felt pretty good for his first outing.
Madison Younginer is now listed among the rehabbing players. Not much information on that yet.
Chris Mellen and I went up to Port Charlotte to watch the Single-A teams. Lowell wasn’t playing today. Brandon Workman threw for Salem. He displayed all of his pitches: two and four seam fastball, cutter, change up, and curveball. He was topping out at least in the low 90′s (via Mellen’s radar gun).
Workman didn’t seem too pleased with his outing. He did struggle with his control, but this is completely normal this early in games.
Chris Balcom-Miller piggy-backed him, but I was watching the Greenville game at this point. Apparently, he was topping out around 88 mph.
This was the Greenville lineup:
De La Cruz
Stroup started, followed by Couch, Gleason, Huijer, and Erasmus. Couch said he felt pretty good. Huijer’s off speed stuff looked good today.
I was walking back-and-forth a lot, but apparently Coyle and Cecchini both got singles, and De La Cruz hit a double. Miles Head hit a long fly ball, and then hit a single down the right field line. Coyle has a lot of speed.
Brandon Jacobs left the game after splitting his lip open in a collision at home plate. He should be OK, but he might take it easy tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Anthony Ranaudo will pitch for High-A Salem. It is likely that Alex Wilson will pitch for Double-A Portland since he charted today.
Ryan Lavarnway hit an absolute bomb into left field off of James Shields (this comes from Chris Hatfield, Jon Singer, Jon Meoli, and Mike Andrews, who all watched the Triple and Double-A games at the complex today).
Finally, on a more personal note, I got into Syracuse’s New House School of Communications. I’m pretty sure I will be going there next fall.
Today, the Red Sox minor league affiliates played the Twins’ minor league affiliates. Double-A and Triple-A were home, and all the Single-A teams were close by at the Lee County Sports Complex. I decided to make the quick drive over because I wanted to watch Chris Hernandez throw his two innings for Salem.
Kyle Weiland threw on Wednesday. He said that it went well and that he felt good. Will Middlebrooks, who will likely make the transition to Double-A Portland, has been working out with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Kolbrin Vitek and Michael Almanzar impressed coaches with their defensive skills at third base.
Here are how the lineups looked for all of the affiliates:
Greenville (only lineup I was able to get positions for)
Lucas LeBlanc (playing for Salem) got some good wood on the ball and induced two relatively deep fly balls.
Catcher Christian Vazquez got fooled on an 86 mph changeup, but tripled to right on the next pitch. He has a strong arm, but needs to work on his accuracy; his throws to second are high.
First round pick Kolbrin Vitek crushed a ball to straightaway center for a triple.
Chris Hernandez piggy-backed Ryan Pressly. In his first inning, he retired the side in order. He started each count with a ball, but followed with a strike. He only gave up a double in his second inning. His off speed stuff looks nasty: it has great movement and drop. He looks fairly advanced.
Hunter Cervenka started for Greenville. He threw only eight pitches to four batters his first inning, but threw 28 pitches to six batters his second inning (though there were two errors).
Miles Head hit a double into right-center.
Twins minor league pitcher David Bromberg was watching the High-A teams. He was the Twins’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, where he posted a 2.70 ERA for the Twins’ High-A club. In 2010, he split time between Double and Triple-A, posting a 3.75 ERA.
Sox Prospects correspondent Jonathan Singer reports that Will Middlebrooks was taken out of the Pawtucket lineup in the third inning with an undisclosed injury; though it doesn’t appear to be serious. They will probably take it day-to-day.
Oscar Tejeda crushed a home run (via Chris Mellen).
Ryan Lavarnway threw a runner out at second.
In case you missed it this morning, the Red Sox made some more inevitable cuts. The semantic differences between “optioned to” and “reassigned to” will always elude me. Jose Iglesias, Luis Exposito, Yamaico Navarro, Lars Anderson, and Juan Carlos Linares were among those sent back to minor league camp.
Brandon Workman will pitch for Salem tomorrow. Stolmy Pimentel will pitch for Portland.
Today marks the start of minor league spring training games, which is what I have been waiting for all spring. Up until now, I have busied myself by watching some of the big league games, which I only got excited about when the prospects came in.
If you’re interested in checking minor league spring training, you can check out the schedule here (the link will take you to the Sox Prospects website).
I love minor league spring training games because there will always be multiple games in one day. When the Double-A and Triple-A teams are at the complex, the Single-A guys are away, and vice versa. Today, the Red Sox affiliates played the Orioles affiliates, so the Orioles Single-A affiliates were at the complex today. That being said, Manny Machado, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, batted third and played shortstop for the Orioles’ High-A affiliate.
Here are how the Single-A affiliate lineups looked today.
No, you didn’t count wrong: there are ten players in that lineup. This is why minor league spring training games remind me of the Fall Instructional League. The rules are flexible (ie. innings can end with one out and two men on). I was planning on keeping score of all the games, but I realized that this would be impossible when Drake Britton had the bases loaded with one out and the inning magically ended. The pitchers have a pitch count, or can only face a number of batters per inning, so once they reach or exceed that limit, the inning is over (I learned this from Chris Mellen, the director of scouting and senior columnist for Sox Prospects).
De La Cruz CF
Wheeler 1 (the lineup said Miller was going to be the starting pitcher, but apparently, Dan Wheeler got some innings in).
F. Sanchez CF
Apparently, Britton’s fastball was hitting 90-95 mph. Britton had the bases loaded in the second inning at one point, but there were a couple of sloppy defensive plays that can only be cured through repetitive fundamental drills. Britton struck out two in the first inning.
The lineups are kind of indicative of which level the player will be at once the season starts, but such is not always the case. Federowicz won’t be playing in Greenville; it is likely he will start the season in Portland.
Coyle is advanced enough to skip Lowell and star the season in Greenville. Coyle is very solid defensively at second base. Biggest thing he needs to work on is turning the double play cleanly with the runner sliding into second.
Cecchini is likely to start the season in Lowell, which surprised me at first, but I think it’s the right thing to do simply because he was injured all of last year. As he said in our interview, he essentially hasn’t seen pitches since last April. It would be extremely difficult to skip Lowell given his injury.
At the complex, I had the chance to speak with Alex Speier, a sportswriter for WEEI. I really appreciate his taking the time to talk to me. Alex does a great job covering the minor league guys as well as the major league players. I also had the pleasure of meeting Chris Mellen and Jon Singer, two scouts for the Sox Prospects website.
I have also really enjoyed meeting some of the family members of the players. Hunter Cervenka’s grandmother (affectionately known as “Granny” by everyone), Miles Head’s parents, and Lucas LeBlanc’s family were all watching the games today. Lucas has an adorable son named Dawson.
Chris Cameron and Mike Antonellis (you can follow him on twitter here) have been kind enough to let me do some freelance work for the Portland Sea Dogs. I wrote an article about Will Middlebrooks, which you can read here. On Mike’s blog, you can read my article on Derrik Gibson here, and my article on the decision between going to college and playing professionally here.
One more notable thing. A year ago today, Ryan Westmoreland had a surgery that changed his life. Today, he took batting practice. I have seen him take batting practice a few times, and I’m being completely honest when I say that if I knew nothing about the Red Sox, I wouldn’t be able to tell that he had that kind of surgery. I had the pleasure of meeting his girlfriend, Charlene (you can follow her on twitter here. They are on a remarkable journey, and their perseverance is admirable. A lot has been written about his mentality of taking it day by day, and when you think about it, that’s what the best baseball players do. They take it day by day, inning by inning, pitch by pitch. This is exactly what Westmoreland is doing.
Anthony Ranaudo was drafted in the 11th round out of high school by the Texas Rangers, but he chose to attend Louisiana State University. During his time there, he led his team to a national championship. He went 12-3, posting a 3.04 ERA with a WHIP of 1.15. During his 2010 season, though, he was injured, and did not have the easiest time bouncing back. The Red Sox drafted him in the compensatory round, and he was the 39th overall pick. During the summer, he dominated in the Cape-Cod League, where he didn’t give up a run in 29.2 innings. In the following interview, Ranaudo discusses how he matured as a pitcher in college, how he is adapting to professional hitters, what he learned from his injury, and more.
If you’re interested, you can listen to the audio of the interview here:
So how has it been here so far, playing professionally? Because in college, it’s more about winning, but here, it’s more about development.
Yeah, it’s totally different. There’s a bigger picture. It’s about longevity and staying healthy and having a good career, but I’m looking
forward to it. This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.
Were you drafted out of high school as well?
11th round by the Rangers.
What were the factors in your decision between going with the Rangers and playing at LSU?
At that time I was only 17–I’m kind of young for my grade–so
I was kind of young. I wasn’t ready to be on my own yet–just the demands
that pro ball would have had on a 17 year old kid, I don’t think I
was ready. I needed to go three years of college [to]mature and kind of
learn the game a lot more. Being in New Jersey I kind of played basketball–I played 20 games a year [of] baseball, so I needed to learn the game, be around the game more. Now I feel like I’m well suited for the game and
ready for pro-ball.
So when you say “learn the game,” what do you mean by that, and what did you learn in college?
[The] unwritten rules–just how to play the game, [and] awareness: what you need to do; how you need to prepare yourself; knowing
my body, knowing what kind of pitcher I am, knowing players around me, knowing
hitters–just the stuff that you learn… scouting reports and just the daily grind–college isn’t the same as pro ball–it was a stepping stone, and now I feel
like I’m ready to take on a full season here.
So what kind of pitcher are you? What’s your arsenal like? How has it changed since high school, and how have you changed?
Well like I said, I’m more mature. In high school, I got rattled if I gave up a hit or didn’t do as well. I kind of unfolded a little
bit, and I think that’s what I meant when I said that I needed to go to college
and mature a little bit. Now I know that each time I go out there its
just one start;its just a piece to a puzzle. Like I said, it’s a long road, so I cant
get unraveled about one bad outing, or one bad pitch, or one bad inning, so I
think I’ve matured a lot since high school. As far as my arsenal, I throw a
fastball. I’m a fastball pitcher: I pitch my fastball; I throw anywhere from 90
to 95, anywhere around there, and then I throw a good curveball, and then
I have a pretty good feel for a changeup, so I throw three pretty solid pitches.
You were in the playoffs a lot in LSU–definitely a good college team to be on–how do you think that contributed to your development, being in those high-pressure situations?
I think [it has] prepared me tremendously. I’ve played in front of
the most hostile crowds, huge crowds you could pry play in college. Every
weekend LSU draws the best crowds in college baseball. We would have 10,000
almost every Friday when I pitched, so I’m used to pitching in front of big
crowds, and then we went to the most pressured situations in the regionals, the
super-regionals… I pitched in front of 30,000 in Omaha for our national
championship, so I think it’s [going to] benefit me–not necessarily earlier in my
career, but later in my career when, hopefully, I can make the big leagues, and
then I’m pitching in front of 30,000 people and millions of people on TV. Hopefully I can go back to those days where I can pitch and throw in front of
30,000 people in big situations and just tell myself that I’ve been there before,
relax, and just be me.
What was your biggest challenge last year?
Last year there [were] a lot of challenges. I got hurt, so that
was pry the biggest challenge I had to overcome, and when I overcame
that injury and I was finally healthy, I didn’t have anywhere near the success
that I was expected to have, and that I expected of myself, and that my my team
expected of me, so that was pry a really tough challenge to overcome. I did
overcome it: I had a good summer, and I think that those were all learning
lessons and life lessons, and that was part of what I said, me maturing, and I
think I’m a better pitcher now.
With you saying that you weren’t able to live up to your expectations and stuff like that, do you kind of attribute that to the injury?
No, I hate to blame stuff on the injury. I was healthy when I
came back–whether it was rushed or just being in not the greatest place
mentally because I had missed four or five weeks–I just wasn’t locating my
pitches as well, and it seemed like every time I missed a spot or something,
someone took advantage of it in a big way, and that’s why
all my numbers were inflated, I just didn’t hit my spots, didn’t have great
command of all my pitches; my curveball wasn’t as sharp, and that’s just all on
me. I just wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, and like I said, it’s just a
learning experience, and I’ll know better now if I ever get hurt again just to be
better prepared when I go back into the games.
Now in college obviously players can kind of take advantage
of your mistakes more because of the aluminum bats. So now that you’re here
pitching against wooden bats–obviously you’re gonna have more experience
starting with spring training–do you have to change anything when it
comes to wooden bats?
I think it’s gonna benefit me. As a pitcher, I’ll be throwing to
contact a lot, which means I’ll be throwing more to make the hitters swing, and
make the hitters put the ball in play, so that way I can go deeper into ball
games and have less of a pitch count and be more efficient as a pitcher. Whereas in college, if you throw more down the middle, if you throw to contact,
you’re more likely to give up cheap hits, and then hits that will go a lot
further, and hits that will be hit harder. With wood bats it’s [going to] be a little
more true, and you can throw to contact more and try to be more efficient.
So let me get this straight: in college you’re more of the strikeout
pitcher because if you make the mistake, they’ll be able to hit it, but
professionally you can pitch to contact more because its wooden bats, and they’re not
going to be bale to take advantage of your mistakes as much.
The hitters are obviously better hitters at this level, but
with that said, they’re still hitters, and the way a pitcher looks at it, the best hitters fail seven out of ten times. With
that said, you can throw to contact, and that’s what pro-ball teaches you: You throw
to contact, try to get outs quicker, try to keep the ball down so you can get
ground ball outs, and keep your infield and your team involved, and keep your
pitch count down, and go deeper into ball games, and hopefully, like I said, stay
healthy and have a longer career.
In college, you probably had the same catcher, but here you won’t have that: you’ll have guys coming in and out all the time. Are you going to be less comfortable because of that?
I don’t think I’ll be less comfortable: it’s part of the job–it’s part of the career–there will always be catchers going in
and out, always have a bullpen catcher or a game catcher, and youre
always [going to] be moving out, moving around throughout your career, so I don’t
think it’ll be that big of an adjustment. It’s something that never really has
bothered me or helped me really. It helped me a little bit in college because my
catcher was my roommate–one of my best friends–but that was a pretty rare
occasion so I don’t think it will bother me too much [here.]
Do you let the catcher do the thinking and call the pitches, or are you more prone to doing that yourself?
I sit down with the catcher before I go out there,
and kind of give him a game plan of what I want, and if [he] and I are on the same
page, I just tell him ‘hey man, I’m just [going to] go with what you call.’ I very rarely
shake off unless I have a pitch that I definitely want to throw, and he didn’t
put it down, but most of the time, the catcher has the best view. They know the
hitter–they are the hitter–so I like to go with what catchers call, so that way
you’re both on the same page all the time, and that keeps the catchers confidence
up too, and that way you guys work better.
What do the catchers say when they come out and talk to you? I have always wanted to know that.
Just depends on the situation. Like I said, my
roommate from college would come out, [and] he would know what to say to me. He would
kind of just fire me up a little bit–probably not something I would say during
an interview–that’s the kind of stuff that he would say to me, but in a game
when a catcher doesn’t really know you, or he is just a teammate or whatever, he
just kind of tries to make you feel better, tries to tell you what’s going on,
tries to separate you from that moment: ‘hey take a breath, just relax, just take a
second real quick, I’m just coming out here just for you, just a break’ and you’re
like alright cool, just regroup, refocus. Then you step back out there on that
rubber back to competing.
You pitched in the Cape-Cod League and you dominated (no earned runs in 30 innings), what did that do for your development? What did you see that as an opportunity for?
Well I saw it first and foremost as an opportunity to bounce
back and overcome adversity. I went into last summer [with the mentality] this is [going to] either make me or break me as a ball player: either I can go into the
summer and have the same terrible summer I had at spring, or I can kind of flush
out spring and say, ‘Hey, this is a brand new start, and I can overcome adversity
and show people what kind of pitcher I am; what kind of makeup I have, and I had
a great focus all summer. I stayed with a great family: they allowed me to be who
I was, and get into a good routine, and I had a great coaching staff, and a great
routine, and great guys to back me up and to work with. I kind of just turned it
around and said, ‘I’m gonna make a change here. I’m gonna start new. I’m just [going to] go
out and compete and show everyone that I can overcome adversity, and that’s
definitely [going to] help me throughout my career, and that’s [going to] be a big turning
point in my life and in my baseball career.
Now that you’re playing professionally, you have to kind of anticipate a higher level of hitting. So what exactly are you anticipating?
I just know that–I haven’t actually pitched an inning in pro-ball –but what I have heard, and what I know is that pro-ball hitters
are very intelligent. They’ve been around the game a lot longer than college guys
and high school guys have. Some of these guys have been playing minor league
baseball or have even major league experience, and then when I get to the major
leagues they’ll all have big league experience. They’ll know pitchers; they know
tendencies; they know sequences, so I think the biggest thing for me is to learn
how to adapt to their type of game, and go off them, and make adjustments to the
way they hit, and counteract the way they’re thinking about me. I think that’s the
biggest test, but it’ll be fun.
Do you change your approach at all depending on whether or not the hitter is a lefty or a right-handed hitter?
Definitely. I kind of use different pitches in different
counts with righties and lefties. I might be more likely to use a breaking ball
early to a righty; whereas, I’ll use a breaking ball late to a lefty as a strikeout
pitch, and use a changeup more to a lefty than I will to a righty. It’s not
that different, but there are certain differences.
What’s the biggest thing you’re working on this spring?
Staying healthy and longevity. Just knowing that this is [going to] be a 142 game season, or whatever it is for the minor leagues, and then I’m [going to] have to make whatever it is, 25-30 starts, and I’m pry [going to] have to pitch
120-150 innings, somewhere around there… maybe if I’m lucky, if I stay healthy, if I
have success. So just try and stay healthy, stay focused, and keep a good
attitude and just try and learn as much as I can about pro-ball in my first
If you had to hit against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?
I would make myself throw my fastball for a strike. I pry
would take all kinds of offspeed until I got a strike with the fastball, and
then kind of make adjustments, but I don’t even know what it would be like to
think as a hitter anymore. That’s weird, I’ve never thought that.
What do you think fans overlook or take for granted the most when it comes to baseball–especially the minor leagues or the college level?
Probably all the hard work that we put into the game and the
dedication. They just think that–not all fans but some fans–think that we just
come out here, [and] it’s a picnic. It’s a great game to play, but some people don’t know all the hard work–the time, the effort–they just
think that they come out here; they make a ton of money; they live the great life–and we do live the great life: we get to play a game that we love for our
career–but pry the hard work, and the effort, and the time behind the scenes that
go into the game, and all the things that peope don’t know about I would say.
What was the bright spot of your college career?
Definitely winning a national championship my sophomore year. That team, those guys on the team I’ll be friends with my whole life, and when you
win a national championship–those memories you make together, and the stuff that
we went through, the ups and the downs–just creates friendships that are [going to]
last forever, and those are definitely going to be the best memories of my
college career: the friendships that I’ve made and the teammates that I’ve
Alex Hassan was drafted out of Duke University in the 20th round of the 2009 draft. Hassan was originally drafted as a pitcher, but he ended up signing as an outfielder, and has played that position since signing with the Red Sox organization. Hassan had a great 2010 season in Salem, posting a .287 batting average and collecting 98 hits. Hassan discusses how he ended up signing as an outfielder, as well as how he overcame his early offensive struggles in Salem last year.
You were originally drafted as a pitcher, so can you describe how that whole process went from being drafted as a pitcher being signed as an outfielder?
Before the draft, all the teams told me I was going to be a
pitcher, and were really looking at me on the mound. Then probably a month
before the draft, I pull my oblique and didn’t pitch. The last month before the
draft, I could only hit, and so I didn’t get drafted where I wanted to get
drafted, so the team that drafted me–the Red Sox–I told them I would go to Cape-Cod and work out there, and they could evaluate me there and decide whether or
not they wanted to sign me. So I went to Cape-Cod, and I had a really good summer
hitting, and I also pitched, but then by the end of the summer they just decided
that that I’d make a better impact in the outfield, so that was
when the decision was made that I was gonna be an outfielder.
How was the transition from pitcher to outfielder? If you’re transitioning from center to right field or shortstop to third base, it’s probably not as hard, but that seems like a really drastic transition.
I did both in college (Duke), so I split my time between the
outfield and pitching, and I think the only adjustment was getting used to
playing everyday, [and] only focusing on one position, the
transition was pretty good because it was a lot easier on my body only doing
What do you think you got out of your experience in college, and how did it help you for this stage?
I definitely feel like college prepared me really well for
pro ball. In college I had a lot of responsibility on and off the field, and
handling the academic aspect of college on top of baseball I think really made
it easier when I made the transition to pro-ball just to focus on just hitting
and playing the outfield.
What are the differences between each outfield position skill wise–whether it be mentally or physically?
I think [in] right field, you’re supposed to have a little bit of a
stronger arm, and maybe cover a little bit more ground, but I think that for
me, it’s going to be pretty important that I’m able to play both [positions] and play both well,
so hopefully I’ll just keep working out at both positions.
What was your biggest challenge last year in Salem?
I just got off to a tough start: the first
month I really struggled. After the first month, I just felt like I took a lot of
pressure off myself to do well, and I started doing a lot better. Just
overcoming a bad start was probably the most challenging thing.
What do you attribute the bad start to? Was it putting the pressure on yourself, or did it have to do with the pitching too?
It was more just putting pressure on myself. I just tried to
do too much just to try and show everyone that I belong on the team. That was
really it. After that first month I felt fine, and I did a lot better.
Because you used to be a pitcher, do you think you kind of have an advantage now that you’re more of a hitter just because you are more aware of the counts?
Not really. I would like to say yeah, but not really. I don’t
feel like I’m good at guessing what is coming anyway. I don’t really think too much
along with the pitcher–that’s just not my style of hitting, but I wish it really
helped me more.
If you were pitching against yourself, what weaknesses would you take advantage of?
If I were pitching against myself id probably get a hit
Obviously the pitching gets more sophisticated at each level. What are the little things you have noticed as you have transitioned?
It definitely gets challenging as you move up, but it’s the
same game no matter what level youre playing at. You can
control and have good at bats no matter where you are. Yeah, it gets tougher, but
you just have to remember that it’s the same game; theyre not inventing new
pitches, so you just have to go up there and hit, and hopefully things workout.
What do you think fans overlook or take for granted when it comes to baseball?
I don’t know if people realize how hard it is playing
everyday for seven to eight months straight, and sometimes you don’t feel physically well,
and I don’t think people understand that.
What is the biggest thing you’re working on this spring?
Just to have a clear mind and [to] enjoy everyday. I’m just
trying to have fun.
You have been called up a couple of times to the big league club. What do you take from that experience?
It has been a really valuable experience. You can learn a lot
just by listening and watching the way that the players go about their business,
and it has been a really valuable experience for me just to see what that level
What has been the bright spot of your career so far? Do you have a favorite memory?
I have really just enjoyed playing for the Red Sox, and this
organization. It has been a lot of fun… I don’t know if I have memory, but I’m really
fortunate to be in the Red Sox organization.
As I have said before, when I think of the four seasons, I don’t think
of spring, summer, fall, and winter. I think of preseason, regular
season, postseason, and the Hot Stove season. Spring Training is
definitely my favorite season for a lot of reasons. I’m a fan of all
levels of the minor league system, and this is the only time of year
that they are all in one place. I can talk to three different guys on
three different levels all in one day, and so far, it has been really
interesting for me to see the differences in their attitudes or
perspectives depending on where they are in their development.
spring is also known for its seasonal allergies, and I contract the
same one every year: spring fever. It is not curable by any tangible
medications; rather, it is cured only by excessive exposure to spring
training. When I call in sick to school with a fever, I’m not exactly
I have posted the transcriptions to all of the
interviews so far, but sometimes the stories behind how these interviews
happen are nearly as interesting as the interviews themselves. I have
no idea whether or not these guys know that I’m not exactly official.
But what I do know is that they have never made me feel unofficial.
Sometimes I tack on “I’m doing some freelance work for the Portland Sea
Dogs…” but even if I don’t, they never ask whom I’m affiliated with.
have all also been extremely accommodating too. The fact of the matter
is that these guys have no obligation to anyone but the organization
right now. Their workouts are long and hard. But they sign autographs on
their way to other stations or on their way inside; and after they
workout or finish extra batting practice, they take five to ten minutes
to sit down with me.
In fact, when I asked Derrik Gibson if I
could interview him after he was done with everything, he mentioned that
he had to take extra batting practice, but asked if I was in a rush.
Normally it’s the other way around. I’m on the players’ time; I try to
do what’s convenient for them, but I thought it was really nice of him
to even ask.
Both Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini waited
while I finished up interviews with Gibson and Matt Price, respectively.
The last thing I want to do is make a player wait, but I also don’t
want to cut off my interviews. But they waited, and neither made me feel
bad about waiting. In fact, Middlebrooks mentioned that I had been waiting. Waiting is an inevitable part of what I do, but waiting is by no means something the players have to do.
Hernandez absolutely went above and beyond. He left after his workout,
which was obviously just an honest mistake, but he certainly did not
have to come back after having gotten back to his hotel. I was in my
car, ready to go to the big league game, when a red truck pulled up next
to me, and he got out and knocked on my window. We did the interview
right in the parking lot.
I have definitely learned a lot so
far this spring from talking with the players. I learn more in a day at
the complex than I do in a week at school (this may or may not be due to
the fact that I also have senioritis).
Here are some of the most interesting things I have learned so far from talking to these guys.
pitchers will use or not use certain pitches depending on if the batter
is a righty or a lefty: maybe more changeups to the lefty because the
ball will get away from them, and with righties it will fade into them.
various improvements of both hitters and pitchers within each level:
hitters become a lot more selective and only look for certain pitches in
certain locations. Pitchers can throw all their pitches for strikes,
and they can repeat their mechanics.
-How the pitchers handle
pressure–they will try and limit the damage with a double play instead
of trying to eliminate it completely.
-The impact that college
can have–both on and off the field. Whether it be learning how to pitch
to get outs, keeping the ball down in the zone, the advancement of the
arsenal, or even learning how to handle living on your own.
differences both mentally and physically between each of the infield
positions: the importance of reading bounces, and the differences in
-The importance of repeating and mastering mechanics and fundamentals.
importance of a good mentality. Sometimes, you can’t think about trying
to be too perfect. Sometimes, you can’t always give 100% and you have
to realize that and give what you can to avoid injuries.
aren’t the only thing I do at the complex, though. On Monday, I had the
opportunity to get a picture with Dwight Evans, and get his autograph
for my dad, who watched him when he was actually playing. He and Carl
Yastrzemski work with the minor league guys on hitting mechanics.
also briefly talked to Theo Epstein. He was at the complex presumably
checking out the great foundation of young players that he has built up.
Mr. Epstein is quiet–we only chatted for a minute–but he’s not
So even though I have been having a great time at
the complex, I have also been having fun at the games too. I much prefer when the pinch runners start to come in, or when the announcer
says, “Now playing left field, number 95, Alex Hassan.” These are the
guys I come to watch. I’ll include some of my favorite pictures of my
projects so far: