Oakland A's Q&A: Gil Patterson

PHOENIX - The Oakland A's recently completed their 2011 fall Instructional League camp. We caught-up with the A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson to find out who stood out in camp and more...

OaklandClubhouse: Cecil Tanner was named the Most Improved Pitcher for the Instructional League camp. He struggled a little today [Saturday], but what did you see from him in camp?

Gil Patterson: He did. He struggled some today, but in general he pitched much better during the Instructional League. I think he's gained a little confidence. I talked to him [after the Saturday outing] that if he gets into a game like that where he's ‘ball one, ball two,' instead of saying ‘here I go,' he's saying ‘oh, here we go again.' So we still have to work on the confidence a little bit more, but there is a very bright light for him at the end of the tunnel.

OC: Do you have to have him dial down his fastball [which has been clocked as high as 98 MPH in the past] to get him to pitch more under control?

GP: This is what I said to him: ‘I will take 94. I won't take 88, but I'll take 94.' That's what I was a little bit disappointed in today. He started to aim it and the velo went down. But from where he was when he first got here until now, there have been big, big steps.

OC: The Doolittle brothers both looked like they were throwing really well and both seemed healthy.

GP: Yeah. They both had good camps. Sean, in one game about 10 days ago – he had a little bit of a bicep thing – but he was 95 average. Today, he was 91-94 and his brother Ryan was at 91-92. Ryan threw only nine pitches in one inning. Sean had the 17 pitches, but I think one guy had something like a nine-pitch at-bat. I'm very happy with both of their progress.

Sean still needs some more arm speed on his change-up. He slows his arm down a little bit on his slider, but it comes out awfully good.

OC: Pitch efficiency has always been a strength of Ryan's right?

GP: Always. The biggest obstacles for Ryan the past couple of years is that he has had a couple of break downs [physically]. I think to have him leave camp now and feel so good is going to be a big step in the right direction come next season.

OC: For Ryan, it was a forearm strain issue this season, right?

GP: It was.

OC: Speaking of forearm strains, Ian Krol got back on the mound during Instructs. Is he back to where he was before he got hurt?

GP: Not quite. He had a tough year, but like we were talking about with Ryan, Ian is leaving here with no issues with the arm and that's really the main issue. That being said, I think when he gets home and has a regular spring training and then pitches in a regular game, I don't think there will be many bumps in the road for him.

OC: How is Sonny Gray's change-up coming along?

GP: Very good. He had numerous swings and misses. He used to spin off a lot and have his front knee buckle, but he went a couple of games where he stuck that landing and kept his head right on line. As a matter of fact, we had a bullpen session and said ‘stick the landing.' He said, ‘but I'm not throwing hard,' so we brought out the gun and it was reading 91. So he's throwing harder than he thinks he is [with those mechanics].

OC: Is he coming into next season with the weapons you'd like him to have?

GP: You know as well as I do that fastball command is the key. He is getting better and is going to continue to get better. It's not major league command yet. If there is one pitch that you can say might be, it's the breaking ball. He can pretty much throw that in any count. But with the little bit improved delivery, the fastball command is going to get better as well as the change-up. Then the curveball will even get better, believe it or not.

OC: He wasn't here but James Simmons got a chance to throw a lot out of the bullpen with Stockton this season. It seemed like he'd be humming along and then all of a sudden, there'd be a blow-up inning. What is his next step, do you think?

GP: I'm hoping that with this off-season and then all this time to rest and recover, he'll be improved next season. It was nice to see him pitch without any [physical] set-backs. He can always locate and I'm hoping that maybe he gains a little bit of arm strength when he comes into camp next year. The breaking ball was better. His fastball was 88 and when he first signed with us, it was 90-92. I'm hoping that he can maybe get back to that after having pitched this summer.

OC: A.J. Griffin had an outstanding first full pro season. What is he working on improving for next year?

GP: In a sense, almost nothing. We talked about locating your fastball and your change-up, and he's tremendous at both. If you had to pick anything, I'd say some improvement on his breaking ball. It's kind of a slow curveball but it has worked for him. And who knows? Maybe a little cutter or slider is in his future.

But right now, the year he had in Iowa and Stockton was extremely good. It's not that he pitched poorly in Midland, but we had to make a move and we brought him back to Stockton. We've liked everything that A.J. has done for us.

OC: Has anyone stood out in camp that has surprised you?

GP: Blake Treinen has had a good summer and fall. We've been very fortunate with our draft class. Treinen, T.J. Walz and Tanner Peters, who isn't here but he had a tremendous run with Vermont. They also call a kid ‘Peanut', Nathan Kilcrease. What a heart. He's got the heart of a lion. Those guys have been great.

Blake Hassebrock was here and so was Robert Gilliam. They are working on their change-ups. It's a credit to them after they both had great seasons to know that maybe this is the next step for them to pitch in Double-A, Triple-A and eventually the big leagues, of course. If they can throw a change-up with the stuff that they have – the fastball and slider – look out.

OC: Daniel Straily had a really great year as well.

GP: He did. We had numerous guys pitch over 150 innings. Answering the bell is important for us, especially with the starting guys. Straily had a tremendous year.

OC: Tyson Ross and Anthony Capra are pitching in the Arizona Fall League. I know you've working with both of them a lot on their mechanics. What are you looking for them to do this fall?

GP: Tyson and I just threw about 30 minutes ago here. Ron [Romanick] did a nice job calming down Tyson's hands. Really for him, it's all about getting back on the mound and getting a little more extension out front. And just making sure that he knows that he's a power pitcher who can sink the ball and can pitch. A power pitcher, not a power thrower. We saw him pitch a few days ago and he had two good innings and today's side session was good, so I'm very encouraged with his progress.

Cap struggled in his first outing. Cap had his bit down here [during the season] when Garvin [Alston, A's minor league rehab pitching coordinator] was an asset to him. When he struggled a little bit in his first game, we said, ‘let's not overreact. It's one game.' But we brought him here and had a couple of bullpens. We put up our batting dummy – and I'm not talking about a position player, I'm talking about an actual batting dummy – and Keith [Lieppman, A's farm director] had him throw some pitches with his eyes closed. He threw two strikes over the middle of the plate with his eyes closed. So we told the catcher that with the next pitch, the catcher had to catch it with his eyes closed.

Cap pitched the other day and threw nine pitches in one inning. I'm just encouraged about him. Once he gets that confidence back, he has a tremendous change-up, as we all know. That's why he almost led all of minor league baseball two years ago in strike-outs. Hopefully he'll continue to stay in this upward direction.

OC: Murphy Smith must have taken a big leap forward to be chosen to start in the AFL.

GP: With the trade of Ethan Hollingsworth, it opened up a spot there. You've already mentioned three or four guys who easily could have gone there. Straily could have gone there, Gilliam and even Hassebrock for that matter. But Murphy had the allotted innings. I believe when this is all said and done, he'll have about 160 innings this year.

OC: Are Pedro Figueroa and Arnold Leon back on schedule to be pitching at a normal pace next spring?

GP: Yeah, they should be fine. Figgy might have been a little bit ahead of Arnold. When I say that, he let the ball go a little bit more than Arnold did. Both of them were still good. But the most important part is health and both of them finished up in a good spot there.

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