Oakland A's Manager Q&A: Ryan Christenson, P2

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - In part two of Bill Seals' conversation with Beloit Snappers' manager Ryan Christenson, the pair discuss the team's young pitching staff, as well as several of the team's position player prospects. Raul Alcantara, Aaron Shipman, Michael Ynoa, Austin House, Ryan Mathews, Kris Hall, Ryan Dull and others are covered.

Click here for part one of the interview.

OC: Outfielder Aaron Shipman is repeating Low-A ball after injuries plagued him in 2012. What do you expect out of him this summer?

RC: I didn't get to see him much during spring training, since he was with the Stockton club. I know he had a good spring training down there. He's got some wheels and can play center field. They're looking to see what he can do over a healthy season.

He was a higher draft pick and they want to see him go. He's going to get a lot of playing time. He has a patient approach and I'd like to see him get a little more aggressive in hitter's counts, and put the ball in play with two strikes. We're looking forward to seeing what he can do.

OC: Another outfielder, Ryan Mathews, is off to a solid start which included a three-hit day Saturday at Cedar Rapids. Do you expect big things out of him, given his college experience?

RC: I was very happy with his 3-for-3 day on Saturday. He's produced for us. He's a fifth-year senior signee and has a tremendous athletic body. He can run a little bit and throw a little bit. He does everything well. He's got some pop in his bat. He's one of those kids that you root for. He's going to get a chance to play in the outfield.

OC: Switching gears to the pitching staff, discuss the organization's approach with the piggy-backing of starting pitchers?

RC: There's eight starting pitchers that they want to see extend themselves out. There are three piggy-back situations, with [Raul] Alcantara and [Seth] Streich going out separately on their own. Those will be the days when the bullpen gets the chance to throw on a consistent basis. Other than that, the guys that are piggy-backing will alternate who starts and who comes in second every week.

For the piggy-backers, we've got Dakota Bacus and Michael Ynoa together, Vince Voiro and Derek DeYoung together, and Kris Hall and Austin House together.

OC: What are some early thoughts of the results?

RC: I'm not completely happy with what I've seen out of the pitching staff. It's kind of the half-and-half. Some of the pitchers have performed well and others not so much. We faced a pretty good hitting team in Cedar Rapids and hopefully it was a good learning experience for our guys. They need to throw quality strikes, and even then, good strikes may get hit by professional hitters. There were walks, deep counts, too many pitches being thrown, nibbling and mistakes being made.

But coming into this season, I realized the strength of our team was going to be pitching and defense. We've got to do a better job and be consistent. They're learning. Our pitching coach John Wasdin has a great rapport with all these pitchers. In order for us to get where we want to be, they need to be the strength of our team.

OC: Perhaps the one player who has garnered the most publicity on the team is Ynoa. What is your approach with him in the early going?

RC: Michael was with us most of the spring. The organization is being very careful and cautious with him. He was given a big bonus. He hasn't had the opportunity to get out there and throw innings because of injury. The main thing is keeping him healthy. He's going to be on a strict pitch and inning count to start the season. He probably won't go more than three innings until we're given the green light to do so.

We want to get innings underneath him to get some confidence instilled in him that his arm is going to be fine. I really like what I've seen so far. He had very few struggles in the spring. He's throwing strikes. His last outing in Arizona, I think he faced the minimum batters through his three innings. Other than the first batter the other night [against Cedar Rapids], he was pretty good. Hopefully he's not here by the All-Star break and gets moved up to Stockton. He has a great arm. You hear the term "easy cheese" and that's Michael. It's fun to watch. He's got an easy motion and is even working on four or five pitches.

OC: Your number one starter, Raul Alcantara, is repeating Low-A ball this summer. Do you feel he's showing more consistency?

RC: He was not real sharp his first outing here, but he's got tremendous stuff. He's got a lot of life on his pitches. He just needs to learn how to control it. He's working a lot on controlling the glove side of the plate, that outside corner. When he starts dotting and locating that fastball consistently, he'll start to take off. He's also made some good pitches, but sometimes they just get hit. We're tightening up some things mechanically, as well.

OC: Who are some other pitchers that have caught your eye thus far?

RC: Austin House has a really good two-seamer and the movement on his change-up is ridiculous. It looks like he's throwing a wiffle ball up there. He's trying to learn that location. Kris Hall touches mid-90s with his fastball. He's been converted over to a starter and will get stretched. Ryan Dull impressed me throughout the spring. He's a strike-throwing machine. He's not the most imposing guy on the mound, but he's got a good arm and comes after people. He gets out quick in the count.

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