Q&A with Garvin Alston

Class-A Kane County pitching coach Garvin Alston talks about several of his top performers on the Cougars' pitching staff.

With a combined 3.85 ERA this season, Cougar pitching may rank near the bottom of the Midwest League overall but that does not stop pitching coach Garvin Alston from bragging on some of the A's top pitching prospects on the Class A level.

We recently visited with Alston and asked him to weigh in on some of those prospects.

Oakland Clubhouse: Branden Dewing has been with the team for about a month after coming up from Vancouver. What do you like most about him?

Garvin Alston: I love his changeup. He's got a little to learn. He was just drafted this past year I believe. He was moved fairly quickly to us because we had a need for a left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. I expect him to start doing as well as he did in Vancouver. His fastball is plenty good enough and anywhere from 87 to 91 miles per hour. His changeup is his best pitch. He's a fiery kid on the mound and is what they call a ‘bulldog.' I love it in any type of situation when the game is on the line. He'll go get it done.

OC: We're expecting Vince Mazzaro to do an interview with us shortly. In the meantime, what can you tell us about him?

Garvin Alston: Love him. To me, once he matures a little more – he's only 19 years old – and his grasp of learning the game professionally, he'll be outstanding. He has a fastball anywhere from 90 to 93 miles per hour. He's touched 94 at times this year. As he gets stronger physically, I can see his velocity getting stronger. His changeup is a pitch that he never threw before, so once he develops that, it's going to be a phenomenal pitch for him.

OC: Joel Posey hasn't been here all year, but what are the reasons for his struggles (plus-six ERA) with the team?

Garvin Alston: He came to us a little after the halfway point. He has a pretty good arm, but has been struggling with his command a little bit. He's a good kid more than anything else. Fastball wise, he has decent sink, but he can't control it yet. That's what gets him in trouble.

OC: Outside of one bad outing a couple of weeks ago, Randy Rapp has been pitching well here. What's one thing that he's done really well?

Garvin Alston: Absolutely. Randy Rapp has been a huge, huge surprise. I thought he was going to be good, but I didn't know he was going to be this good. He also came down with Posey from Stockton, and lit it up. He came in throwing the ball down in the zone. His changeup is like a small, quick little slider. He's been spectacular coming in, throwing strikes and putting people away.

OC: Trey Shields is one of the younger guys on the pitching staff, having won 10 games but struggling at times this season. How much of a disappointment has he been?

Garvin Alston: Yeah, he's a guy that's had a disappointing season. We expected a lot out of him. Here's a guy that can throw the ball 90 to 92 miles per hour with good control and can eat up a lot of innings. He's done the innings part, but as far as the control, and the expectations, he didn't meet them this year – at least not from my standpoint.

OC: What does he need to do to meet those expectations?

Garvin Alston: For me, he needs to stay out of the middle of the zone. Here in Low-A ball, a lot of guys like to swing the bat because they don't know their zones yet. What ends up happening is when they swing at balls in the middle of the zone, the more you give up a lot of hits, which is why I believe he leads the league in home runs.

OC: Jared Lansford has moved up on to the Stockton team, but what were your impressions of him with the Cougars?

Garvin Alston: His maturity level impressed me the most. He doesn't act like a 19-year-old at all. He acts more like he's been around quite a bit, which he has considering his father played major league baseball for a while. So he understands that side of it. He's business when he's on the field. When it's not his day, he's probably one of the most liked kids in the dugout. Everybody wants to talk with him, joke around with him, hang out with him. He's a pleasure to be around.

OC: What can you tell us on Craig Italiano and his injury?

Garvin Alston: He was probably the most aggressive pitcher out of the whole group, the group we call "the high school three" – Mazzaro, Lansford, and Italiano. He was the most aggressive. Everything about him was, "I want to get it done. I want to do it and do it right." He was a take charge-type of guy. That was the thing that I loved about him. He had a great fastball, everybody knew that. He had a great changeup and was working on his breaking ball. With him, it was more of the attitude that he wanted to get it done right then and there. With his injury, I believe it had something to do with his shoulder. I'm not 100 percent sure. I know they leave it up to the trainers to talk about that stuff.

OC: Who have been the surprises this year?

Garvin Alston: A couple of surprises this year would be Ronald Madej. He is a huge surprise and put himself on the map this year. A left-hander that can throw up to 93 and 94 miles per hour with a devastating breaking ball. For him, it's just putting it all together. He's going to be special once he figures it all out. His big thing is, he has 50 walks this year in 60 innings. Once he figures out how to not give those up and give things away, he's going to be pretty special. John Herrera is putting together a pretty decent season. His fastball is good. His slider is really good, but the command is what this level is all about. And with Joe Newby, we've been working pretty well with the rest of the team to get his velocity back up. He's touched 95 miles per hour two out of the last three outings he's been in. He's getting in and making a name for himself now.

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