Oakland A's Prospect Q&A: Ron Flores, RP

Lefty Ron Flores knows the route on I-80 from Sacramento to Oakland quite well. Over the past two seasons, Flores has shuttled between the River Cats and the A's. The 2007 season figures to be more of the same for the lefty. We spoke with Flores before the start of his season with the Sacramento River Cats.

The 2006 season was a year of milestones for Ron Flores. Flores earned his first major league win, his first major league save and even logged his first major league at-bat. Flores made 25 appearances for the Oakland A's in 2006, posting a 3.34 ERA in 29.2 innings. He also made 26 appearances for a Triple-A Sacramento.

Before the 2005 season, Flores seemed to be stuck at Triple-A. He arrived in Sacramento during the second half of the 2003 season and despite making the Triple-A All-Star team in 2004, he wasn't invited to major league spring training camp in 2005. Despite the snub, Flores wasn't ignored during the regular season when the A's bullpen was beset by injuries. He was recalled to Oakland during inter-league play in 2005 and he retired Philadelphia's Jim Thome during his major league debut. Flores would finish the 2005 season having made 11 major league appearances, allowing one run in 8.2 innings.

That performance put Flores at the front of the pack of relievers to be brought up from Sacramento in 2006. Although he will begin the 2007 season in Triple-A once again, it is likely only a matter of time before the A's have to call on the USC alum and former substitute high school math teacher once again.

We spoke to Flores before the start of his season with Sacramento to gauge his thoughts on his 2006 season and what he was looking to improve on in 2007.

OaklandClubhouse: How did you feel your spring went?

Ron Flores: I started off really well. I felt pretty good about it. Then I gave up a two-run homer two outings in a row and it was kind of like, ‘that's it,' you know. My arm felt good the whole time and I felt like I was executing my pitches well. That's all you can really ask for. Mentally, I'm ready and physically, my arm feels great, so I am ready for the season to start.

OC: You spent a lot of time in Oakland last season. Did you feel settled in the bigs?

RF: I wasn't really settled. I was up and down five times. Never did I feel like I was here to stay. I was always watching the DL list and I was always watching the transaction list to see who was going where. It was a roller-coaster. I'm still waiting for that year where I can get that apartment and sign that six-month lease and really settle down. In the meantime, though, I don't mind being here. Sacramento is a good spot.

OC: Were you with the A's during the playoffs? What was that experience like?

RF: Yeah, I traveled with the team for the playoffs. It was incredible, so much fun. There is no substitute for the experience, even though I didn't throw. It's just a totally different vibe [in the playoffs] and to watch the different gear that the team kicked it into. It was as fun as an experience as I have ever had in baseball.

OC: What was that San Diego game like last season when you pitched four innings in extra frames and earned the win?

RF: I threw two innings one day and then I thought was down the next day. They told me I was last, just in an emergency, and we blow the save in the ninth and only me and [Chad] Gaudin are down there available and Gaudin had thrown something like four days in a row. He was really last on the [availability] list that day, even behind me, so when the phone call came down, we both looked at each other like ‘uh, oh.' Then they got me up. I figured I was out there until the game ended. I got some outs early and got rolling from there.

OC: You had an at-bat in that game right?

RF: Yeah, I did. I faced [Alan] Embree, who we have now and who is one of the hardest throwing lefties in the game. And I'm hitting lefty, so I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life. I always give him a hard time because that inning that I hit, he struck out two other batters and I was able to put the bat on the ball. I hit a little chopper and grounded out, so I really got him. I put that one in my book since I put it in play. That game was probably the peak of my baseball career thus far.

OC: Did you travel to St. Louis to watch your brother [Randy Flores] in the World Series?

RF: No, I got home [from the ALCS] and it was like woosh. I was exhausted. We had just bought a house in Las Vegas so I had the recliner and the big screen and I was able to watch all of it there. My parents went to the games.

OC: When does your brother get his ring?

RF: They get them [on Tuesday], actually, against the New York Mets. He is really amped. He said that it has already sunk in what they accomplished, but [getting the ring] was like another moment, another chance for him to realize that they can't take away what they accomplished last season. We talk all of the time and he is a really down-the-earth guy and he sometimes still can't believe what happened.

OC: Did you do any teaching this off-season?

RF: No, that's to bed at this point. With the kids, I have enough teaching going on. Mostly my off-season was just working out and doing things for the house. I did a lot of furniture shopping and things like that, so it was still a pretty busy off-season.

OC: What are you looking to improve on this year?

RF: There is always the thing with getting lefties out. The biggest thing I think that kept me off of the A's this year was that I struggled against lefties last year. They hit over .300 off of me. I had a rough start against them and even though I pitched well towards the end, there was only so much I could do to bring [the BAA] down.

It's all about finding new ways to go after the same guy. Instead of just slidering them to death and hope for the best, there is got to be a new way , a new thought process for how to attack the same hitter. I will be throwing more change-ups to lefties this year, which is something that I never really did before. Coming in a lot more against lefties. That's probably the biggest thing I'll be working on.

OC: Have you been getting a lot of advice from Alan Embree on facing lefties?

RF: A little bit, yeah. It's kind of hard to gauge off of him because he throws in the mid- to upper-90s. I can't really ask him ‘hey, how do you throw really hard.' [laughs] He asked me one day how I throw my change-up and I said ‘I'll tell you as soon as you tell me how to throw 97.'

But regardless of how hard you throw, the attacking and the mindset is the same. He likes to jump out ahead with his fastball and he's got a good breaking ball, so he has a couple of weapons to go after the hitters with. A guy like him really keeps it simple. He doesn't like to over think it, and he doesn't get too technical, which is something that I can get into sometimes. Sometimes you try to out-smart a guy so much that you out-smart yourself. Keeping things simple is probably the biggest thing that he has taught me.

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