Coming out of spring training, Stavisky was expected to play a significant role with the Sacramento River Cats this season. Unfortunately, he broke multiple bones in his right-hand diving back into first base in a late-April game. After trying to rehab the injury without surgery, Stavisky wound-up having surgery and missing much of the season. He is back on the field now, however, and is looking to finish the season strong. He is also planning on playing in a winter league to get back some of the at-bats he missed with the injury.
We caught-up with Stavisky last Sunday in Stockton. We spoke with Stavisky about his time in rehab, the make-up of the Sacramento clubhouse and more…
OaklandClubhouse: Did you end up staying in Sacramento while you did your rehab or did you go back home?
Brian Stavisky: No, I stayed in Sacramento. I was on the DL for a month and it wasn't healing on its own, so that is when I went ahead and had surgery at the end of May. I chose to stay in Sacramento to be around the team and I was doing whatever workouts I could for conditioning and stuff. I was going back to Oakland – that is where I had the surgery – and he wanted me to come back every week or so, so it was just easier to stay in Sacramento. My family came out, they still made their three-week trip in June and July like they had planned, so it wasn't too bad killing all of that time, but it was definitely different.
OC: There were a few other River Cats who have been out about the same amount of time as you have been, such as Jason Windsor. Were you guys doing your rehabs together?
BS: Yeah, for awhile. They set us up with a rehab place just outside of Sacramento where guys would go to get treatments and do workouts. For awhile, half of the team was there. Some guys have gone elsewhere now and some guys are back playing, but for the most part, guys tried to stay around the team and stay as active as possible.
OC: Has this been one of the weirdest seasons in terms of the number of injuries and transactions you guys have had at Sacramento this season?
BS: Yeah, it has been weird. For me personally, this is the first time that I have had an injury like this that has taken up most of the season. But to see how many other injuries have happened with our team and with Oakland in the big leagues, it has just been really weird. As strange as that has been, to see how well the team has played all year in Sacramento with whoever has been there – there have just been constant changes with guys coming in, moving up or moving out – it has been such a fun season in Sacramento. I think if you asked anyone on the team, they would tell you that this is the most fun team that they have ever played on, and that is what baseball is supposed to be about is just having fun playing the game and then getting down to business, as well.
That is what has been so great this year, you can have a good time and have fun and still be professional and still win games, but doing it in a fun way. It's been really amazing despite all of the injuries.
OC: Is the tone set from the coaching staff or is it more the personality of the players that is creating the clubhouse atmosphere?
BS: I think it is just the mix of personalities. I think we have helped [the coaching staff] kind of be a little more laid-back this season. For example, here's a quick story: One time, [Sacramento manager] Tony [DeFrancesco] was coming out to the mound to talk to the pitcher because we had a runner on first and the runner went from first to third and the throw went to third and it should have gone to second. So Tony went out to the mound and he was fuming because the runner had taken second on the throw. He was upset and Jeremy Brown is just staring at him and he says "Tony, are you dyeing your hair?" And Lou Merloni is over there too, and he says "Yeah, yeah, it looks darker. I think you are dyeing your hair." That really broke the tension of the situation.
Stuff like that has been happening all season long where just when you think someone is going to be seriously upset, someone like Brownie or Merloni will make a comment and ease the tension and get everyone back to relaxing. The guys on the team have just mixed well together and Lou is probably the clubhouse leader with his experience and just the way he is. He is just the kind of guy you want to be around. That is just how the season started and it has just carried on even as the new guys have come in.
OC: Is Lou someone that you can talk to about his major league experience and learn about what it takes to get to that next level?
BS: Yeah, that is the biggest thing. When I was injured, it was really important to me to still be around the team to be around guys like Lou Merloni or Dee Brown, or guys like Donnie Murphy or J.J. Furmaniak who have gone back and forth from Sacramento to Oakland this season. Just being around and hearing what they have to say is really helpful. Being around Mike Piazza during his rehab and just talking to him, that was really great. Everyone has been really willing to share their experiences.
Lou has been a really good guy to look up to and to be a teammate with, and you can talk to him about his experiences. He's pretty sharp. Obviously, he is a good player to have been playing this long and to have been in the big leagues, but he is also really observant. He can really pick up on little things, like he was helping me with my swing a little bit. It was because I got hurt, but he was just recommending little things is a nice way and not in a getting-on-you-way and that really helped. And that is a guy who I only played with for a few weeks, and he was already noticing changes in my swing. In a nice way, he came to me and told me what he saw. It's great when guys are like that instead of bitter that they are in Triple-A after they have been in the big leagues. That has just carried over to the entire team.
OC: I saw you at first base coach the last time I was in Sacramento. Have you been doing that more this year while you were hurt and did it help you learn more about the game?
BS: It gets kind of boring when you can't play, so I try to do whatever I can to stay in the game. I'll go coach first base and at least when guys are on, I am talking to them and seeing all the signs and staying in the game. Actually, we kind of have a superstition that the first base coach dictates how many runs we get, so if the first base coach is out there for a couple of innings and we don't get any runs, they get booted for someone else. But since I have been hurt, I have been coaching a lot of first base and we have been winning. We talk about "runs coached" and stuff like that [laughs]. It's been a good way to stay a part of the team and to do what I can. Last home-stand, I even caught in the bullpen a little bit so that [J.D.] Closser and Brown could have time-off from that. That way I could see pitches come in. Now that I am playing again, hopefully all of that stuff will help me get back into it faster.
OC: After the first couple of games back, do you feel a little rusty or do you feel close to normal again?
BS: It's not completely back yet. The first game, I felt a little off. The second game, I felt a little better. Today [which was last Sunday], I'm just feeling confident because now I have had some at-bats and I feel like I am in the flow. At the beginning, you only have one at-bat to judge yourself on or two. Once you get into the flow, then I think that helps. But I feel good. I'm just trying to take it all in. It has been great being [in Stockton] with these guys being so welcoming and helpful.
OC: Is it weird to be back in the California League after so many years?
BS: Yeah, it's definitely different. It would have been nice if Stockton had had this stadium when we came to play here with Modesto [back in 2004]. But it brings back good memories [Stavisky was the Cal League MVP in 2004]. Baseball is baseball. I'm just happy to be back on the field. It doesn't really matter where I play. I'm just looking forward to being back at it again.