Off-Season Q&A With Ron Romanick, Part One

Earlier this month, the Oakland A's named Ron Romanick the team's new major league bullpen coach. Romanick had spent the past nine years as the A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator. We recently spoke at length with Romanick about a range of topics. In part one of our discussion with Romanick, we discussed his new position with the A's and Rich Harden's rehab program.

OaklandClubhouse: Do you know what your new role as the A's bullpen coach will entail?

Ron Romanick: Well, I don't actually know for sure. [laughs] I've worked with Bob [Geren, the A's manager] for a number of years now and he's going to lay out the guidelines for the role. One of the things that he mentioned to me when he told me that I was going to be his bullpen coach was that he was going to redefine all of the roles for all of the new coaches that he's hired. I think that is something that he is going to work on this year. I think that every club that I have been on or have talked about with the major league staff, the bullpen coaches, depending on what background they came into the position with either as a pitcher or catcher, the role has been redefined a bit.

Specifically, obviously, it is helping the pitchers with whatever Curt [Young, A's pitching coach] thinks that they need. A lot of prep stuff, as far as game preparation. Video work, participating in pitchers and catchers meetings, I'll be involved with that stuff with Curt. It's more of a preparatory type position, which is a good thing, because there is so much more information in the major leagues. And then there is basically the stuff that I was handling as a pitching instructor and coordinator, since that is my background. On top of that, whatever Bob defines as my position.

I'm going to try to stay as versatile as I can, in terms of knowing more than what my particular area is going to be. I think that is important as an instructor to be able to do that and know as much as possible. I know that is a little vague, but until Bob lays it out completely, that's what I am expecting. Whatever he needs me to do, I can teach whatever he needs me to teach. He has a vision for how he wants this club to go, and it starts with himself and the message that he and his instructors are selling to the players basically. Everybody steers in the same direction.

OC: Do you think it is going to be helpful for you to have worked with so many of the pitchers who are on the A's staff as they were working their way through the system?

RR: Yeah, definitely. The shape of the team all starts with Billy Beane and the ownership and the front office, though. Obviously I know a lot of the guys, but there will be an influx of free agents every year that you have to – not convert, but integrate. It's a pretty soft sell [to integrate the new players into the A's system].

We've had a pretty good winning tradition since I've been here and so you know how to win and you know what the right approach is. It is a soft sell when guys come over from another organization because it's one of the loosest clubhouses that they've been around. It's set-up that way with the expectation that we know how to prepare to win at the major league level. I think that is the message that is going to be sent next season. It starts from the front office having that continuity throughout the organization. I know all of the young kids who are coming through, but you've got to dial into the new guys every year also.

OC: Is there someone who is going to be transitioning into your role as the Minor League Pitching Coordinator?

RR: Yeah, there have been some guys [considered]. I haven't talked to Keith [Lieppman, A's Director of Player Development] about it recently – he's my boss and he'll always be my boss in this business [laughs]. He has been really good for me over the years. He's going to decide who is going to fill my position.

Hopefully, I am still involved with that program because it started nine years ago and it has evolved and hopefully whoever takes on that job will keep the core of that going. I had about three or four projects that I was working on. We are always trying to improve the program every year. I had a few things that I was doing that would add to that program.

I don't know who it is going to be, but whoever it is, I'd just want them to keep that program going because we can't do anything with the pitchers at the major league level unless that happens at the minor league level. So it's pretty important that that happens. If everyone is on the same page and the goal is to get these guys to the major league level to be successful major league players, so you have to have everyone pulling in the same direction.

Hopefully that will keep transpiring. I haven't stopped learning either. I try to learn something new every year. It's a continual education. I don't think that aspect will change with my new position. I'm looking forward to seeing how the program develops.

OC: I know you were working with Rich Harden on his rehab during the Instructional League. How is he looking at this point?

RR: He's in his off-season phase right now. We've finished our work. I always have a good time with Rich. We started out a long time ago. John Kuehl, a good friend of mine, signed him. John's father Karl was the last person to sign-off on me being hired with the organization. I traveled with Karl to the Dominican, so that is how I got to know Karl. And John and I, we lived in the same town. I'm doing a bit of a back story here. [laughs] So John brought me to Central Arizona, and I'm an Arizona State guy, and they were playing ASU in a fall ball game. Rich was a draft-and-follow for us, so we got to see him there. I go way back with Rich.

When we were working together, it was really just us going over stuff that we've gone over in the past. Everybody needs a redo or a reminder or some extra structure or an extra set of eyes looking at them. I'm a prepared guy. I like put together a positive routine and not a redundant one. I don't like to have guys having mindless work. As a pitcher, you've got to know what your core philosophies are in terms of delivery and mindset in practice. If you don't know every aspect of that philosophy, you are just going to be stuck repeating the same stuff over and over again.

Basically, that's what I did with Rich. I just reminded him where he was and gave him another set of eyes to look at him to say ‘yeah, this is correct. This isn't. How does that feel?' It's a day-to-day process of working on that so that he can know where he is at the start of next season. He's a pretty important person for our team next season. He showed up every day and put in the work and I think he left here very positive as he starts his off-season program.

OC: Is Rich expected to be able to do all of the normal off-season work that he would have been able to do if he had had a normal, healthy season?

RR: Yeah, definitely. He's strong as a horse and he came out of this program strong and healthy. I was fortunate enough to be up in Oakland when he was going through his rehab, so I kind of helped structure that with Bob and Curt. I saw two out of the three [simulated games] before I left for the Instructional League and, like everyone else, I assumed that he was going to pitch in a game before the end of the season. I think that was the goal at first, but things change, and I don't necessarily think it was a negative. He looked great in the outing that I saw.

When he came to the Instructional League, we backed off from preparing to pitch in a game and we worked on some more basic stuff instead. We focused on some stuff that we both agreed we should take a closer look at. It was a nice window of time for me to remind him of a few things that have worked for him in the past that made him successful and we just reviewed that.

To his credit, he showed up every day. I'm there until 5:30 or 6:00 pm anyway so I said to him ‘I've got nowhere to be,' so I told him that he was welcome to come join me at about 11:00 am and get an hour and a half of work in everyday and we'll polish some stuff off and he'll go into the off-season with a little more confidence. It was definitely a positive thing.

OC: Were any of the other rehabbing major league pitchers working with you at the Instructional Leagues, like Justin Duchscherer or Kiko Calero?

RR: No, just Rich. He lives down here. I know that Justin lives here, but he is on his own deal, and Kiko is from Puerto Rico so I am assuming that he is back there. Anyone who lives out here is welcome to come out. [Papago Park] is open to everyone. The Arizona Fall League kids, they come over to lift, so it is nice to see how they are doing. Most of my focus the last month has been on the Instructional League. We had a great Instructional League.

Check back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Ron Romanick. In Part Two, we talk about the Instructional League and who shined during that program.

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