Oakland A's Q&A: Todd Steverson, Mgr.

The Sacramento River Cats are on the verge of winning yet another division title and continuing their defense of their 2007 Pacific Coast League and Triple-A championships. Despite copious roster changes, Todd Steverson has managed his ballclub to a commanding Southern Division lead. We spoke with Steverson on Sunday about his ballclub, his approach to managing in Triple-A and more...

OaklandClubhouse: I see that Landon Powell was placed on the disabled list. Is his knee bothering him?

Todd Steverson: Just some tightness.

OC: So you don't foresee it being too serious?

TS: No, I don't foresee it being too serious. It is just until he gets everything checked out, we are going to give him a few days off. Having only one catcher would have been tough, so that it why we made the move [to put Powell on the DL and promote Raul Padron from Stockton].

OC: You worked with Raul a little bit in the Fall League, right?

TS: Yep.

OC: So you are familiar with his game already?

TS: Yes. He's a good player.

OC: What have you seen from Vince Mazzaro since he was called up from Midland?

TS: He's struggled in his first couple of innings in his first three outings, but he has shown what got him up here in those next two, three, four innings that he has thrown behind that. He's got a power sinker, a good slider with depth. He's got really four pitches that he can work with. At 21 years old, to have four pitches that you can actually throw for strikes is pretty good. It's just a matter of him getting his feet wet and coming in here and believing that he belongs, which he does, and finishing his flight up to the big leagues someday.

OC: Aaron Cunningham has had about a week and a half up here now. What have you seen from him?

TS: Cunningham, I would call him a precise-type hitter. He is really meticulous on his routine and his approach and he has an idea of what he wants to do when he gets up there. He does a good job of executing his plan when he gets up there a lot of times. Obviously, the success he had in Double-A has carried over a bit up here. He is another good ballplayer that was another solid pick-up for the A's.

OC: Do you see him playing much centerfield, or is he going to slot mostly in the corners?

TS: He's played one day for me here in centerfield [through Sunday] and he's played a lot of centerfield in Midland. We have a few guys on the team who can play centerfield, him being one of them. I usually like to move guys around because when you get to the big leagues, you never know where you are going to play. Travis [Buck] can tell you about that. I believe Travis played left field his whole minor league career and he went up and now he is a right fielder. Danny Putnam, I played him in center a few times last season, but he went to the big leagues as a left fielder and he played in center up there. I try to move them around enough so that they have at least seen some balls in that field. I can't get them everyday repetitions everywhere, but just being versatile like that in the outfield, should make you a more valuable player.

OC: Is having Jeff Baisley back a boost to your offense after having him miss so much time?

TS: Baisley was a big part of our squad early in the year and then he got hurt. He was having a great year at the time and it was unfortunate that he got hurt. Him being back adds another dimension to our offense. He's got some power and he is a good defender. The guys who filled in while he was gone have done a tremendous job. He was almost gone for two months. Us being able to play the way that we have without having all of the pieces that we started with – which you are never going to have in Triple-A – but that is a pretty good testament to the kids that were able to fill in.

OC: There are a few guys on your squad who began the year either with the A's or on the 40-man roster who are back here now as roster players and even as non-roster players. I know there has to be some disappointment for those players when they are demoted. How do you handle it as a manager when a player is dealing with a demotion?

TS: You would assume right off of the get-go that they aren't happy being designated or being sent down or whatever it is. But you know what? The games will go on. 7:05 will roll around again and if you are not prepared to play, you won't get that other chance to get back up there again. Your animosity or your bitterness needs to be short-lived. If you really want to play in the big leagues, you have to take the opportunity that is still in front of you.

That's the attitude that I take with them. I understand that they are angry for a minute, but, you know what? There is a game to play down here and if you are in it, I want your best. I think they know that out of me and there are no call-ups from bitterness in this game. You get called up because you are playing well. That is what it boils down to. You can hold that grudge as long as you want to, but bottom-line, you've got to go out there and play the game. If someone is giving you the opportunity to play, wherever it is, you go out there and do it.

OC: One guy that got an opportunity recently is Cliff Pennington. You saw him a few years ago in Stockton, then in Midland and now here in Sacramento. What kind of growth did you see in his game that allowed him to get the opportunity to be in the big leagues?

TS: He's got the ability to grind some at-bats out and to take quality at-bats consistently. He has been playing quality defense lately and he has always been a pretty good defender. He has gone through some stages obviously in the minor leagues. I had him in Stockton [in 2006] and he didn't do too well in terms of average, but he has kept plugging away and he was determined to get better. You can see that in him. He is a workaholic. He's not going to beat any outfield walls down, but he is one of those guys who can take a walk for you or get that single or he can bunt or hit-and-run or he can drive a ball in the gap here and there.

Really, if the nucleus around him is the right type of nucleus, he becomes a very valuable player. He did for me because I have got guys who can hit homeruns and I've got guys who can hit those gappers and stuff like that. He was a table-setter for me and he ended up playing the part well.

OC: [Sunday's] starter Brad Knox has had a solid season for you. How would you describe Knox as a pitcher?

TS: Brad is just a solid pitcher. He has been up-and-down and through trials and tribulations during his time in the organization. He's gone back and forth between Triple-A and Double-A and he had some back problems a few years ago, things like that, but he has always come out wherever the organization has needed him and he has thrown his pitches. And he's done pretty well. He is a guy that I know is going to go out there and he is going to go after hitters. He is not going to strike-out the world, but he's got some movement on his pitches and he makes them put it in play and he works fast.

OC: Is this an exciting time of the year now that you are nearing the end of the season and you guys have a nice lead and are pushing towards the playoffs?

TS: These guys, based on the type of work that they have put into it this season, they have earned this right to be in the playoff hunt. They play hard. They can't stop complaining about certain things, but you know what, for complaining, it is pretty low. [laughs] It is the right complaints, not the wrong complaints. I think they understand that this is a very talented group of guys all around and that there are only nine positions and basically you get in where you fit in on any given day. A lot of guys have contributed in different ways to a lot of wins on a lot of different nights. It's really hard to pick one guy who has been ‘that guy.' We've had a lot of call-ups. There has been a lot of movement around and they have held their own. I tip my hat to the players for being able to hold their own through whatever has been going on everyday.

OC: Looking back on what is now almost your first full season of Triple-A managing, has it felt different than managing at Double-A or Single-A, or is it all the same game?

TS: The game is the same, but the players are obviously more accomplished. You start to look at the game more as you would at the big league level. We are still developing kids down here, but I pay attention to a lot of [big league] games on TV when I get a chance to watch to see the different scenarios and how they are being handled. I am my own manager, that's for sure, but I want to see how other managers execute certain things, including Bob [Geren, A's manager]. Bob is obviously one of the biggest guys that I follow. I watch him quite a bit in terms of how he goes about handling our team up there because I've got to know. Knowing our organization is part of my job. Knowing the big league manager is one of the best things to know because now it has given me a better way of thinking of how we are going about our business in the whole organization.

OC: Do you have plans for the off-season? Are you going to coach in the Fall League again?

TS: I'm going to do some Instructional League coaching. I like working with the young kids. They are eager. It's not like it is a big change from coaching here, but these guys are grizzled veterans and they have been in the game a while. The [instructs participants] are pretty new to the game. I like teaching. I like watching kids grow and being able to see what our whole organization has to offer. It allows me in this position that I am in right now to have been able to see some of these kids before they have gotten here. So I know what we are getting a lot. I think that is one of the biggest things. You don't always want to go, ‘who are you and where are you coming from and what have you ever done?' It happens, but it is nice to know all of the organization.

I talk to the managers all up and down the organization to find out how everyone is doing. I also look at the boxscores everyday to keep tabs on the players. We are all a good, tight-knit family around here. I have coached with or know well pretty much all of the coaches in the organization.

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