Oakland A's Instructs Q&A: Gil Patterson, P2

In Part Two of our two-part interview with Oakland A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, we discuss the rest of the pitchers participating in the Instructional League, including a young Dominican right-hander with dynamic stuff.

For Part One of this interview, please click here.

OaklandClubhouse: I spoke with Ryan Quigley about a week ago and he said that he is working on some mechanical adjustments. Are those going well?

Gil Patterson: In general, yes. Every once in awhile, you have someone that you really root for. And he is one of those guys. He never wants to stop working and he's always doing dry work and working on stuff. Two days ago, he came with a back-up [slider]. This kid is just tremendous. He lowered his arm angle a little bit. He does need some delivery work. Garvin [Alston, A's roving rehab coordinator and pitching coach] and Ariel Prieto started that work with him over the summer and he just continues to work. The other day, on Saturday, he threw a great side. Ryan Ortiz, who caught him, said, ‘Gil, his slider is one of the best sliders I've seen and it is better than the one he normally throws.'

That just goes along with what we said before. You try to go along in Instructional League and try different things to see if something clicks for you. You can try a different grip or a pitch. Where else can you say, ‘I don't care if I give up three homers?' You can't do that many places. Here is one of those places, because if something ever clicks, it can make a big difference in someone's career. He's worked very hard and he is getting better.

OC: Chris Mederos had a cutter coming into the system. Is that his best pitch?

GP: Did you see his numbers? They were amazing. I know he didn't have 100 innings or anything, but they were still very impressive. He just had to go home, actually. He had an ulnar nerve surgery a few years ago and, I guess, when they moved it, it got a little inflamed. But really, the biggest thing he needs to work on is that sometimes he gets too quick from the stretch. Every manager and pitching coach wants a pitcher to be 1.25, 1.3 [seconds to the plate with runners on base], but sometimes he is 1.0. He just gets going too quick.

From what I saw from him this summer, I am disappointed that he wasn't able to finish the Instructional League with us, but I like what he brings to the table. It's almost like, if I'm a really good coach, I'd just say, ‘let's leave him alone and let him just pitch,' but at times, the quality of his pitches from the stretch are compromised because he gets a little too quick. But I am looking forward to seeing him this spring.

OC: Is Paul Smyth still throwing shut-out innings?

GP: It's so funny. In every inning during the regular season, no runs. When he first came to camp, we are introducing everybody and I was telling everyone what a great kid he is and what a great season he had. But I said, you know, he can't pitch in the playoffs because in the one playoff game he pitched, he gave up a run. [laughs] Then in the first Instructional League outing, he gave up another run. So in the morning meeting – we have a meeting every morning for 25-30 minutes to go over the game from the day before so they can all learn from each other – and so I said, ‘alright, we have learned that he isn't a post-season pitcher. He can't pitch in Instructional League and he can't pitch in the playoffs.' [laughs] Seems like every time he pitches now, he gives up a run.

Today [Monday], one of the main goals I had for all of the guys was when they came set, to hold the ball for a four-count before they pitch because you don't want to give the runners a constant time every time you throw. And he did it every time. This kid is just outstanding. He works so hard, is so humble and is trying to get better each time. He has that little funky arm action – he's a sidearmer. The biggest thing he is trying to work on is to throw a slider for a strike and then expand out of the strike-zone if he threw it for a strike, or come back and throw it for a strike if he threw it for a ball. He's already pretty good at it. Today, he gave up four hits, but it was a bloop hit here, a ball in the three-four hole, and he just goes out there and continues to make his pitches no matter what and he just doesn't care. He's tremendous.

OC: Murphy Smith got a lot of time in Low-A this season with Kane County. What is his key to success?

GP: [laughs] You know me. Last year when we talked, I called [Andrew] Bailey a poor man's [Mariano] Rivera. Heck, he might not be anybody's poor man. Murphy Smith – I was lucky enough to be around Mike Mussina at the end of his career. I don't want to throw any Mike Mussinas at him, but this kid is awesome. He is just a pure pitcher. He commands the ball, knows how to change speeds, fastballs, change-ups, breaking balls. He's great. His stuff isn't like Mussina's when he was 23 years old. Mussina was like 93-95 [MPH] before with that command he had, but [Smith] knows what to do. He doesn't panic, has a strong mental game, repeats his delivery. I like him a lot.

OC: How about two other '09 draft picks: Robert Gilliam and Daniel Tenholder. Have they shown improvement thus far in Instructs?

GP: Gilliam very much so. His delivery was so open when he came to us from college. His arm got sore and Lefty [Craig Lefferts] did a nice job with him in getting him on a straight line to home-plate. He has continued that progression here. He is just a max-effort guy. We are trying to tone that down to be just a touch less. There is a place for some max-effort guys. But, in general, I think Gilliam is going to be better off if he just tones it down a hair. He has been very good here. He works hard at it everyday and he has good life on his fastball, a very good curveball and a good change-up. He's got three weapons that can help him pitch and get better.

Tenholder has got a very good slider. He's got two pitches that are about the same speed – his fastball and his slider. He is starting to develop a change-up and just the other day, we started working on a breaking ball that would have enough off of it where he could get guys to swing early, as opposed to a fastball and a slider that are about the same speed. So in Instructional League, he has developed a good change-up and I think we are going to go with a little bit more of a curveball, just to get guys off of his hard fastball and hard slider, where sometimes if you miss a little bit, guys are all over it.

OC: Did Nick Walters become more of a side-armer this year?

GP: No, actually he was a sidearmer and I wanted to raise his arm. You know me, I usually want to lower people's arms, but with him, I wanted to raise it. You saw his numbers. Decent numbers, but he walked five-and-a-half guys a game [for Stockton]. In Instructional League thus far, he has pitched four times and he probably has about six or seven innings and no walks. He still has to repeat his delivery better. He doesn't finish well enough. If he does, he is going to repeat better and, you know as well as I do, if you are left-handed, you have a chance to do something in the major leagues. He has worked really hard so far. He has gotten a little better, but he hasn't gotten good enough yet. Even with the no walks, it still needs more work. But I am happy that he is here and he works hard to try to get that accomplished.

OC: What can you tell me about Jonathan Joseph?

GP: Joseph is a Dominican pitcher with a fastball that is 92-95 [MPH]. And relatively effortless. His delivery, repeating it is difficult for him at times, which is what we are trying to get accomplished. He's also got a very good curveball. Very good. Like [Monday], he goes out there and is 92-95 in the first inning and he throws about nine pitches, punches out one guy. He throws curveballs at 77 that are just dropping off of the table. And then the next inning, it's like, ‘is this a high school pitcher?'

His consistency is the biggest problem. Just like I tell all of the guys, every time you pitch, learn something from it and bring it into your next outing. Joseph should have a bright future. He has got a good arm and he is turning a corner almost like Pedro Figueroa did where it is like, ‘you know something, no more deer-in-the-headlights. I'm the man, I'm in charge and here we go.'

OC: How about Max Peterson and Daniel Straily?

GP: Peterson is getting better. Lefty did a nice job with him [in Vancouver]. We took his curveball away during the season and just had him throw fastball, change, slider. He still has a ways to go. He still needs some work, but each time out, he is fixing a little glitch and getting better with his fastball command. His slider is definitely the way to go and the change-up is getting better as well.

Straily had a good summer. He wants to learn and he locates all of his pitches pretty well. His slider and his change-up are his best pitches but he also throws a curveball and fastball.

OC: How has Justin Souza pitched? He is one of the more advanced guys in camp in terms of experience.

GP: Souza, we've made nice strides with him in Instructional League. He is 91-95 [MPH] with the fastball, and he has a pretty good slider at 82-83. We are just trying to get him to learn how to pitch and not to try to go harder whenever he gets in trouble. Instead, he needs to learn to go lower and slower and be more under control. He is really getting it. Whether he ends up starting in the big leagues or pitching out of the bullpen, I'm not sure exactly what he is going to do.

Like I said before with Bailey being a poor man's Rivera, Souza might be a poor man's Bailey if he doesn't end up starting because he has got a power fastball, a power slider that you and I know I can turn into a cutter in a heartbeat [laughs] and then we get the curveball going a little bit softer. The other day he struck out two guys with curveballs that were 72 or so. He said, ‘I've never done that before' and the reason why was that all of his speeds were the same. But he has been tremendous here. A guy from Double-A who we got in a trade from Seattle here in Instructional League with mostly guys from A-ball or Rookie League, and he has been a great help and has worked hard and learned. It's been nice.

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