Oakland A's Front Office Q&A: Farhan Zaidi P3

In the final portion of our chat with Oakland A's Director of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi, we discuss Dallas Braden's perfect game, the roles for Landon Powell and Henry Rodriguez and the eventual place for Tyson Ross on the A's pitching staff.

*Note: this conversation took place on Thursday morning, June 10

For Part One of this interview, please click here. For Part Two, please click here

OaklandClubhouse: I know you were at the Coliseum when Dallas Braden threw his perfect game. What was that experience like?

Farhan Zaidi: It was great. I was down in the weight room with Billy [Beane, A's General Manager] kind of watching. He has made the comment a couple of times that he asked me in the ninth inning with two outs if Braden had gotten a base-runner on and I said no. It was funny because we were in there for the last four or five innings and it was almost one of those situations where I figured that we both knew what was going on but no one wanted to say anything. And then when he asked me and it was like, okay, that explains why nobody said anything.

But it was great. There was a great level of excitement. The atmosphere was great and being in the clubhouse after the game was terrific. It is a unique experience – well, until Roy Halladay threw one two weeks later [laughs] – but you don't see that kind of thing very often. I thought it was really a team thing. It's interesting. I think that people have made the comment that there were no spectacular plays that saved the perfect game, like you see in a lot of other instances. But if you go back and watch all 27 outs, there were a lot of really solid or even good plays that were made in that game that I think in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings got overlooked a little bit.

I do think it was really a team accomplishment. Dallas gets obviously the huge amount of credit for the game that he pitched, but I do think it was a team accomplishment and a credit to the guys playing defense behind him. And I think it was good that everybody played a part in it.

OC: Speaking of guys playing a part in it defensively, Landon Powell was the catcher in that game and he has sort of been on a yo-yo this year between Triple-A and the big leagues. Why is it that he hasn't gotten more of a role in the big leagues? It seems like when he plays, he plays well.

[Note: this question was asked Thursday morning, before Powell was brought up on Friday and before Jake Fox was designated for assignment on Sunday.]

FZ: We all really like Landon. In the front office, we like Landon. The coaching staff obviously really likes Landon and what he brings to the table. He is a great compliment to Kurt [Suzuki] as the back-up catcher. He is a guy that you can play a couple of times a week and not feel like your line-up is missing a beat, even though Kurt is one of our best players.

Unfortunately, it is just a function of the roster crunch that we have at the major league level. Landon Powell is a quality major league back-up catcher. I think that given his health problems, he kind of views that as his role and we see it as his role and we think that he has a lot of value in that role. Unfortunately right now it is just a function of roster crunch. When we've needed an extra bullpen arm, we've managed to do that and managing the bench and the other players on the team. I do think that in the long-run, we do view him as a guy that we plan to pair with Suzuki as our catching combination down the road.

I don't think anyone is down on him. It has been a bunch of different factors. He is a guy with options and we've had to use them in order to protect our depth a little bit. With the injuries that we have, I think that we do need to protect the depth that we have.

OC: Henry Rodriguez is another guy who has been shuttled back-and-forth between Triple-A and the big leagues lately. I was wondering why, especially since now that Tyson Ross has hit a bit of a speed bump, Henry wouldn't be that guy to move into the bullpen while Ross goes back to Triple-A to do some starting?

FZ: That's a fair question. Tyson definitely impressed everybody in big league camp [this spring]. He threw strikes, which was a really big factor in choosing him because you have a lot of young relievers who have good stuff and if they can't come in the game and throw strikes then that takes its toll on everybody and it isn't really a sustainable type of performance.

Tyson won a job out of spring training on merit to be a reliever in the staff and for the first month or so, he was one of our better guys. He has hit a speed bump, but I think he's gotten over that now.

None of that is a detriment to Henry, who if you compare what he did last year to this year, he's made huge strides at the Triple-A level. But he was a guy who had a ton of strike-outs last year, but whose overall line suggested a guy who needed a little more time. This year he has done a lot better. This is actually Henry's last option year himself, so over the course of this year, we do want to give him as many looks as we can. Hopefully we can go into 2011 with him penciled in as a guy in our big league bullpen. But he does currently have options and he hasn't always shown the best control up at this level, although his opportunities have been a little bit limited. His last outing was terrific, the two innings that he threw against the Angels. If he builds on that, I think that he is going to get chances in the second half of the season, and, like I said, hopefully be in our big league bullpen in 2011.

OC: Do you see Tyson as a starter down-the-road?

FZ: I think so. A lot of the conversation that we had in spring training was ‘maybe we just keep him in the big leagues until some of our guys, like [Michael] Wuertz and [Joey] Devine get back and once we have added depth at the big league level in terms of the bullpen, we can maybe send him down.' We thought that might be another way to moderate his innings a little bit, as well. That maybe something that we still do in the future, especially with some of the injuries that we've had to the big league rotation. Having him as an option to fill in, there are definitely advantages to that.

At the same time, if he is one of our best options in the bullpen, which until some of his recent struggles he certainly was, if he can fill an important role and be one of the few guys out of the bullpen who can come in and overpower hitters, if he continues to do well in that role, then like we talked about a little earlier, it's a close division and it's competitive. If he can be part of a team that is challenging for a division title and filling an important role, then I think that is what we are going to look at.

But it's kind of an ongoing process of evaluation with him. He was a starter coming into this year. I think that we still think he has the potential to be a big league starter, but it goes back to the whole Earl Weaver philosophy. Sometimes it is good for these guys to break in as relievers and learn how to get big league hitters out once and then once they have that level of confidence, come back as a starter and attack a line-up two or three times. We haven't always had the luxury of breaking in our starters that way and a lot of them have struggled as a result because the absolutely hardest way to break into the big leagues is as a starting pitcher. So it might also be a way for him to transition into that role in a way that gives him more confidence once that is his final landing spot.

OC: I guess breaking in as a starter is hard unless you are Stephen Strasburg. Then everything is easy. [laughs]

FZ: Exactly. It's a fair question. I do think that [Ross] has struggled a little bit recently but when he was going good, I don't think that there was as much clamoring for [him to switch roles]. He went through a stretch where he was having trouble throwing strikes. I think when you are a young reliever it kind of snowballs because you don't throw strikes then you don't get used as much and then when you get into a game, you aren't in the rhythm of having pitched every other day or every third day and you are pressing a little bit. Those things can snowball. I think that we want to see if we can get him going back on the right track because his stuff is fairly unique as far as the make-up of our bullpen.

Oakland Clubhouse Top Stories