Roger McDowell talks about his first day

Roger McDowell, Atlanta's new pitching coach, spoke to the media Wednesday after the first day of the Braves' Early Throwing Program. Here's a transcript of the interview for our premium subscribers.

MEDIA: Did you like what you saw out there today?
MCDOWELL: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It's just nice to be able to get outside and be able to see pitchers throw for pretty much the first time and get an idea of their deliveries, their mechanics, and obviously being the first day it's tough to get a read, but at least you can get started and get some ideas. (After) watching film over the whole winter, it was nice to see them in person on a one-to-one basis.

MEDIA: Roger do you feel any pressure replacing Mazzone?
MCDOWELL: Absolutely. I feel pressure everyday I come to the ballpark. I know, obviously, it's on a bigger scale now. But I feel pressured that I'm in control of a pitching staff. I'm the guy that's supposed to get them better. In saying that, yeah, I feel pressure. Obviously with the success that Leo had here is pretty much second to none, but hopefully I anticipate that we'll continue that success.

MEDIA: But as pitching coach's jobs go…
MCDOWELL: This is it – absolutely. This is, for me, and around major league baseball, the premiere place to be as far as a pitching staff is concerned. The last fourteen and fifteen years, with what this pitching staff has been able to accomplish, and what this organization has been able to accomplish is unprecedented. It's going to be a nice and enjoyable fun season.

MEDIA: Have you lit them up yet with the hot foot?
MCDOWELL: (Laughing) No. I've kind of grown up. I guess my maturity level…now I'm a coach. I still enjoy it. Being out here, this is the best office in the world for me – being on the field and having the camaraderie knowing that the players and the coaching staff and Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz and Frank Wren and Dayton Moore – it's a very nice place to be. I still enjoy the game just as much as when I played, but the way it comes out is in a different way.

MEDIA: Kyle Davies said he was watching himself closely in case you pulled any pranks on him. Are you saying he doesn't need to watch his back?
MCDOWELL: Yeah he pretty much doesn't have to worry about anything now, but we'll see as the season progresses.

MEDIA: John Schuerholz said that one of your biggest attributes was your communication skills. Why do you think you can communicate well with these kids?
MCDOWELL: I know from my standpoint as a coach my job is to relate to every pitcher that is under me. I pretty much have to find a way to express, if we're having struggles or if it's just an individual, how do I get through to that player? Obviously, the young man for the Dominican Republic is going to have a different way to be approached from the young man from Iowa. So that becomes my job as far as how I get to know a player, their likes and dislikes, and how I talk to them so that they understand. I may be able to say something one way to John Smoltz and Kyle Davies may not be able to understand it in the same context, not only from the standpoint of the word, but just the experience as well.

MEDIA: Do you plan to suggest any major changes early on?
MCDOWELL: That's what I told the pitchers today – seeing them basically for the first time off the mound it would be unfair for me to ask them to do something (different) since I have not seen them compete.

MEDIA: Can you describe the emotion you feel today – your first in uniform?
MCDOWELL: No there's not. It's total excitement. It's a totally different excitement than when I was hired. At that time, it was more a feeling of, ‘wow, this is really big.' And today it was like, ‘wow, this is really, really big.' So the feeling is indescribable. It's nice to be in an environment I'm comfortable in, and that's here at the baseball field.

MEDIA: Is it important for the players to make an impression on you here?
MCDOWELL: No I don't think and hopefully they don't think they have to make any sort of impression. It's important for them to be the pitcher that they are. The man they should try to impress is Bobby Cox. In saying that, it's my job to get them ready so that Bobby Cox can make a decision.

MEDIA: Did anything stand out to you today.
MCDOWELL: No. The whole day stands out for me. Other than coming into this ballpark and saying I work here, that's the main thing that stands out.

MEDIA: I understand you do not want this to be called ‘Camp Roger.'
MCDOWELL: Correct. This is the Braves' Early Throwing Program.

MEDIA: Why do you want it to be called that?
MCDOWELL: Well I don't think that I've warranted anything to have it be called ‘Camp Roger.' This is just the time we get together. I know for the past fifteen years it's been called ‘Camp Leo,' and rightfully so because of the success that he had. I'm coming into a new situation, and the pitchers are going to be getting used to me as much as I will be getting used to them. For me, it's the Braves' Early Throwing Program, and we'll go from there.

MEDIA: There is some apprehension among the fan base about the lack of a proven closer. What are your thoughts?
MCDOWELL: I think that will play out during the course of spring training. Chris wasn't here today, but it could be one of those guys that threw today. Somebody's going to come out of camp as the closer.

MEDIA: With the World Baseball Classic, will that disrupt anything you have to do to prepare your staff?
MCDOWELL: When they do go and play in the World Baseball Classic, they'll obviously be away from the ball club. Chris (Reitsma) and Andruw Jones and Chipper and (Jorge) Sosa, (Oscar) Villarreal. So it's going to be something that is new, obviously. We'll have to take it as it comes and go from there.



Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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