Dave Duncan's Initial Assessments

A look at St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan's first impressions of; Alan Benes, Josh Blaine Neal & John Riedling.

Ray Mileur sits down with pitching coach Dave Duncan and discusses minor league and the non-roster invitee pitchers in spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals.

RM Coach concerning the non-roster invitee group of pitchers and a couple of the minor league contracted pitchers here in camp. I know it's very early but, in your initial assessment of this group have there been any surprises so far?

DD You talking about the non-roster guys?

RM Right

DD Well you know the only surprise is how good of shape they all came into camp in. You know I think they all realize this is an opportunity and it appears they worked pretty hard before camp. They all came in throwing well, arms are in good shape, and bodies are in good shape. So it's too early to really evaluate their performances, usually they have to get on the mounds two or three times before you start evaluating.

RM Two seasons ago you said Alan Benes had the best stuff in camp, before he was injured. Do you think he can get back to that form this spring?

DD Well, he has impressed me this spring. I know last year they said he wasn't throwing that good coming back from injury and so my expectations were low. But what I have seen so far this spring he is throwing the good. A lot better than I expected.

RM Dave when you talked about "Playing Nine" I think about guys like Alan Benes who give it their all each time out and don't give up. Benes doesn't have quit in him.

DD Oh yeah. There is nothing he has to prove as far as his attitude and approach to the game. That part of his game is very strong. It's just the physical part of it that he has to show that he is capable of competing at this level.

RM I saw you watching Josh Hancock working out yesterday. He still looks a little over-weight what is your first impression of him?

DD I don't, that doesn't bother me his weight. We had Ray King last year you know. What I'm concern is can a guy pitch or not and is he doing the work he needs to do to be ready to go out there when he is called on. Hancock is doing that. He hasn't pitched in a game yet, but what I have seen so far he has a good arm and two quality pitches and a third pitch that is useful it is not a dominate pitch but it is useful.

RM I thought right-handed pitcher Dennis Tankersley was an interesting invite to spring training. At one time he was ranked as high as a pitching prospect as Rick Ankiel. I thought it was kind of funny he is wearing Ankiel's old number, number 66. He's played in 27 major league games, but he had a game a couple of years ago, where he gave up seven runs without recording out. It seems like since then, he has had trouble putting it back together. Of course as a fan, we think you are a miracle worker. How does Dennis look?

He pitched a couple of shutout innings the other night.

DD He pitched good. Actually he pitched better in that game than he has pitched in practice or workouts. So it was really good to see in the game situation that he took it to different level.

He is like a lot of guys for me. You look at him and you say well if this guy does all the right things he can probably get big league hitters out. There is not any particular thing that just stands out or that really knocks your eyes out. He doesn't have a dynamic pitch for instance. But if he works it together, he can be an effective pitcher.

RM He has four pitches and I have heard that he needs to work on improving his changeup, is that something you are working with him on?

DD I asked him about that because I had heard that. He feels like his changeup is good. I'll have to see more of him before I can sit down and say hey let's spend some time on this particular pitch.

RM Any other surprises?

DD We got Blaine Neal and he has a good arm and we got John Riedling, he is in as a non-roster guy with big league experience and looking good.

RM How is Chris Narveson coming along?

DD He is on rehab and he won't be pitching this spring.

RM Ok Coach I'll let you get to your game, thanks for your time.



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