I think for the most part we're hanging in there. I had a lot of these guys last year and they're progressing. We're not exactly right where we want to be, but I know I've got some warriors out here fighting for us.
I hope so. I kind of have a feel for what the guys do, what their strengths are, and what we need to work on. Right now, we've already lost several pitchers who have moved up. That's a plus and that's why we're here, but it also makes my job a little bit tougher when I get a new guy that I haven't seen. The guys have played well. We're a couple games under .500, but like I said, we've sent some guys up already and we're bouncing three or four guys around the infield just for developmental purposes, so that they know how to play every position.
Mark Reed, your catcher, is one of those guys we've seen out at second and first base at times. Is there any thought of moving him primarily to an infield spot?
I think Mark is a unique athlete for us. Primarily, I think he's going to stay behind the plate. But he's such a good athlete that he could play any of those (infield) positions for us. He played some first and third for me last year, and he can play second, too. There's no telling where you might see him.
For us, we've seen a lot of great things from Jeff and a lot of ability. He's a gamer and he's going to come out and do his work. Everything that could have gone wrong for him so far has gone wrong. But Jeff is a guy that's going to battle and he's not ever going to give up.
He hasn't gotten away with any mistakes. He's had some good innings, but he always seems to have that one big inning where he jams a couple of guys and they turn it into doubles, then the next guy hits the ball hard. Relatively, Jeff hasn't pitched much and to throw him in this level is a pretty big jump for him.
Are his pitch counts as high as his lack of innings from start to start would indicate?
Yeah, they've been pretty high. A couple of games, we got him out of there when we had a full bullpen and he had the lead so we weren't going to put him on the hook there when he got in trouble. It's a little bit of inconsistency and bad luck, because he gets ahead of guys and then he makes mistakes. They just haven't missed it.
By all accounts, his fastball has been strong velocity-wise, but how about his secondary pitches? We know that during at least one of his starts, his breaking ball wasn't breaking a whole lot.
His fastball velocities, with the movement that he brings, are exceptional. At times, he tries to overthrow his breaking ball and it flattens out. That's some of the troubles that he's gotten into. But that's why we're here. He's working on his slider and his changeup. (Coupled) with his fastball velocities and the movement, we see great things from him. Right now, we're not too concerned with the numbers.
Did Colvin impress you as much as most everyone else in this league?
Yeah, Tyler brings everything to the table: great arm, runs well, has great baseball instincts. (At one point), he (was trying) to do a little bit too much with his body at the plate. With a little more maturity and experience, he'll shorten his stride up, and it's only going to get better.
Mitch Atkins was one of those aforementioned guys you managed last year in Peoria. What have you seen from him, and how much longer would you keep him down here?
Mitch might be one of those guys that gets a chance to move up (in the second half). It was really a big decision for the organization to send him here out of Spring Training. He really pitched well this spring and he's been our most consistent starter. He's got the makeup to go ahead and pitch at the next level.
Another of your all-star's, Jesus Valdez, is really producing. What would you say about him as a hitter?
He's probably as close to a pure hitter ... he's the kind of guy that can make an adjustment in the middle of an at-bat, depending on what the pitcher is doing to him. He stays back well. He's just a kid and we hope he gains a little more power playing that corner outfield spot.
Consistently, he puts the ball in play and is knocking in runs. He's almost like an RBI machine. I had him last year and he finished second in hits (in Peoria) to only Ryan Norwood. He's a guy that just adjusts on the fly and that's really what we like about him.
Brian Dopirak has had some success in the past obviously, but he's struggled for a while now. What is he working on and what does he need to improve on?
The biggest thing for him is just to get healthy again. He's jumping in the middle of a lineup with not many at-bats and with guys that have been here all year that are way ahead of him. He's working on timing. He's always been a great hitter.
Are you still enjoying managing these players in your second year back with the Cubs?
Oh, yeah, I like it. The guys have been great and we have a great bunch of kids who come and get their work done every day. It's a competitive bunch.