Q&A with Tony Tijerina

InsidePitchMagazine.com catches up with Mets' Minor League Coordinator, Tony Tijerina, for a quick Q&A session to get his early thoughts on the Hagerstown outfield situation, to find out the many aspects that go into deciding where a player will start the new season, and more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: Tony, you guys are going to have some tough decisions at the outfield position. What's the outlook right now for the outfield in Hagerstown?

Tony Tijerina: Wow, the outfield situation is really going to be competitive. I mean, just take the guys that I had in Brooklyn last year in Ambiorix Concepcion, Corey Coles, Dante Brinkley, and Derran Watts. You've also got Caleb Stewart and Seth Pietsch, not to mention you've got some priority guys in Cory Wells and Carlos Gomez. These guys aren't even reporting for another couple of weeks so this thing will play itself out in Spring Training. But you're right, it is not going to be easy scaling it down to four of five. Maybe guys like Brinkley or Concepcion could jump up to St. Lucie. We just don't know yet.

Inside Pitch: Talk about what goes into the decision making process on some of these calls you have to make?

Tijerina: Well you never want to put the hammer down on these guys. You've got to stay flexible and guage it over the whole Spring to figure out where a guy should be playing. You don't want to ink in a guy on a certain team early on. You want to constantly revisit certain ideas on players and always discuss the options. Take catcher for example. Aaron Hathaway would seem like a lock for Hagerstown after playing for me in Brooklyn last year. But we've also got Jesus Flores, who at 19-years old, is going to be in Big League camp and is also a priority player. So you don't want to go into the process thinking Hath is the guy for Hagerstown without giving Flores a legitimate shot either.

Inside Pitch: So some guys are priority guys, obviously. How do you work in the priority guys into your team assignments?

Tijerina: The priority guys are the obvious ones. Like Carlos Gomez would be a priority guy. But as we talked about, Hagerstown's outfield is going to be loaded and Gomez, who is just 19, may not get the developmental at-bats he needs so maybe his priority would be better off being served in an extended situation. Who knows? He could win a job in Spring Training too. The priority guys are guys that we want to make sure are getting a good number of at-bats, or innings, to help in their development. It is a tough thing too, especially when there's no need to over-expose some of the young guys to the higher levels. You have to have balance when making these decisions.

Inside Pitch: Do people know who these priority players are?

Tijerina: These kids are not dumb. They know who the top guys are. But they also know that the opportunities are the same. They know that the coaches don't really look at whether or not you're a 3rd round pick or a 15th round pick, you'll get the same opportunity. That stuff doesn't really enter in the thought processs. When we're down in Spring Training we're painting a picture of Major League hope for all the kids.

Inside Pitch: There are always some players that seem to skip a level or others that repeat a level each year. I know it is early in the process, but does anybody come to mind in that regard?

Tijerina: Well, somebody like Blake Whealy comes to mind as a guy that could definitely skip a level, maybe two. He's 24 years old and we have to start challenging him. He has a lot of power and can play outfield, second base, and third base. So we might be looking at him as the AA utility guy. Of course there's still a lot of baseball to be played so all this is conjecture. I'd say maybe, just maybe, Alhaji Turay may be a repeat guy. But you never know. He showed up in great shape at minicamp and John Stearns told me he has a committed attitude this year and seems more mature, so you never know. He could easily play his way into Binghamton. The bottom line is this will all get played out in Spring Training.

Inside Pitch: In regards to position changes, will Aarom Baldiris move over to second base full-time? We noticed he was playing over there primarily at mini-camp.

Tijerina: Nothing's definite at this point, but right now Baldiris is slated to be the everyday third baseman at Binghamton. We've been trying him over at second base more and he's been really good about it. Edgard Alfonzo is his idol so he wasn't opposed to making the move over there. He played second base in Venezuela this past winter and he's starting to look pretty good over there. But as of now, he's looking like the third baseman for Binghamton next year.

Inside Pitch: So how do you figure out which players play on which teams? Give our readers some insights on that process if you don't mind.

Tijerina: Well after the mini-camp, I do my initial depth chart on the guys, position by position. Then the final week of Spring Training, the coaches [of the minor league teams], myself, Kevin Morgan, and a few others will reevaluate the depth charts and start thinking about more specific team assignments for the kids. We'll start discussing who should be where, but most of the time its the managers that fill out their rosters from the top down. Of course, we'll be waiting on the Big League roster to be filled out so it is a bit of a waiting game. A lot of the older guys will get frustrated not knowing where they're going, especially when it comes down to the final days. But its not easier on the younger guys eithers. Once we've pared down the rosters and made the releases we have to, it is a tough couple of days when the guys find out they are going to Extended. For some of the guys, it is their second or third time in a row at Extended. So its really a hard week for many of the guys.

InsidePitchMagazine.com would like to thank Minor League Coordinator Tony Tijerina for taking the time to answer our questions.

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: Tony, you guys are going to have some tough decisions at the outfield position. What's the outlook right now for the outfield in Hagerstown?
\r\n
\r\nTony Tijerina: Wow, the outfield situation is really going to be competitive. I mean, just take the guys that I had in Brooklyn last year in Ambiorix Concepcion, Corey Coles, Dante Brinkley, and Derran Watts. You've also got Caleb Stewart and Seth Pietsch, not to mention you've got some priority guys in Cory Wells and Carlos Gomez. These guys aren't even reporting for another couple of weeks so this thing will play itself out in Spring Training. But you're right, it is not going to be easy scaling it down to four of five. Maybe guys like Brinkley or Concepcion could jump up to St. Lucie. We just don't know yet.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Talk about what goes into the decision making process on some of these calls you have to make?
\r\n
\r\nTijerina: Well you never want to put the hammer down on these guys. You've got to stay flexible and guage it over the whole Spring to figure out where a guy should be playing. You don't want to ink in a guy on a certain team early on. You want to constantly revisit certain ideas on players and always discuss the options. Take catcher for example. Aaron Hathaway would seem like a lock for Hagerstown after playing for me in Brooklyn last year. But we've also got Jesus Flores, who at 19-years old, is going to be in Big League camp and is also a priority player. So you don't want to go into the process thinking Hath is the guy for Hagerstown without giving Flores a legitimate shot either.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: So some guys are priority guys, obviously. How do you work in the priority guys into your team assignments?
\r\n
\r\nTijerina: The priority guys are the obvious ones. Like Carlos Gomez would be a priority guy. But as we talked about, Hagerstown's outfield is going to be loaded and Gomez, who is just 19, may not get the developmental at-bats he needs so maybe his priority would be better off being served in an extended situation. Who knows? He could win a job in Spring Training too. The priority guys are guys that we want to make sure are getting a good number of at-bats, or innings, to help in their development. It is a tough thing too, especially when there's no need to over-expose some of the young guys to the higher levels. You have to have balance when making these decisions.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Do people know who these priority players are?
\r\n
\r\nTijerina: These kids are not dumb. They know who the top guys are. But they also know that the opportunities are the same. They know that the coaches don't really look at whether or not you're a 3rd round pick or a 15th round pick, you'll get the same opportunity. That stuff doesn't really enter in the thought processs. When we're down in Spring Training we're painting a picture of Major League hope for all the kids.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: There are always some players that seem to skip a level or others that repeat a level each year. I know it is early in the process, but does anybody come to mind in that regard?
\r\n
\r\nTijerina: Well, somebody like Blake Whealy comes to mind as a guy that could definitely skip a level, maybe two. He's 24 years old and we have to start challenging him. He has a lot of power and can play outfield, second base, and third base. So we might be looking at him as the AA utility guy. Of course there's still a lot of baseball to be played so all this is conjecture. I'd say maybe, just maybe, Alhaji Turay may be a repeat guy. But you never know. He showed up in great shape at minicamp and John Stearns told me he has a committed attitude this year and seems more mature, so you never know. He could easily play his way into Binghamton. The bottom line is this will all get played out in Spring Training.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: In regards to position changes, will Aarom Baldiris move over to second base full-time? We noticed he was playing over there primarily at mini-camp.
\r\n
\r\nTijerina: Nothing's definite at this point, but right now Baldiris is slated to be the everyday third baseman at Binghamton. We've been trying him over at second base more and he's been really good about it. Edgard Alfonzo is his idol so he wasn't opposed to making the move over there. He played second base in Venezuela this past winter and he's starting to look pretty good over there. But as of now, he's looking like the third baseman for Binghamton next year.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: So how do you figure out which players play on which teams? Give our readers some insights on that process if you don't mind.
\r\n
\r\nTijerina: Well after the mini-camp, I do my initial depth chart on the guys, position by position. Then the final week of Spring Training, the coaches [of the minor league teams], myself, Kevin Morgan, and a few others will reevaluate the depth charts and start thinking about more specific team assignments for the kids. We'll start discussing who should be where, but most of the time its the managers that fill out their rosters from the top down. Of course, we'll be waiting on the Big League roster to be filled out so it is a bit of a waiting game. A lot of the older guys will get frustrated not knowing where they're going, especially when it comes down to the final days. But its not easier on the younger guys eithers. Once we've pared down the rosters and made the releases we have to, it is a tough couple of days when the guys find out they are going to Extended. For some of the guys, it is their second or third time in a row at Extended. So its really a hard week for many of the guys.
\r\n
\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com would like to thank Minor League Coordinator Tony Tijerina for taking the time to answer our questions.
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