Q&A with Savannah Catcher Sean McCraw

The 21-year-old Sand Gnat catcher is in his first year with a long-season club. He has been assigned the task of molding the young Savannah rotation and helping them succeed. Despite a tough night in the field, for himself and the team, McCraw was open to spending time with Inside Pitch to answer questions about his own game and the state of the Savannah staff.

Inside Pitch Magazine: How do you feel about your performance through the first month and half of the season?

Sean McCraw: Well I think I've been playing well. But I can't get totally content with what I'm doing at anytime. I've always got to look higher and do things to better myself.

Inside Pitch: What would you attribute your success to so far this season?

McCraw: I would definitely point to Coach Tom McCraw. He's probably the best hitting coach I've ever worked with. He's helped me so much with the mental part of hitting and it's shown with the amount of walks I've got this season. Right now, I still have more walks than strikeouts, and a lot of walks, and I credit all that to him. I'm up there looking for one pitch. If I don't get it before strike two, I'm not swinging. He's given me that patience.

Inside Pitch: Have there been any changes in your approach at the plate this year? Is it anything physical? Have you been more selective at the plate?

McCraw: I'm real selective this year and I've definitely shortened up since last year. It has not effected my power numbers at all. I'm hitting much better to the opposite field especially with two strikes.

Inside Pitch: Would you say those were elements missing from your game last season?

McCraw: A lot of it is patience and growth. Last year, balls that I hit the other way were simply because I was late on a fastball. Now, I'm sitting back on changeups and I'll drive them the other way. It's not perfect, but it's definitely a work in progress.

Inside Pitch: Over the winter, you said your goal was to get your average consistently above .260. How are you doing towards that goal?

McCraw: That was my goal last year when I couldn't set my goals any higher since I was coming off a season when I hit .220. But this year, I know I'm capable of a solid .280. If I go higher than that, great, but if I stay within myself I know I can reach .280.

Inside Pitch: Flipping to the other side of the plate, as a catcher you are doubly important to your team. How do you feel about your mechanics behind the plate? What areas have improved? What needs a little more work?

McCraw: I feel real good about blocking right now. I had three throwing errors tonight, so I can't say I feel real solid about that. But some days I've got it, some days I don't. There are no real excuses for it. I battle through these tough nights. I feel comfortable back there. I don't let my defense, when it's poor, to get to me. I don't take my defense to my at-bats, and I don't take my bad at-bats with me behind the plate. If I have a poor game hitting, I can't afford to take it behind the plate and vice versa. Tonight, I had a poor game defensively, but I still came up in a big situation with two outs in the last inning and got the winning run to third.

Inside Pitch: What is like catching this pitching staff? What is the makeup like of this staff?

McCraw: We've got a lot of experienced guys and a lot of inexperienced guys. There really is no one on the staff that's at a half way point. I'd like to see the younger guys look up to the older guys and see what they do. There is no really happy medium. There are guys who still need to put the work in down here, and there are guys who are ready to pitch at the next level. We're all still young but it's the perfect time for these guys to mature.

Although, when there is a guy on the mound who knows exactly what he wants to do it makes my job a whole lot easier. But the next day, I can catch an 18-year-old who I need to work very closely with. It's just the nature of this level. Overall, I think the guys have a lot of talent. Unfortunately, when the pitching isn't there, the bats are coming alive. Then, when the bats go quiet, the pitching is right there.

Inside Pitch: Who do you think has the best stuff on the staff?

McCraw: Matt Durkin I think. He can throw any pitch he wants in any count. Jeremy Mizell is also real solid. He's got three pitches and an aggressive mentality. I like seeing that in the pitchers.

Inside Pitch: Who would you say is the staff bulldog? The guy who is going to come to the mound and just let it all hang out?

McCraw: I would have to say Mizell. Mizell has no fear and comes with all his energy. Even if he doesn't have his slider on one night, he'll still throw it. He'll throw to a batter and still make them hit it. He's not scared to throw it in fear of hanging it. He does his best to make the pitch and has confidence that he can.

Inside Pitch: When a pitcher is facing a rocky inning, or you know he does not have his best stuff that night, how do you help him? What are you doing in-game to help him focus on what he can do as opposed to what he can't? What's your approach to help him regroup?

McCraw: Well tonight was a perfect example of that. Polanco pitched his tail off tonight and the defense was letting him down; we made a number of errors. Then he would walk a guy and not help the problem. But I just went out there and let him know that even when he comes out of the game, he did his job, even if the stats don't show it. With the coaches here, it's all about development. The numbers are nice, but the coaches want to see how we all progress and handle problems and situations. We had six errors when he came out of the game, but he only gave up five runs. He still put us in a position to come back and win, and that's exactly what we did. He walks away with a no-decision, but that's better than a loss.

Inside Pitch: You've got Francisco Pena alongside with you. How have the coaches forecasted how they plan on using the two of you?

McCraw: Right now, they've got Pena catching two games and me catching one game. But, they still look for ways to keep my bat in the lineup since I've been swinging the bat well lately. They've put me in the outfield on nights when I'm not behind the plate.

Inside Pitch: Is that something you can expect to see more of? That on nights you are not catching, you will be in the outfield instead of receiving that night off?

McCraw: Well, if the pattern continues as it has been, I'll catch one night; play the outfield one night and a day off the next night. I'll get two days off per week and that's fine by me. I'd like to play everyday, sure everyone would. But what's important is that I'm passed the nervousness of playing the outfield. The first couple days I played out there it was really hard for me not to be nervous. I would get to the plate and not be able to block out my nerves from being in the outfield.

I played centerfield my freshman year (of high school), but I never played the corners. For one, I'm not in charge in the corners and I don't see the ball the same. I don't get to the spin of the ball in left or right like I would in centerfield.

Inside Pitch: What's been your personal high point of the year and what are you looking to do moving forward?

McCraw: I haven't been playing behind the plate as much as I did last year, but I like that I can still get in there and stay on top of my offense. Although I haven't been playing as much as I'd like, I'm producing when I'm in there. It puts that good kind of pressure on the coaches to make sure they have room for my bat in the lineup every night. I've got to show them something, and it's why I'm playing outfield. I'm quite alright with that. I want to keep hitting well enough to send them a message. That meant a lot to me when they sent me to outfield because it showed me how much they valued my offense in the lineup.


Inside Pitch would like to thank Sean for his time tonight after a long day that featured a doubleheader versus Kannapolis

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