Q&A with Catcher Sean McCraw

It has been a year of growth for the newly elevated St. Lucie catcher. McCraw followed up a promotion from Kingsport to Brooklyn last year, with a big step forward in 2007. He spoke with Inside Pitch about how he advanced during his time in Savannah, what he thinks about the St. Lucie staff and more.

Inside Pitch Magazine: How do you think the season's second half has gone for you?

Sean McCraw: Since the All-Star break, I think I've taken advantage of most of my opportunities. I feel like I was seeing the ball really well in the Sally League. I was picking good pitches to hit, making good contact and getting myself on base. I was just shy of my goal of where I wanted to be hitting, .280, but if I had been there another week, I definitely would have gotten there. I think I've handled myself well with the playing situation down there, how I was splitting a lot of time behind the plate. Overall, my entire game I think really picked up in the last month or so, and I was happy with my play when I left Savannah.

Inside Pitch: Offensively, in what areas do you think you have improved the most?

McCraw: I definitely have a better idea and understanding off the strike zone—what my pitches are to hit, what to lay off. It's a little bit of my timing and mostly my pitch recognition. I've done better of knowing what to look for in certain counts. For me, it's about having a plan when I step to the plate, knowing what to look for when to look for it and making sure I make good contact. If I wasn't getting what I was looking for, I had to build more bat control and not start swinging at pitches I don't want. Now, if I don't get my pitch, I'll let it go and I now have no problem hitting with strikes. That is something I've had to learn to do for a while, and I think I improved a lot in that area.

Inside Pitch: On the other side of the ball, what parts of your game defensively do you think have matured?

McCraw: Defensively, I would say this was my best year. The last time we spoke [May 14], I had the worst game probably of my life when I had so many errors in a night. I have six errors on the season, and four or five of them came that night. Earlier in the year, I was getting too many catcher's interferences and making wide or high throws to second base, but I haven't let that bother and I've continued to work. It was shaky early on, but I put in the time and work behind the plate, and I think I've come a long way.

Inside Pitch: You were just called up to St. Lucie recently, which was a goal of yours earlier in the year, what led to the promotion? What did the coaches see or say that earned you a spot in St. Lucie?

McCraw: Well first, I think everyone knew that when Drew Butera got traded, catchers in the organization may have got shuffled around a bit. But, when I left Savannah, they did not really tell me much except that I was heading up there. They didn't tell me if I'd be backing up or starting. But, since I've been up here, I've only missed like one game, so I hope that they do have more in store for me. It's been great to come up here, step in and play right away. It's helped me understand that the work I put in all spring has been paying off. Coming up here, it was a relief. I do feel like I deserved it, and that just my real honest opinion.

Inside Pitch: Right from the start, what differences did you notice between the two levels?

McCraw: Well first off, they definitely throw a lot more strikes up here. The thing is, I haven't been here that long, but I've seen the pitchers pitch more to the bottom corners of the strike zone which shows a lot more maturity. The pitchers have a lot more control of their game and what they want to do within each game. There are more off-speed pitches thrown and a lot more control of off-speed pitches.

Inside Pitch: Due to that raise in talent level, how did that make you change your approach at the plate, if any?

McCraw: My approach will never change. I just have to stay within my game, stay on top of every little thing I do and make sure that my mechanics are as good and solid as they can be. I think my approach is fine for production as long as mistakes or errors stay out of it.

Inside Pitch: You mentioned you worked hard on your timing and pitch recognition. Is there any part of your swing that you think may need further maturity due to the tougher pitching?

McCraw: I think my approach is the best thing I have going for me. The problem is my swing. Some days my swing will be there, some days it won't. It's a matter of consistency with my swing. I'm just trying to keep a solid base, keep my legs underneath me and use them. I try to not to swing all on my front leg. Whether I pull the ball, or the go the other way, it's important I keep that base and keep swinging through the ball, not out and around the ball.

Inside Pitch: Getting back to that defense, what is like catching the St. Lucie staff?

McCraw: I had Tobi Stoner down in Savannah, and I've caught most of the other guys down in spring training, so I knows these guys pretty well and have a good idea of what most of them throw. I think catching Joe Hietpas, who used to be a catcher, was neat and kind of an honor. I thought that because here is a guy who used to be a catcher who is now on the other side pitching to me. Knowing that there is a guy out on the mound who can do your job better than you can, you want to show him how good you are.

Inside Pitch: In the time you have spent in St. Lucie so far, who do you think has the best stuff of all the guys you caught?

McCraw: All these guys have good stuff and we've been successful. We've lost the rehab starts and won [most of the rest]. They've all been pitching great. I think Niese has the real good curveball. Eric Brown has the great slider and Jacob Ruckle has the really good changeup and that's three of the five starters. These pitchers do a real good job of keep guys off balance and throwing in off counts.

Inside Pitch: Between the two levels, when dealing with the pitching staffs, is there a difference when handling the pitchers? Meaning, whereas in Savannah you may have guided the pitchers more, and in St. Lucie you were more of a receiver?

McCraw: Yea I would agree with that sentiment, but I think all that comes with maturity. The guys in St. Lucie obviously have a lot more experience than the guys in the Sally League. It all comes with age and maturity. But, I think everybody has good stuff, it's just a matter of control and the pitcher's makeup. You cannot just use your arms and legs, you've got to use your mind too, and that's a big difference in St. Lucie.

Inside Pitch: Although he had a rocky start during his August 8 rehab, what was it like to catch Pedro Martinez?

McCraw: It was a dream come true to catch a pitcher of his caliber. It was an opportunity to catch an all-time great pitcher and it was certainly something I'll take with me for a long time. I could have gone 0-for-5 with five strikeouts that night and I would not have cared because of the chance I got.

Inside Pitch: You've accomplished one of your goals in getting to St. Luce. Now with the scheduling starting to wind down, what do you look to accomplish in these last weeks and as you head into the off-season? Does next season ever enter your mind as you head towards the end of this season?

McCraw: I'd like to get as many at-bats as possible and if I got invited to a Winter League in Hawaii or anywhere else that'd be great. I've heard from a few guys in camp how great it is to get to play in the Hawaiian League. As far as letting this season effect next year, it's not always how you start but how you finish. I started the year backing up someone and I've made it here, so I think that's held true for this year. But I just want to go out do my job and finish up the good stretch I've had here the last few months. I play here as long as they want me to.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nInside Pitch Magazine: How do you think the season's second half has gone for you?
\r\n
\r\nSean McCraw: Since the All-Star break, I think I've taken advantage of most of my opportunities. I feel like I was seeing the ball really well in the Sally League. I was picking good pitches to hit, making good contact and getting myself on base. I was just shy of my goal of where I wanted to be hitting, .280, but if I had been there another week, I definitely would have gotten there. I think I've handled myself well with the playing situation down there, how I was splitting a lot of time behind the plate. Overall, my entire game I think really picked up in the last month or so, and I was happy with my play when I left Savannah.
\r\n
\t\r\nInside Pitch: Offensively, in what areas do you think you have improved the most?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: I definitely have a better idea and understanding off the strike zone—what my pitches are to hit, what to lay off. It's a little bit of my timing and mostly my pitch recognition. I've done better of knowing what to look for in certain counts. For me, it's about having a plan when I step to the plate, knowing what to look for when to look for it and making sure I make good contact. If I wasn't getting what I was looking for, I had to build more bat control and not start swinging at pitches I don't want. Now, if I don't get my pitch, I'll let it go and I now have no problem hitting with strikes. That is something I've had to learn to do for a while, and I think I improved a lot in that area.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: On the other side of the ball, what parts of your game defensively do you think have matured?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: Defensively, I would say this was my best year. The last time we spoke [May 14], I had the worst game probably of my life when I had so many errors in a night. I have six errors on the season, and four or five of them came that night. Earlier in the year, I was getting too many catcher's interferences and making wide or high throws to second base, but I haven't let that bother and I've continued to work. It was shaky early on, but I put in the time and work behind the plate, and I think I've come a long way.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: You were just called up to St. Lucie recently, which was a goal of yours earlier in the year, what led to the promotion? What did the coaches see or say that earned you a spot in St. Lucie?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: Well first, I think everyone knew that when Drew Butera got traded, catchers in the organization may have got shuffled around a bit. But, when I left Savannah, they did not really tell me much except that I was heading up there. They didn't tell me if I'd be backing up or starting. But, since I've been up here, I've only missed like one game, so I hope that they do have more in store for me. It's been great to come up here, step in and play right away. It's helped me understand that the work I put in all spring has been paying off. Coming up here, it was a relief. I do feel like I deserved it, and that just my real honest opinion.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Right from the start, what differences did you notice between the two levels?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: Well first off, they definitely throw a lot more strikes up here. The thing is, I haven't been here that long, but I've seen the pitchers pitch more to the bottom corners of the strike zone which shows a lot more maturity. The pitchers have a lot more control of their game and what they want to do within each game. There are more off-speed pitches thrown and a lot more control of off-speed pitches.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Due to that raise in talent level, how did that make you change your approach at the plate, if any?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: My approach will never change. I just have to stay within my game, stay on top of every little thing I do and make sure that my mechanics are as good and solid as they can be. I think my approach is fine for production as long as mistakes or errors stay out of it.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: You mentioned you worked hard on your timing and pitch recognition. Is there any part of your swing that you think may need further maturity due to the tougher pitching?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: I think my approach is the best thing I have going for me. The problem is my swing. Some days my swing will be there, some days it won't. It's a matter of consistency with my swing. I'm just trying to keep a solid base, keep my legs underneath me and use them. I try to not to swing all on my front leg. Whether I pull the ball, or the go the other way, it's important I keep that base and keep swinging through the ball, not out and around the ball.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Getting back to that defense, what is like catching the St. Lucie staff?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: I had Tobi Stoner down in Savannah, and I've caught most of the other guys down in spring training, so I knows these guys pretty well and have a good idea of what most of them throw. I think catching Joe Hietpas, who used to be a catcher, was neat and kind of an honor. I thought that because here is a guy who used to be a catcher who is now on the other side pitching to me. Knowing that there is a guy out on the mound who can do your job better than you can, you want to show him how good you are.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: In the time you have spent in St. Lucie so far, who do you think has the best stuff of all the guys you caught?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: All these guys have good stuff and we've been successful. We've lost the rehab starts and won [most of the rest]. They've all been pitching great. I think Niese has the real good curveball. Eric Brown has the great slider and Jacob Ruckle has the really good changeup and that's three of the five starters. These pitchers do a real good job of keep guys off balance and throwing in off counts.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Between the two levels, when dealing with the pitching staffs, is there a difference when handling the pitchers? Meaning, whereas in Savannah you may have guided the pitchers more, and in St. Lucie you were more of a receiver?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: Yea I would agree with that sentiment, but I think all that comes with maturity. The guys in St. Lucie obviously have a lot more experience than the guys in the Sally League. It all comes with age and maturity. But, I think everybody has good stuff, it's just a matter of control and the pitcher's makeup. You cannot just use your arms and legs, you've got to use your mind too, and that's a big difference in St. Lucie.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Although he had a rocky start during his August 8 rehab, what was it like to catch Pedro Martinez?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: It was a dream come true to catch a pitcher of his caliber. It was an opportunity to catch an all-time great pitcher and it was certainly something I'll take with me for a long time. I could have gone 0-for-5 with five strikeouts that night and I would not have cared because of the chance I got.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: You've accomplished one of your goals in getting to St. Luce. Now with the scheduling starting to wind down, what do you look to accomplish in these last weeks and as you head into the off-season? Does next season ever enter your mind as you head towards the end of this season?
\r\n
\r\nMcCraw: I'd like to get as many at-bats as possible and if I got invited to a Winter League in Hawaii or anywhere else that'd be great. I've heard from a few guys in camp how great it is to get to play in the Hawaiian League. As far as letting this season effect next year, it's not always how you start but how you finish. I started the year backing up someone and I've made it here, so I think that's held true for this year. But I just want to go out do my job and finish up the good stretch I've had here the last few months. I play here as long as they want me to.
\r\n
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