This past summer was his first broadcasting minor league. He is also the play-by-paly announcer of the Citadel football on ESPN3 and radio voice of University of Vermont women’s basketball.
The TinCaps played tremendously in the second half of the season, especially in terms of pitching and defense. How did this turn around happen?
Kevin Fitzgerald: It really was thanks to the unity of this team. Burt Hooton (the pitching coach) said in his three years with Fort Wayne, he’s never had a group this tight knit before. We heard guys describe this 2015 TinCaps team as a “college team,” a team were it felt like guys had played together for two, three sometimes four years. Not just a place where you spend a year and move on. Once the comfort level was at a high level, the product on the field was smooth and consistent.
Michael Gettys had the best arm in the league (first in outfield assists) and Ruddy Giron/Luis Urias/Josh VanMeter up the middle made a great combo. Helps that your catcher Jose Ruiz threw out a league best 58 base-runners.
Thomas Dorminy had a 4.41 ERA in the first half and a 1.59 in the second in about the same number of starts. What caused the improvement?
Kevin Fitzgerald: No walks. Dorm is a perfect example of how the team chemistry aided his work on the hill. He settled into a great rhythm around June and ran with it. I don’t think I could pick out another starter who pitched smarter than Dorminy on the mound. Always aggressive and hated to lose. Just outstanding at controlling emotions, and I think the guys behind him got up a bit more when he was on the mound. Fast worker on the mound, and I liked to call him a game manager – was better with runners on base.
We heard quite a bit about Dinelson Lamet in spring training and he had a very good year. What stands out about him most to you?
Kevin Fitzgerald: It’s really his size and build. He just looks like a major leaguer. Great frame on the mound and he uses a really fluid motion to deliver the ball. His fastball/slider combo was fun to watch. Another great competitor. The Padres were limiting his innings towards the tail end of the season – mainly because he only pitched in two games last year in the DSL. But a week or so before the playoffs, he walked into Manager Francisco Morales office and said he just wanted the ball, game one of the playoffs. He wanted to compete, and he wanted to show his stuff.
When I interviewed him I thought Colby Blueberg had the quintessential relief pitcher personality - a little hyper and loves to compete. What types of pitches does he throw and how was he able to be so successful in the relief role?
Kevin Fitzgerald: With Colby it was about location. That was his biggest strength along with – what he and his dad call it – his “cur-ider” (curve/slider). That was his strikeout pitch. And he raises his level of competition for 9th innings. He attacks early in counts, and doesn’t let his emotions get to him. That’s why he excelled as a closer, he’s calm. Morales said his biggest asset was his calmness on the hill in tight moments.
What other pitchers impressed you this year?
Kevin Fitzgerald: Chris Huffman was very impressive; righty from Virginia, went to James Madison. Great work ethic, might be best on the team. One of maybe two guys who would come to the ballpark and work out, stretch, long toss on off days. He was relentless; plenty of scouts are forecasting that he surely can make it to the bigs as a middle inning setup reliever. Doesn’t overpower you with blazing speed, but always great location.
Ruddy Giron started off like a house on fire (.383 batting average in the first half in 34 games), and slowed down in the second (.233 in 62 games). Since he played quite a few more games in the second than in the first, is his average in the second more indicative of the type of hitter he is?
Kevin Fitzgerald: I don’t think we can say for sure yet. He is just 18 years old. We do know that he is an aggressive hitter that will only become more and more reliable. Remember last year Ruddy only played in 48 games and he doubled his workload – again – at the age of 18. He should benefit from another year in Fort Wayne, and I’m confident he’s a .300 hitter heading forward.
Michael Gettys has a lot of talent and put up some good counting stats ( 27 doubles, 6 triples, 6 home runs and 20 stolen bases) along with some bad ones - 162 strikeouts in 522 plate appearances. What does he need to do to cut down on the punchouts?
Kevin Fitzgerald: It comes down to plate discipline. Tim Federowicz [who was on a rehab assignment with the Padres before he was designated for assignment] actually commented on it when he was here for a week in July. He was really impressed by Gettys’ play in general, but thought – like some of the coaches as well – he swung at maybe one too many pitches out of the zone. His swing is a powerful one, and his work ethic is non-stop. He is another young piece in the Padres organization, so those strikeout numbers will decrease over time.
Which position is Luis Urias better at second or shortstop and where do you see his future?
Kevin Fitzgerald: To me, he has a bright future as a second basemen. And he should be teamed with Ruddy Giron once more in 2016 in Fort Wayne. That will be a fun duo to see and it will be fun to watch that pair move up the ladder. He doesn’t strike out a whole bunch so that’s a positive in his game.
Nick Torres had a great year before being promoted to Lake Elsinore. What stood out about him the most to you?
Kevin Fitzgerald: Everything about Torres was impressive. His attitude, his swing, his arm. He was really the vocal leader in the clubhouse before he was sent up to Lake Elsinore. His gap to gap power is his biggest asset. The bat speed is terrific and most of his doubles (he led the MWL when he was promoted) were pulled down the line.
I was really impressed with the type of shape that Trae Santos came into the season this year and thought he played well. One, how is he defensively at first base and do you think he is capable of more power?
Kevin Fitzgerald: Trae is sure-handed over at first base. There certainly is room for improvement though, and Trae will be the first one to tell you that. The power was flashed more and more as the season progressed. Santos is an intelligent player, and he talked a lot about his power numbers, but said the average was more important to him. Trae’s success as the season moved along was just a product of his comfort level.
Who was the best pitcher and best player that you saw this year in Fort Wayne?
Kevin Fitzgerald: Nick Torres and Dinelson Lamet.