Interview with Wizards manager Randy Ready II

John Conniff of sat down with Fort Wayne Wizards manager Randy Ready, in part two of the interview, to discuss the balance of player development and winning, the addition of Mike Baxter, the promoted Chris Kolkhorst, the pitching of Mike Ekstrom, Matt Varner and the formerly promoted Clayton Hamilton.

John Conniff: How do you balance development with winning? For example, if someone is on second base with no outs, the guy at the plate might be more focused on driving that runner in rather than just trying to move him over to third. You need to show the organization what you can do, to put up the statistics. How do you keep team goals and personal goals from conflicting?

Randy Ready: Each individual has to do his job to make it a team effort. Situational hitting is big thing that we try to teach here. If you look at teams in the majors, a big reason that they are winning, a big part of its success is in situational hitting.

Early in the count I might look for something to drive into the gap, but now with two strikes I have to set my sights back to the middle of the field, especially early in the game or in a one run game.

That is winning baseball, we don't get it all the time, but that isn't going to stop us from working on it day in and day out. We have a certain batting practice routine that we are working on.

John Conniff: For most of the players this is their first full professional season. What is the big difference for being a professional manager as compared to college manager.

Randy Ready: Well I've never been a college manager. (laughter)

John Conniff: Yeah, but somehow I think you might be a little familiar with what they do.

Randy Ready: There is the academic pressure, we pull ourselves out from the academic pressures. The demands are heavier in minor league baseball, you have to have a short memory in this game, because we are going to come right back and play again tomorrow.

When you alluded to the first full season for these kids, we are 106 games into it, and we've hit the wall. We have guys out of high school, college, they have never played that many games. Which is why we emphasize proper rest, maintain diet, we have to maintain our strengths and work on weaknesses.

That hold true on whatever level you are at, it holds true for the majors. Getting there is one thing, staying there is another.

John Conniff: Mike Baxter is someone who the Wizards just recently acquired a fourth round pick out of Vanderbilt. I know it's early, he's only been with the team a few weeks, but he seems like someone who could develop into a player. He has a really nice stroke and hit the ball hard in all four at bats last night. What is your impression of him?

Randy Ready: We've had Bax for about two weeks? He's been a nice addition, he's helped team chemistry, his makeup is solid. He's a good kid, a tough kid. It reflects his style of play, and its refreshing to get that.

He came in there was a little bit of pressure on him because Lachlan Dale was our first baseman, we let him go, it took a little while for people to get used to him. That is some of the stuff you have to get used to when you are in the minor leagues.

He came in not with any attitude, but to play professional baseball which I thought was the right approach it.

His swing is short and quick, ball jumps off his bat. He's played a pretty good first base for us, he runs average. Does a lot of things well, has some pretty tough makeup.

John Conniff: Chris Kolkhorst was one of only two guys in the organization last year that had more walks and strikeouts. How has he played this year, and do you think he has the ability to play center field?

Randy Ready: Center field I'm not sure, we haven't played him here in centerfield. I'm not sure if he has the center field quickness, great range. I don't know, I haven't seen it. I'm sure he probably could play center field.

As far as being a leadoff hitter, that is my easiest decision of the day when Chris is in there. His on base percentage reflects that, he's done a nice job of running the bases. He's had some leg problems. At one point they didn't know if he was going to be a good enough base runner and base stealer, but he's worked with the coaches and taken a lot of the information and applied it to his game.

I always say if you go two players, who are both pretty close, but if one is a better base runner who are you going to take? That is one of the things I emphasize is becoming a complete player.

John Conniff: The Wizards have had some good pitching this year. When we are evaluating how these pitchers could do further up the ladder, the question is always do they have enough stuff, besides knowing how to pitch, to make it. The quintessential example most of us think of is Gabe Ribas, a great guy but as he moved further up didn't really have enough of a fastball to be successful.

How would you rate Ekstrom, Varner and Hamilton?

Randy Ready: To have success in the Midwest League, its not so much about velocity, but you have to be able to locate it. Ekstrom, can go in and out, and up and down. He can elevate when he needs too, and stay down when he needs too. Hamilton has a nice fastball, it has some late life on it and he has a pretty good slider. He's also working on the change. Varner. Varner has good make up as a closer.

John Conniff: Varner has had a little bit of a problem with left handed batters.

Randy Ready: Yes, but he has responded to it. He will always challenge a hitter, and those are nice ingredients to have. He's going to take the ball.

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