Mobile Pitching Coach Glenn Abbott

MOBILE - One of the most important and difficult jobs in the minor leagues is being a pitching coach. You are entrusted with the development of several valuable and fragile commodities, pitchers. Your job is frequently contradictory, increase a pitcher's ability to go deep in games, while not blowing out their arms.

Find ways to refine their deliveries, while not changing what got them there. And in the Padres organization the most important component, teach the changeup.

Glenn Abbott pitched 11 years in the major leagues with A's, Mariners and Tigers. At 6-foot-6, he is still an imposing presence around the bullpen. Abbott, who worked with Grady Fuson in the Rangers organization, is in his first year with the Padres.

This is your first year with the Padres organization. Can you provide us with a little bit of background on how you ended up with the Padres?

Glenn Abbott: I was with Texas the last three years and it didn't work out over there. I knew Grady Fuson who was running the minor leagues for the Padres and I was looking for a job, it just worked out.

It ended up here because [Mike] Harkey [the pitching coach in Mobile last year] got an opportunity to go to the Marlins as their bullpen coach, so I ended up over here.

I've known Grady since we both were in Oakland. He was a scout over there and later became the Scouting Director and I was a coach in their minor leagues.

So do you guys share a particular philosophy on the development of pitchers?

Glenn Abbott: I think so, that is true with any organization. You try to get everyone who believes in the philosophy you do. What you want to accomplish in the minor leagues, particularly on using your change up

There have been several articles about Leo Mazzone [the former Braves pitching coach who now is with the Orioles] on how he believes in having pitchers throw more between starts to strengthen their arms. How do you balance making the guys get stronger without potentially damaging an arm that the organization has a lot of money invested in?

Glenn Abbott: I believe in that too and we throw twice between starts. You can tire the guys out but you have to do it in moderation, it's about quality. We try to go real light effort, focusing more on their mechanics. We'll just go fastball and change-up. A pitcher will throw half in his wind up and half from the stretch, around 25 to 30 pitches.

I was watching this the other day, you're watching every pitcher throw his side session offering comments on every pitch.

Glenn Abbott: I try to do that, everything is in moderation. A pitcher isn't like a hitter. A hitter can swing 200 times and it doesn't wear them down. But a pitcher only has one arm with so many throws in it and you have to pay attention to how much stress you put on it. The only way you get better really is by being in ballgames, but you still have to work on your mechanics in between.

It seems that the mechanics are more important than strengthening the arm?

Glenn Abbott: Yes, you try to make sure the hand is in the proper position, but you still have to work with how each guy throws naturally; but sometimes you have to change around some mechanics.

How about three of the top pitchers that have gotten a lot of attention in pre-season, Cesar Carrillo, Jared Wells and Sean Thompson – all of whom you have seen this year.

Glenn Abbott: Well Cesar has a fastball, curveball and changeup. He has a tremendous amount of confidence and always seems to be able to find a way to win. He has a lot of character and has good life on his fastball. He's got to work on getting better command of his fastball and using his changeup more because he's got a good changeup.

To go up to the big league level, you have to have command. His stuff is good and he's really efficient, just an aggressive pitcher.

Then you have Jared Wells, his stuff will do well here at this level. The things he's got to work on for the next level is his changeup and throwing it for strikes. Becoming more consistent, getting his fastball down more, getting better quality strikes.

Wells appears to have a tremendous amount of ability, but since he hasn't pitched that much [Wells only began pitching in his only year of college, and the next year he was drafted] it seems his pitching knowledge is trying to catch up to his ability.

Glenn Abbott: Exactly. He has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself. The other day Jared Wells threw five innings of no hit ball and he didn't have good stuff. He didn't have command. He believes that the hitter cannot hit him and that is something that you wish you could give to every pitcher.

With Jared it's all about getting command of the stuff that he has.

How about Sean Thompson?

Glenn Abbott: His biggest thing is not to fight himself. He gets really hard on himself when he makes a bad pitch. He's made tremendous strides in controlling his emotions, because his emotions can get the best of him. He's using his changeup well and every time he pitches he's improving more.

His fastball has been getting down more?

Glenn Abbott: Yes, he's beginning to get the same confidence that Wells and Carrillo have. He's got a pretty good changeup, curve and enough of a fastball to make them effective. Also he's left-handed which never hurts.

Another guy whose been doing pretty well is [Jose] Oyervidez. Here is a kid who came straight from Rookie Leagues [Eugene] and then he had Tommy John surgery. He didn't pitch at all. He stayed here all year last year and did pretty well and he‘s got good stuff to.

What does he throw?

Glenn Abbott: Fastball, curveball and slider. It's all about him staying focused and maintaining his delivery.

Quick comment on Dale Thayer, we were all kind of shocked to see him back in Mobile after a good year last year. How would you describe him?

Glenn Abbott: He's got to learn to use his slider better. He's got an average fastball, but he needs to get better command of it. He's had some pretty good success even with men on base. He's very resilient, but in order to improve it's all about his getting better command of his pitches.

With him it was more of a numbers situation in Portland. They wanted him in a certain role and pitching everyday. As I said earlier, he's got to use his slider more and throw it for strikes.

The higher you go the more selective hitters are. That is the big thing for guys coming to Double-A. In A ball there are a lot of free swingers who hack at anything. Pitchers don't understand that if a guys swings at a ball in the dirt, its not the same as throwing a pitch for a strike. The guy just swung at it. It's a big adjustment to the guys that were getting people out without throwing strikes at a lower level, and then can't repeat the same success at the next level.

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