Gary Jones on Double-A prospects

Gary Jones held the position of Double-A manager in 2006 before accepting a position as the roving coordinator in charge of infield defense. But, before he assumed the new role we caught up with the Mobile BayBears manager to discuss injuries, Jack Cassel, Luis Cruz, Mike Ekstrom, Jose Oyervidez, Sean Thompson and Leo Rosales, among other topics.

How tough are injuries to overcome at the Double-A level, especially since you had quite a few this year?

Gary Jones: You never want to see guys get injured. Michael Johnson was hurt early, Bonvechio, a couple of pitchers went down, but it is tough from a standpoint of you hate to see that particular individual go down and miss time during the season.

From a managerial standpoint and team perspective you have to have guys step in and contribute. It is always tough to see guys go down with injuries.

One of those guys who would qualify under stepping up would have to be Jack Cassel down the stretch.

Gary Jones: Yes, he did a very nice job for us. Jack came in and was really a stabilizer for us once he got there. He really did a great job for us. You see a guy who almost was released to begin the season to putting himself back in the picture. He did a very nice job when he came back.

You saw Luis Cruz really struggle last year before heading to Mexico then come back to your squad this year and pick it up after a slow start. What did you see?

Gary Jones: Last year, Cruzer basically missed a year because he ended up going to Mexico. He missed a developmental year as far as I am concerned. He came back this year and got off to a bit of a slow start but he finished strong. He hit .300 in the months in the middle there and he is definitely a guy that has a chance to play at the big league level.

He is a guy that can play all the positions. He can play second, third, short and he can even go play in the outfield. He has a live bat and can do some things with it from moving guys over to hitting the ball out of the ballpark. He has a lot of tools – he has three or four above average major league tools.

Mike Ekstrom had to be one of the unluckiest players in the system. He pitched well but didn't have the run support.

Gary Jones: Ek came in and did a nice job. He competed. At that level, sometimes you have to be able to go out and not give up three runs. I think the biggest thing Ek learned as the season went on, especially his last four or five outings, is that sometimes you can throw too many strikes. At times, Ek would get ahead and then give hitters too many good pitches to hit ahead in the count. I think as the season progressed and as he got a little more experience at that level he learned that once you get ahead you don't always necessarily have to give the hitter a good pitch to hit. You can see if you can get him to chase a little bit or be a little finer. I think that is what happened and he started to have a little success, along with using his changeup more.

Jose Oyervidez came in last year and probably surprised everyone by being able to stick at that level. How did he do this year as compared to last?

Gary Jones: Jose did a nice job. Jose has good stuff. He really progressed from the beginning of the season in April to the end in September. He is a guy that probably has as good of stuff, stuff-wise, as anybody we have had on the team. Sometimes his command gets erratic and maybe he tries to do a little more than usual. I think the biggest thing that he needs to get over is that he just needs to trust his stuff a little bit more and not give the hitters too much credit. I think at times he gives the hitters too much credit and doesn't trust his stuff and as a result he gets his own self in trouble. When he throws strikes he is lights out. He gets himself in trouble by putting guys on base with the walk.

Sean Thompson is probably a guy who doesn't give the hitters any credit at all but he had a good year too.

Gary Jones: Sean was our Pitcher of the Year at Mobile. He was, as far as I am concerned, before Jack Cassel got there, a stabilizer in the rotation as well. You knew he was going to go out and give you that five, six, seven innings and when he left the game we would either be winning it or still have an opportunity to win it.

Sean Thompson battled and did a very nice job. He has that good changeup and good curveball and then he uses that fastball in and out.

I have gotten a chance to see Leo Rosales for a couple of years now and he has a pattern of starting off slow before really turning it on late in the year.

Gary Jones: It is tough on young guys when they have always had success and they get into a situation where the first two or three outings they don't have the same type of success they are used to of course they try to do more as a result. More is not always better. Sometimes you have to take a guy and back him off and put him in a more relaxed, comfortable position, which we did with Leo.

We sent him back to Elsinore and within a couple of weeks he was back and he was his old self, being aggressive, using his changeup, locating his fastball and throwing that darting slider that he has. He ended up having a strong year.

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