Dave Rajsich: Everybody at the end – and there was only the one game playoff – everyone wanted to pitch the game. You don't want to break their heart but it came down to where all of them had to pitch their final start and we would have won the second half. In a sense, each one of those games was a Championship game. If you look at the last week, (Yesid) Salazar, (John) Hussey, Menchaca – they were fabulous. Absolutely fabulous. Even (Geoff) Vandel – his last three games.
You were down at the Padres Instructional League working with many of the young pitchers. Is that more for consistency to keep you working with many of them rather than introducing someone new after a successful year?
Dave Rajsich: I think that is the whole key – that very thought. You get another guy coming in and he has a different philosophy. Wally brings down some of his guys and we will both be there and I will have some of his and he will have some of mine but we will have the instant feedback of what I did or what he did so that we can see they don't get overwhelmed with ‘you told me to do this and Razor told me to do that.' That will confuse the young kid faster than anything else.
Where do you start with a young pitcher who needs work?
Dave Rajsich: Basically, we broke everything down to the basics and made sure they had command of that. Then we can take the next step and start accelerating it. I told the boys, ‘the key is you have to be able to throw strikes. You have to eliminate the walks.' They did that extremely well. That is the biggest thing fastball command they have to have. Without it, you can't pitch anywhere. I don't care where it is or what your third pitch is – you still have to be able to throw a fastball where you want.
Moving from California to Arizona perhaps wasn't ideal but was it everything you expected and hoped for?
Dave Rajsich: It wasn't exactly my first choice. I will put it that way.
Once I got there and saw the kids, I knew why I was there because there was some tremendous talent there. To break these kids in right – when I went down there three or four years ago with Roy Howell, we ran extended for two full years. Three of the last four years I was at the bottom. I know where these kids are coming from and I know if you do it right to start with it makes everything else a lot easier.
I won't have any problems with down the road when they run into some other difficulties, guess where they are going to come? They are going to come to ask me. ‘Now, what do we do next?' It is a process. You can't coach in Double-A like you can in rookie ball. They haven't had that experience. They haven't been beat up. They don't have the experience to fall back on when they struggle.
Once they tear a league up or become a Champion, they know they don't have to repeat and can move on. The battle they went through in the first half and second half – they never gave up. They ended up as Champions and walk into spring training with an air of confidence. That is the attitude. They know they are good. They know what it takes. They found out it took a total team effort and they did it. I tip my cap to all of them. They did a tremendous job. It was a nice blend.
How was it for you personally?
Dave Rajsich: I know it is still going to be 115 (degrees)!
You probably saw Ben Krosschell in extended spring training. Was there something you could offer him down there to help him get out of the funk he found himself in this year?
Dave Rajsich: Wally had Spongy. I said ‘I would do this, this, and this.' Wally said, ‘don't mess with him. Don't get him thinking about other things.' I said, ‘All right, I will leave him with you. He is your project. That is it.'
I never worked with Sponge. I know what I would do with him but I bit my tongue and said ok. Wait for him to come to us. They are going to try a lot of things. They are going to try and figure it out. When they can't figure it out and they come to you, that is when you have them.
He is still young enough. We just wait. The maturity will come. He will come and ask for help when he needs it.
Tyler Mead seemed to fade towards the end of the year. Was that just a product of coming from high school, the demand of more innings, and the heat?
Dave Rajsich: Well, sure. He is a high school kid and they aren't used to that kind of regimentation. He probably started they season in January or February and his high school season they probably worked him pretty hard and there isn't much of a break before you go back into the grind. Plus, coming down from Vancouver down into that heat – you know it is going to take its toll. He dropped about three or four miles an hour. You kind of expect it from high school kids.
It bounces back. If you don't push it and they don't go through a dead arm period, you will see some of that in spring training. Most of the time when they come back you see that arm speed and velocity. When he first got here he was throwing 87 to 90. And when he left he was throwing 83 to 86, 87. Then he was trying to overdo it with his body and trying to do too much since he knew he was tired and his arm felt heavy and dead. It is a common occurrence. Of course they don't know that. They are just – ‘I don't know what it is?' Their confidence goes and everything else but he will be fine.
Rey Garramone didn't come from high school but was a junior college kid – were we looking at the same thing with him, like Mead?
Dave Rajsich: Exactly the same thing. Just a little bit of fatigue and some better competition – all of a sudden they are getting rattled around a little bit and they have never had that happen before. It is a little bit of a wakeup call for them.
They are both going to be nice prospects. They have good arm action and a live arm – you can see a lot of movement with their fastballs. You just wait – it is there as long as you don't panic.