Hey Abbott! Let's talk Double-A prospects

Many believe Double-A is the stepping stone to the Majors, especially for pitchers. Conquer this level and it could be a ticket straight to the Big Leagues or a short stay in Triple-A and a call up during the year. Pitching coach Glenn Abbott tunes the arms – and quite a few prospects from the San Diego Padres' farm system were in his domain in 2006.

How do you measure success as a coach with an eye on obviously developing as many of these guys into big leaguers?

Glenn Abbott: I measure it by how they improve. Most of the guys we are talking about have got the stuff but it is how they get better with their command of those pitches. A lot of times it is not black and white and not about wins and losses. You can't control that as a pitcher, whether a guy is catching the ball or coming through with the bat. You can't control that.

I thought these guys all got better. They may not all go to Triple-A but all of them got better, especially the guys like Thompson made the type of improvement that he deserves to play at the next level.

On the relief front you had Leo Rosales who struggled when he initially went out there and that has been his M.O. since coming into the organization but he was dynamite as the summer wore on.

Glenn Abbott: I think a lot of that is confidence too because early in the year – he is very hard on himself. I had many, many, many conversations with him saying, ‘You just have to let it go.' When you are a reliever you let it go because you are going to be in there tomorrow. He just hated to give up runs. He went down for a couple of weeks after struggling when he was here. When he came back he was like a different guy. He understood what he needed to do and pitched very well. His numbers were daylight/dark from the first half to the second half. He went from a 5-something in the first half to the second half where it was a two.

All those pitchers made good progress. They were all better in the second half than the first half. That is what we want to see – guys getting better. And Rosie did a very good job. He got more confidence. He didn't walk many people because he was walking people early and they were scoring on him. He would walk some people and then make a bad pitch but in the second half he wasn't walking people, was staying aggressive and has that real good changeup and got much better. He is going to pitch this winter too and I look for that to really help him.

You Paul Abraham had most of the year before you lost him late in the campaign. He walked a few more than I remember him ever doing but had a pretty good season in relief.

Glenn Abbott: He pitched better too. He went through spurts. Sometimes I think he gets to thinking too much. He went through spurts and then his elbow started bothering him and they shut him down. I think he was going to have surgery.

You threw Bubba Nelson out there as many times as you could it seemed.

Glenn Abbott: Right, Bubba did a good job. He was very solid – probably from spring training on he was the solid all throughout the year. He did a good job. Here is a guy that has good stuff but he does not trust it enough. A lot of time he wants to trick people instead of saying, ‘heck, you can't hit me' and come after them. He got much better in that aspect of it, attacking the strike zone aggressively. He did a very good job for us this year.

Now, you only got to see Jon Ellis for 20-25 innings but what did you see out of him that has you excited about his future?

Glenn Abbott: I see potential in his slider and he has a pretty good, consistent sinker. I like what I saw. He had a couple of starts but I like him better as a reliever than a starter. He did a god job. He was aggressive with a good sinker and slider.

One of the few guys who stayed in Double-A all year long was Sean Thompson. It has always been control of the fastball for him – talk about his season.

Glenn Abbott: Sean had a really good year. I was very proud of him. He made a lot of improvements from spring training on. He just kept getting better and he gained a lot of confidence in himself. I was very pleased with his progress. I would say of all the pitchers down there he made the most progress from spring training on.

How do you measure progress – is that the total package or just in terms of confidence?

Glenn Abbott: It is based on confidence, his fastball command, throwing his pitches for strikes. He was able to start learning how to go after hitters. Early on he was making mistakes and he worked on the side a lot to where he could use his fastball inside to right-handers – and his changeup is his money pitch – and he was able to do that and made good progress on that throughout the year.

Someone who you saw later in the year was Mike Ekstrom. It seemed like he really just had some bad luck out there.

Glenn Abbott: He did and he got a little tired. He got tired and his ball wasn't sinking like it was. He is very competitive. He is cool as a cucumber and I like that about him. I don't care what the situation is he is as calm as he can be out there. He doesn't get excited and he has an idea about what he is doing out there.

Jared Wells had a great year in Mobile but then went up to Mobile and saw some struggles. What did you see that he was doing well?

Glenn Abbott: He was a guy that has got good stuff. He has the stuff to pitch in the big leagues but he is just a little bit stubborn. He thinks he has it all figured out. He didn't have the command he needed to pitch at the higher levels and that is something we talked about. His stuff was getting them out at Double-A. Of course, as you could see, he had trouble making that adjustment in Triple-A.

That was something I found strange. Jared never really had control problems before this year.

Glenn Abbott: When I am talking about command I am talking about up in the zone. He was up in the zone and I said, ‘Jared, you can't pitch up there.' We wanted him to come down and got him to use his changeup a lot, which he did and he had success with it. On the same hand, a lot of the strikes that were thrown were chase pitches. You have to be able to throw that pitch for a strike whether he swings or not. He has to work on that aspect of it. He didn't have command of his slider for strikes. To pitch in the big leagues you have to have command to throw quality strikes. They won't chase in the big leagues like they do in the minor leagues. When you get to Triple-A it is an assortment of older players that have been around so you get a lot of guys there who won't chase as much either. That is why he had more walks in Triple-A.

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