Molding major leaguers

Watching a perfect game develop is a thing of beauty. Nurturing prospects into major league players is an unparalleled reward. Craig Colbert was doing both last year for the Portland Beavers before being named bench coach for the San Diego Padres.

What was the most memorable moment/story of the year for you, your 500th win?

Craig Colbert: The perfect game we threw. We were stretched for pitching at that time and having Lopez, Meaux and Meredith – Meaux for four, Lopez for two and then Cla came on and got the last three outs in the seventh, claiming he didn't even know what was going on, which I honestly don't think he did now what was going on at that time in the game.

You saw Cla Meredith early in the year and he went through the Red Sox system pretty quick but in 19 games did you think he would be as good as he was?

Craig Colbert: I don't think anyone was going to say he would go up and throw however many scoreless innings in a row that he did. He is one of those guys that you see that throws from that angle and has success. Cla is not scared to throw strikes and that is something I commend him for. He is only throwing 86, 87 but has tremendous sink on the ball and he has a good enough breaking ball to keep them off-balance.

Jack Cust has been a player who has shown a bat but there are some who believe his outfield defense isn't as good – having seen him everyday what is your take?

Craig Colbert: Obviously, he needs to improve defensively. I think it is something he has to get better at and I think it is something he worked hard at this year and did get better at. There is still room for improvement. I would never say that everyone doesn't need to improve anymore. Jack's defense must improve to have a chance to play every day in the national league game. He has a good bat, there is no question about that. I have never seen a guy that is as patient as he is that can take pitches that look like they are hittable pitches. I think sometimes it might work the other way for him where he takes a pitch that he can be driving with guys in scoring position. He is so in tune with his knowledge of the strike zone that you can't fault him for that.

Does that rub off on some of the other players?

Craig Colbert: I think it does. If you are one of those hitters that has that knowledge of the strike zone you are not going to swing at bad pitches. You can learn the strike zone as you come up through the minor leagues and it is something that is very beneficial if you can but on the other side there are some guys that don't have that ability and it is tough to get that ability. Sometimes they don't stay aggressive enough to do that.

Paul McAnulty has always been able to hit consistently – were you impressed with his ability to handle third and is it just games that he needs there to get better?

Craig Colbert: For never being on that side of the infield it was a tough situation for Mac. He did as good as he can and he surprised me on some of the plays he made. There is so much going on over there that it is going to take him some time. I just saw where he had to go back and have knee surgery where I was hoping he could play winter ball and play third base, which would have helped him out. Third base is not a position you can take up and get in 30 games. I will say I was surprised with some of the plays he made and some of the plays he didn't make were routine plays you are not really surprised about because it is a tough position to walk in if you have never played there and start playing there.

We are on turf here so that is going to speed it up even more. That is something he started to feel more comfortable with but there were things he didn't feel comfortable doing out there.

I don't want to say the defense was terrible in Portland but there were several players playing out of position. Does that affect the pitcher's mentality as well?

Craig Colbert: I think it can, there is no question. I think that our defense was not one of the better defending teams in the PCL this year but on the other side if you are a pitcher you have to go out there and you can't worry about it. You have to go out there and make your pitches. Whatever happens, happens. Everyone watching can tell that a play should have been made or shouldn't have been made if they have any baseball sense. As a pitcher, you can't do anything about the eight guys behind you. You have to worry about yourself and throwing the ball over the plate.

It boils down to confidence. Was that something that affected Tim Stauffer who has had some struggles over the past year – does that come down to confidence with him and confidence in his abilities?

Craig Colbert: I wouldn't say that. Stauff had some very good outings. His numbers were not what he would have wanted them to be, there is no question about it. He had that one start where he went to San Diego and dealt and came back and did not have a very successful start in Triple-A. I don't think it had anything to do with the defense. It had to do with not getting the ball in the right spots when it was going across home plate.

That is an amazing thing that he went up there and threw six innings against the Dodgers and then comes back here to face their Triple-A team and I don't think he got out of the third or fourth inning.

That is a tough blow.

Craig Colbert: No doubt. Like I said before, this is a very hard level to play and coach at. There are so many things going on that are not about the game on the field. Guys are getting called up. Guys are getting sent down. We probably had 60 different players walk through the clubhouse this year and it is something you have to deal with at Triple-A and the guys who can deal with it better – it gives them a better opportunity to go out and perform well on the field.

Jared Wells came there towards the middle of the year and seemed to put a lot of pressure on himself to succeed – was it just mental for him and trying to do too much?

Craig Colbert: I think that was part of it. The one thing I did find out when I went from Double-A to Triple-A is you are not dealing with Double-A hitters. Triple-A hitters are pretty good hitters. Jared was throwing the ball instead of pitching. He was not trusting his stuff as much as he should because he has good stuff.

You look at teams in this league, and actually Woody Williams came down and did a rehab start for us and we were facing Tucson. I told Woody, ‘the team you are facing is going to be a good test to see where you are at because this team can hit.' Woody went out there and I had to go get him in the second inning and the first thing he said to me was ‘those guys can hit.'

There are some pretty good hitters at this level and if you are not making good enough pitches you are going to get hit pretty hard. I think Jared – he was just throwing instead of having trust in his stuff – that he didn't have when he was here. I think he has good stuff and hopefully will do well in the Fall League.

Luke Carlin took some steps forward this year – how critical is his ability to interact with the staff?

Craig Colbert: I think if you look at what Luke did this year he was probably one of the biggest surprises we had here. The kid can catch. He could be in the big leagues as a backup catcher right now. His skills at catcher are that good. He has a very good understanding of how to deal with the staff. He cares; that is the biggest thing. Offensively, he is still learning. He has a very good eye at the plate. I think he is a better left-handed hitter than right-handed hitter. I am looking forward to seeing him play this year. He was outstanding for us.


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