Sir Lance teaches a lot

It is no coincidence that Portland pitching coach Gary Lance is where he is. The spot before the major leagues, he is teaching young men to be major leaguers.

I don't want to say this is one of the guys who may have incorrect success, as you like to say – Jared Wells had success in Double-A but struggled some in Triple-A. There may be some question as to whether he took to the teaching of knowing that he has to be a little bit finer in Triple-A and you have to be willing to learn.

Gary Lance: I finally got through to Jared. He is one of those guys and he threw some good games towards the end of the year. More importantly, he started evolving into some consistency with his release point. And we did make headway. Unfortunately, he got to me so late – sometimes this thing is a year long project because they have a smattering enough of success that makes it hard for me to say, ‘See, I told you so.'

Coaching is so much more involved, if you do it right, than anyone would ever give it credence and just looking from the outside in.

Especially at the Triple-A level.

Gary Lance: Precisely. You have bitterness. You have guys set in their ways. You have so many different things – agents. It may be the toughest level to coach at – and I have been at all of them, and, of course, the big league camps I have been in as a pitching coach.

You only got to see Cesar Carrillo for half of one start...

Gary Lance: It was only half of one start and not like anything I have seen in big league camp. He has some mechanical things that he needs to fix. And I saw that at big league camp.

There are reasons why guys hurt themselves and I saw it in spring training and there is people I said this to. ‘I worry about his arm if he is going to continue to throw with that arm speed and those mechanics.' Low and behold he gets injured.

He is young. He mends fast and hopefully I, or somebody else, can get to him and get his elbow elevated and get it up high for leverage and protection.

John Hudgins had one and a half starts for you.

Gary Lance: Right. I don't know very much about him. I know he did not use his lower body very well; he was pretty much a total upper body pitcher, all arm, all grunt, with very little rhythm to his delivery.

Jack Cassel is a guy who was with you early in the year and had some struggles but went down to Mobile and was rejuvenated.

Gary Lance: I talked him into not leaving. That is going to end up being a story for me like Clay Hensley was because – I went to bat for Jack Cassel and said, ‘this guy is going to pitch in the big leagues for somebody. Maybe not for the San Diego Padres but this guy is going to pitch in the big leagues. He is going to come in in the middle innings get a ground ball double play for somebody and out of the game. This is what he is going to do.'

I was a little upset. I didn't want him to be sent to Double-A. I understand it is there job to see the big picture. But he wasn't just having success in Double-A, he had success with me too. It is just when he fell he fell big and in the PCL those numbers can get up there in a blink of an eye.

This park, if you don't come with your best game, your ERA will be out of sight before you can get another pitcher up to get him in the game. Jack had success with me but just didn't have it consistently enough to stay there when we were getting guys back from the big leagues and somebody had to go.

Jack Cassel is going to pitch in the big leagues. He and I go back to the Fort Wayne days to when I dropped his arm slot down to the low three-quarters it is now. When I saw him it was straight over the top, getting nobody out. We went to work on mechanics in the Fort Wayne days and he is one of my guys. It is a combination of him being one of my guys and I know he is going to pitch in the big leagues.

Mike Thompson started out with you and had success and then bounced back and forth between San Diego and Portland. How tough is that for you and for him?

Gary Lance: He was a yo-yo. He handled it very well because number one Mike Thompson is a very intelligent guy. He keeps things in perspective very well. He is machine-like like we got Meredith to be. What you see is what you get. He doesn't try to miss the bat and he has that nice little cutter and sinker and when he is down he can beat anybody. Unfortunately, being a human being sometimes he lets the ball drift up in the zone. Mentally, he handled it great. He just let it roll right off his back. That is his personality. He knows what he can do. If you want me, great, if you don't, tell me where to go and I will do the same thing now.

Is that tough for you. He goes up to San Diego and you don't see what he is or isn't doing. Mike comes back down and maybe there is a tweak you want to make but the concern is perhaps he slipped mechanically for one game and will right himself next time out but he goes back to San Diego by then.

Gary Lance: He pretty much stayed with what we worked on back in Lake Elsinore. That is what I first worked on with him before I went to Double-A. I worked with him a little then and then again in Double-A. One thing I like about Mike is he is one of the guys that is easy to work with because he stays with it, as opposed to somebody – Marty McLeary, who I had last year, he is like trying to pick up Jell-O with your fingers. It was frustrating. You would get him set where everything was working and two days later somebody said something to him and he changed everything all the way around. Mike Thompson is the opposite. He stays with what is working, trusts it, believes in it and is not changing because it works for me.

How much do you, as a coach, rely on a guy like Luke Carlin who is working so closely with the staff on a pitch by pitch basis?

Gary Lance: I am very close to my catchers. They are at all our meetings – and while I don't have many since I am more of a one-on-one type pitching coach but any meetings I have the catchers are there because I tell them in spring training that they are my assistant pitching coaches. My goodness, they are calling the signs, seeing the pitches, and seeing what is going on better than anyone – I have probably the worst vantage point in the whole stadium to see pitching.

I trust them and work with them. I know how far I can go with them and what their talents are as far as evaluation goes and I try and stay within the parameters, as far as that goes.

Specific to Carlin, what has he been able to add for you?

Gary Lance: The one thing I like about Luke is he is not afraid to come inside. I had some pitchers who were very tentative to coming inside on the hands and he was real good in helping me encourage them to do it enough where they saw the value of it and then we were set. Luke was real good with that. Luke calls a consistent game. Luke blocks the ball in the dirt as well as any catcher in baseball. He throws real well. He receives the ball and frames it – he could probably use a little better holding the ball in the strike zone and when to just leave it out.

Blocking the ball, throwing the ball, being consistent – the only thing I need to break Luke on is that he goes to the mound probably twice as much as I would prefer. For instance, a guy will throw two strikes in a row and he will call time and go to the mound. Well that breaks the flow and plus he just threw two strikes so that is a positive. Don't go out to the mound because that is a negative. I haven't approached him about that. There were times when he would stay behind the plate and then other times he would get in a habit of going out too much at inappropriate times. Other than that he did a great job and we will work on that.

What is next for you? What is the short and long term?

Gary Lance: Wherever they want me to go. I don't need to be in Triple-A. Wherever they want me. I don't particularly like waking up at 3 AM to catch a six o'clock flight.

I liked Lake Elsinore – I got used to Mobile and liked it there then I went to Triple-A. Guys weren't getting ready. The guys they were calling up weren't functioning so I got put there and my guys, especially last year, did really well. All my guys. Cassidy, the only reason he was sent back was because of numbers. Anyway, I want to be in the big leagues, just like everyone else.

I want to be in the big leagues. I have been doing this long enough and have been successful enough that I know I can but you know how it is. I have to wait for a sponsor. Other than that you can be the greatest pitching coach who ever lived in Triple-A but you are still going to be in Triple-A.

This is the best job in the world. I am not going to give up. When I get a shot I will be there for a long time. I know it will work out.

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