Doug Dascenzo on Wizards prospects

Doug Dascenzo finished his first year as manager of the Fort Wayne Wizards and his ninth season in the Padres' organization. His first seven years with the Padres he served as a roving outfield/base running instructor and last year was the manager of the short-season Eugene Emeralds in the Northwest League.

Dascenzo replaced Randy Ready, who managed the Wizards for the past three years before taking over Double-A San Antonio. This year he inherited one of the youngest teams that the Padres have put in the Midwest League, with three high profile prospects, centerfielder Cedric Hunter, 19, and pitchers Aaron Breit, 21, and Drew Miller, 21, all players that are long on talent but still learning how to play the game.

What is the biggest difference between coaching a short-season team, where most of the players are coming to you right out of college, compared to having a team from spring training for 140 games?

Doug Dascenzo: I think you're a little more prepared coming into the season with the type of fundamentals you need to have to be successful because you have spring training, so you're ready to go. In the short-season, even though you have a mini-camp and can get guys signed fairly quickly, players are constantly rolling in, which is a good thing, so you are always going over fundamentals.

You had a very young team. It must be the youngest team that I've seen in the four years that I've been coming to Fort Wayne, does that present a little more of a challenge for you and the coaching staff?

Doug Dascenzo: In one way it does but you still have to get the baseball fundamentals, the way you play the game, across in the pro game whatever level you are at. You may be dealing with a younger kid just out of high school compared to someone who is a little more mature, but you just have to be a little more patient and creative in getting your point across. It's a challenging thing. It keeps you on your toes constantly, and you have to help them grow up away from the ballpark as well. It's a challenging job but very rewarding as well.

How much of your job is away from the ballpark?

Doug Dascenzo: I probably say as much time as we spend on how to do things on the field, we spend about the same amount of time in the clubhouse, in the hotels and on the bus on how to be a pro off of the field. You know how to dress, how to act, what is expected of you. In the end, it's really about the same amount of time as the baseball stuff.

How has Cedric Hunter done this year? He's about three to four years younger than most of players that he is competing against.

Doug Dascenzo: He may be a little bit more advanced in his development than some of the other players his age. He's done a tremendous job for us. I think he has a great ability to be a really good hitter with a little bit of power. He's struggled a little bit this year, but he's really bounced back well. I always tell guys that is what I'm most interested in, anyone can have a good attitude when things are going well, and I want to see how well they do when they have to dig themselves out of a hole. He's got that going for him with a lot of talent.

Jeremy Hunt had a decent year, especially considering that he was a pretty low draft pick and has even played a little bit of third base for you guys.

Doug Dascenzo: Grady Fuson and Bill Bryk had asked what they thought of us giving him a shot over there. We hit some ground balls to him, he's looked fine over there and he's got some pop.

He said it's just like first, only you have to make the throw.

Doug Dascenzo: Yeah, that is a good way to look at it. I am pleasantly surprised how well he's done.

How about Daryl Jones?

Doug Dascenzo: We expected a little more from Daryl being a repeat player. He got off to a rough start but it started to come around. But it's in there, it's in there.

Two of your pitchers were in our Top 20 at the beginning of the season, Aaron Breit and Drew Miller, both of whom have struggled or been inconsistent. To me, they seem like the type of pitchers that you see at this level, players with a world of talent who are learning how to pitch.

Doug Dascenzo: There is a reason why we have so many different levels of pro ball. You are going to see great pitching performances; you are also going to see bad ones. That is just the way it is. These two kids have exceptional arms and are throwing the ball anywhere from 91 to 94 MPH consistently. At this level, they are working on a repeatable delivery, fastball command, throwing a changeup and introducing a breaking ball. When you are working on all that stuff, when it all falls into place – but when they don't, it's when you have the bad outing.

Aaron Breit's last start was unbelievable. When you look at the numbers he gave up some runs because the defense made some mental errors and they should have been outs. He had a different look in his eye and was all over the plate.

Drew had a good start, and then was out for a while with his shoulder, so we're looking for good things from him. Earlier in the year he threw seven no-hit innings.

Both Nathan Culp – before his promotion – and Andy Underwood had good years.

Doug Dascenzo: Culp is a guy with a lot of pitchability. He doesn't have an outstanding fastball, but he throws the ball on the corners, has a great changeup and he knows how to pitch. He's a gamer and loves to compete.

Underwood has been one of our guys that has given us one good outing after another. He mixes his pitches real well, has added a cuter to his arsenal and gets guys out.

I wasn't aware of how hard your closer R.J. Rodriguez throws. I saw him pitch and he's bringing it, he's coming at you.

Doug Dascenzo: That is the type of mentality that you want to see in a closer and he has that. For a small statured guy he throws it pretty hard, he threw two pitches the other day, a 93 MPH fastball followed by a 65 MPH changeup – that is Eric Gagne stuff. No one can put a bat on both of those pitches.

It's amazing he wasn't drafted.

Doug Dascenzo: There are areas out there that are missed, even in this day and age. It's a tough, tough job to find everyone. He's with us, part of the organization and is performing. That is the bottom line.

One thing that has impressed me is that I came when you guys were in a pretty bad stretch, but the team was competing and there never seemed to be any negativity going around the clubhouse. How were you and your coaches keeping the guys so positive?

Doug Dascenzo: That is part of our jobs as coaches to make sure that they don't hang their heads. Also that this group of kids loves to come out and play, which makes our job easier. There are some guys on teams, not on this team, that you'll have that you might have to kick them a little bit to remind them of what this game is about.

We played this game a certain way, we expect you to play this game a certain way and the game demands that you play it that way. And we won't allow you to play it any differently. If you come out and half-ass it, then you are not going to get rewarded for it. You are only going to get out of it, what you put into it – which is true with anything in life.


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