Abbott on Missions pitching staff

We caught up with Missions' pitching coach Glenn Abbott on our second trip to San Antonio in the final week of the season. In this interview, Abbott goes over his mid-season additions Wade LeBlanc and Will Inman, Paul Abraham's turnaround, the reason behind Josh Geer's success and the art of learning how to pitch.

Wade LeBlanc was called up in mid-season from Lake Elsinore and the other night he seemed to be in total control with an amazing ability to change speeds. What does he throw?

Glenn Abbott: Fastball, changeup and curveball.

And he has two different changeups?

Glenn Abbott: Yeah, he changes speeds with it. He has very good arm speed with it and that is his money pitch, which is what he pitches off of. Since he's been here he's starting to learn how to control his effort level. He's a command guy, he's not someone that is going to throw in the 90s, he's mid to upper-80s, and so control is the key for him. He's been working on staying on his line, and I've seen him get better and better in sides and in the game. He's starting to understand what it takes because at this level guys hit mistakes better than at A-ball, so he's starting to realize how important command is to his game.

When we go to someplace like Fort Wayne, we see college pitchers like LeBlanc are getting quite a few batters out, but we think once they get to higher levels they are going to need a little more than just a good changeup. That doesn't seem to be the case with LeBlanc. What is the big separator?

Glenn Abbott: It's about making adjustments. Here they will take mistakes and square them up. Double-A is a separator; a lot of guys can't make it here. Here, you have to start learning how to use your pitches more because hitters have a better idea of the strike zone. As a pitcher you start understanding how to read swings. There is more to it than just watching the game. You have to look at how hitters react to certain pitches and situations. Setting guys up for the pitch you want to throw. You don't lead guys to the pitch you want to throw.

LeBlanc said after a game that his whole approach is to get batters thinking they are going to see one pitch, then throwing the opposite.

Glenn Abbott: Absolutely. That is what his whole approach is about. They think one thing, and then you give them the other. Although the plate is only seventeen inches wide, batters usually can't hit on both sides of the plate, which is why it is important to use both sides of the plate. That is why fastball command is so important. He might hit it, but if he is looking in and the pitch is away, he's not going to hurt you with it. They are going to hit on the end of the bat, or if they are looking out and the pitch is in, it's going to be a jam shot. That is the difference between a hit and an out.

How about Will Inman who was considered the big pitcher in the Scott Linebrink trade?

Glenn Abbott: He's only 20 and in Double-A. You can count all of the guys (at that age) in Double-A on one hand. He's a very mature kid for his age. He's got a good idea of what he wants to do on the mound and has a lot of confidence in himself. He's learning the difference that mistakes get exploited more up here than at lower levels. We haven't done anything with his delivery, and I think Milwaukee was tinkering a little with his changeup, so he's been a little out of sorts here. I told him just go out and get outs. He needs to learn how to use his pitches and get a little bit better command of the strike zone.

One of your relief pitchers who you were high on at the beginning of the year and has had a pretty good year is Paul Abraham. Can you tell us some of the reasons behind his success this year?

Glenn Abbott: I'm really happy for him. I had him last year in Mobile and he had some ups and downs, but more on the down side. You can see the stuff he had; he just couldn't deliver it consistently. He's doing a few more dry drills to keep his delivery together and he's been very consistent this year. He had a little bit of an arm problem mid-year and he's starting to get back to his old self now.

He seems like a pretty intense guy on the mound. Is part of what you had to do was reign in his emotions a little bit more?

Glenn Abbott: He's always prepared and he knows when he's pitching, so he's ready to go.

Whenever we talk with Josh Geer he's very modest about what he does. He says that he throws three pitches; throw them out, in, and up and down. There has to be more to it than that. What has been the reason for his success this year?

Glenn Abbott: It's using his pitches in a better way, mainly pitching inside. Early in the year, his second or third start, we talked about being able to use your fastball inside; because he has good command and he keeps the ball down. That start he was away, away, away and the batters were hanging over the plate and knocking the hell out of it. Afterward it was like, "what have we been talking about?" And I think it got through to him. He started to understand how important it is to command both sides of the plate because if you just stay on one side of the plate they are going to hit you.

To me it's about pitching in the big leagues. You want to have success here, but you want to prepare yourself for pitching in the big leagues. Results are something that we like to have, but growth is what we want to see in a pitcher.

But you have a different way of measuring growth than most people.

Glenn Abbott: Exactly and I'm trying to get these guys to understand that. For example, the other night Inman was all down in the mouth because he gave up a couple of home runs in Frisco. I told him that he wasn't looking at the big picture. You gave up five runs, a two-run home run on a hanging changeup, a solo home run on a hanging curve – both mistake pitches – and a solo home run on a fastball away to the deepest part of the ballpark. You tip your hat on that one because most batters can't do that. But the other two were bad pitches; they are supposed to hit bad pitches. The other part of the evening was good, you worked ahead, got the curveball called for strikes. He said, ‘Well that is another way of looking at it' and I said, ‘That is because you are just looking at results.'

You have a process of what and of how you need to learn how to pitch. Then you have "want to's", but sometimes the "want to" gets ahead of the process. I "want to" have results, but that is getting ahead of the process of learning how to pitch. You have to stay with the process and good things will start happening.

Maddux talked to everyone in spring training and I think a lot of our pitchers heard it, but they didn't hear it. He said when I'm out on the mound I'm not worried about wins and losses, anything else except the next pitch. That is as simple as you can make it. Once you let the ball go, you have no control. There is no pitch that is unhittable, but if you make good pitches on a consistent basis you are going to get results.

It's not about results, but good results will happen if you have the right process or approach. If you can eliminate as many bad pitches as possible, you are going to have more success.

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