Randy Ready: I have been in the playoffs every year I have managed – six consecutive years. We have had trouble getting through the first round. This was the first year the club was real stable. I have had guys who I have had before and knew what I was gunning for – and ultimately that is a Championship. Or to be in the hunt with an opportunity to be in postseason play.
The guys were excited about it and it was a real conscious effort. They were up for the challenge. They came through and played well at the right time.
How nice was it that Mike Ekstrom, the opening day starter, notched that final win considering some of his struggles this year?
Randy Ready: Very fitting. We turned back the clock. Mike was our opening day starter and picked up the first win of the season and here he is pitching a big game, which ended being the final game of the Championship Series to win the Texas League. Mike came up big for us. He is a big time pitcher. I have had him pitch in the playoffs for me in the past.
He did not have a great year and I think if you ask Mike he will honestly tell you the same. The last six weeks he pitched very well. There was no question in my mind that he was going to get the opportunity to get the ball in the big game.
Why was it he got off to a slower start?
Randy Ready: A couple things – mechanics, delivery, location. If we could go all the way back, he was behind in Spring Training. He did not get the innings pitched to start the season. We had cold weather in April. We had wet games. He had some tough starts early.
It was a combination of things. It was either the first inning where he really had some difficulty. Or it might have been the fourth or fifth inning – it seemed he could not get away from that one big inning. Ek would be the first to tell you, ‘I could get out of those innings by reaching back for a little extra.' When he did the ball didn't seem to bounce his way. I think that was the difference. Then, all of a sudden, he started getting through that fifth inning, his confidence starting growing and he was very successful and consistent the last couple of months.
Brett Dowdy – how can you not love the energy he puts forth?
Randy Ready: You have to love it. He really rubbed off on everybody else. He was one of our leaders coming down the stretch. His desire. Very vocal, ‘Hey, let's go. Let's get it done.'
At some point the players have to understand they have to please each other. Part of the deal from the staff is it is tough to coach effort. We shouldn't have to that. This is your career and you have to understand that.
The preparation and the communication is ‘This is the direction you need to go to not only be successful here but to be a successful major league player.' Dowdy really stepped up his game in that area, there is no question.
The last couple of weeks and our MVP of the playoffs.
Chase Headley – Texas League Player of the Year. Was he everything and more that you expected at the beginning of the year?
Randy Ready: Absolutely not. He put himself on the map. He was the most consistent player throughout the whole Texas League all summer long. He earned his first major league call-up to the big leagues in San Diego. I think we were very fortunate to get him back – not only staying in the big leagues but maybe getting an opportunity to go to Portland.
He really had an opportunity to put things together in San Antonio and did that. Player of the Year voted unanimously by all the managers. He was the most consistent player throughout the whole summer.
And then there is Josh Geer. That isn't half bad for one club.
Randy Ready: If you would have said Chase was going to be Player of the Year and Josh was going to be Pitcher of the Year – there was some doubt with Josh. Was he going to excel at this level? Knowing this guy pitches to contact. Was his velocity going to come back? Is he going to be effective pitching inside?
He really put all that to rest and here he is Pitcher of the Year. The whole second half he had an ERA down in the two's. He was our go-to guy. When Josh took the mound, the club was confident and felt that we had an opportunity to win this game tonight.
You plugged Peter Ciofrone into several different roles. What made you confident he could handle that?
Randy Ready: I have had Pete before. We have history together. Pete always seems to rise to the occasion. He likes the team concept. He loves to be in the limelight. Pete always finds himself a knack for being in those big games. He was inserted and did what he usually does.
Nick Hundley really improved his catching skills over the last year. Did that surprise you since you last coached him in Fort Wayne?
Randy Ready: Nick is constantly making progress. I think he might have been one of the most talked about players in the Texas League all summer long in his quick release, how agile he was looking back there and how comfortable he started working – giving the pitchers confidence in calling their games and hitting their spots and getting the job done. He really took it to heart that the number one priority was catching and putting down the right fingers and number two was my offense. Nick really started separating those two things this year. He really grew a lot this year and made a big jump to be successful at the Double-A level.