Greg Riddoch on Eugene Emeralds prospects

Greg Riddoch has been around the game longer than any of his Eugene Emeralds prospects have been alive. He sees things in a way that few other people do – which is why he is such a valuable asset to the San Diego Padres. Luis Durango, Kellen Kulbacki, Danny Payne, Mitch Canham, Robbie Blauer, Justin Baum, and Andy Parrino all learned from the Northwest League Manager of the Year.

Was this as tough a year as you have ever had coaching? And what makes it tough and what makes it good?

Greg Riddoch: Not at all. Let's say you are the fan. We had the best record in the history of the Eugene Emeralds for two months. Then we moved 16 players by the end of the season. As a fan you say, ‘Oh gee, we had a winning record – the only other team with a winning record.'

On my side I am saying, ‘This is opportunity. This is kids moving to another level that they will find out if they can play at the next level without having to wait until next year and maybe by playing the last month at another level – and some of our guys went two levels – and maybe they can go to Lake Elsinore next year instead of having to go out to Fort Wayne for a half season. What you do when you move players and develop players, especially at my level, if you win that is ok because you learn through winning but more importantly you develop players that you think can play at another level.

They weren't all promoted because they were all killing it and being so successful. We had so many injuries this year that we sent one pitcher to start in Portland. (Matt Teague) went up and threw five shutout innings and struck out five and the second time he threw four shutout innings. We didn't get the same performance out of him when he came back to us. They were all swinging from their tails down here but up there they were being selective.

We sent Keoni Ruth up to Portland. Robert Woodard went up there and was up there for two weeks. When you send a starting pitcher and your best bullpen pitcher up there and don't replace them it really taxes what you have left. You know what – it is an opportunity for us to find out about someone else.

How were you able to improve upon Luis Durango's awareness on the field and his defense?

Greg Riddoch: The last two weeks he really struggled defensively, but I think he was tired. He played practically every day. He ended up with 110 hits – a record. He got tired but he got a lot more experience. He is way below average defensively in the outfield, but the way I look at it is he is better than he was when he was in extended Spring Training. He continues to improve a little bit at a time.

I don't say anyone is going to be a big leaguer, but I do say they deserve to be at the next level and we will see what happens. If they continue to get better than that is their fault and good for them.

Durango is not selective. He hit good balls, bad balls, one-hoppers.

Kellen Kulbacki finished up the season strong after a slow start. It seemed your benching of him kicked his game up a level.

Greg Riddoch: He ended up hitting .301. We stayed on that to see where he was. I had all the stats figured out. Grady (Fuson) accused me of giving in to him. He said, ‘You just wanted him to hit .300.' I said, ‘You wanted him to hit .300 too.' After he got a hit, I took him out of the game; he did not play the last game because we wanted him to get a chance to hit .300. That is what it is about.

He came on strong and ended up with eight home runs and 40 RBIs. That all came the second half of the season.

His defense got better and I think he dove and caught eight balls in the second half. I don't think he had any in the first half – he missed them or didn't dive for them.

There is a tremendous adjustment to playing everyday instead of Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Danny Payne seemed too patient at the beginning of the year. How was he able to adjust?

Greg Riddoch: I think so too. Because he is so patient, he ends up hitting behind in the count all the time. Then you get more defensive.

He has a little bit of stubbornness in him. That is the way he was successful. Until you trust somebody, you want to stick with what got you there.

If a kid came in the first year and we totally changed his swing and he hit .200 the scout would be saying, ‘What are you doing? The guy was a good hitter.' We don't tweak with their swings that first summer. We just say whatever got you here go with. If you want help we will give it to you but we are not going to totally change your swing.

We talked to him all the time about it but he did not make that adjustment – the key word is "yet". Most times, people don't make adjustments until they fail and the year is over and the learning takes place and then they take the adjustment.

The injury to Mitch Canham aside, what impressed you about the young man?

Greg Riddoch: As soon as we get him he is injured. He only played 25 games for us and then we sent him to the next level. And he didn't play up there because he was helping out and the team was in a pennant race.

Average catching abilities at the moment. But he has only caught for a year and a half. Who might have a better ceiling – a guy who has caught since he was a little leaguer or a guy who has caught for only a year and a half? There you go.

Robbie Blauer didn't hit for as much power as I would have believed. Is that something that will come?

Greg Riddoch: I think it will because he doesn't use his legs. Once he learns to use his legs than he will hit for more power. He didn't exhibit power – just line drive stuff. He has a real thick lower half. He put on 25 pounds.

I asked him what he needed to do to make the adjustment and he said, ‘I need to keep the weight off.' I said, ‘I know because you are going to eat yourself right out of the game if you become real slow and heavy below.' He was slow and heavy anyway.

He does have a good eye and he doesn't strike out a whole lot. His stuff is line drive up the middle and over second and over short.

What were your thoughts on Justin Baum and his pro debut?

Greg Riddoch: His defense was a little bit shaky, but I think we got more bat out of him than we anticipated. He hit eight home runs for us in the short time he was here and did fairly well when he went above.

They might, and I am not part of that, say, ‘You did well at that level. Let's start you at Lake Elsinore.' He did succeed after he got there.

Andy Parrino quietly had a good year. Is cutting down on his strikeouts the key to his success?

Greg Riddoch: He is a dandy. This is a kid that you write home to mama about. He comes to play the game every single day. He is a winner. He can play short – and if there was any doubt of that, he put an end to that, he can play short – and he can play second base. That is what you need for a utility player in the major leagues.

He is a gamer. He comes to play every game. You get every ounce of energy that he has got. His personality is as consistent as the devil. He should at least be able to play in Fort Wayne next year. He could be a regular shortstop if he needed to be that.

He is an aggressive hitter. He needs to learn the zone a little bit better than what he knows right now and he will cut down on those.


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