Dascenzo on Fort Wayne Wizards prospects

It may have been a tough year for the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2007 but that did not diminish some of the talent coming through the Padres Low-A affiliate. Manager Doug Dascenzo discussed the improvement of Jesus Lopez, success of Nathan Culp, the confidence of Aaron Breit, path to 40-man for Ernesto Frieri and Wilton Lopez, impressions of Cory Luebke, and competitiveness of Allen Harrington.

We all know Jesus Lopez can field, but what does he have to do to improve at the plate?

Doug Dascenzo: I think he needs to keep doing what he did this year. I think he showed us that he started to learn a lot about the strike zone. His discipline was 100 percent better than it was a year ago.

His situational hitting was pretty good. He needs to continue – sometimes he overswings a little bit. For a guy who is a bat control type of guy – situational type who moves the runners and hits-and-runs, along with his great defensive ability, he has a chance to play at the major league level if he shows day-to-day consistency with his bat.

He is still growing up a little bit and gets frustrated at times. He needs to control that as well.

These kids are young kids and will show their frustration at times. But that just shows you how much they love the game and how passionate they are. We don't want to give that up for anything.

You had Nathan Culp early on before his promotion. You have seen him for parts of two years now. What is it that he does so well?

Doug Dascenzo: He just knows how to pitch, there is no question about it. Another word – competitiveness. He doesn't have all the velocity in the world but moves the fastball around. He has a great changeup and he can throw his breaking ball over or close to the plate to get them to fish for it a little bit.

For some reason we can't keep him on the team the whole year. He always does well and keeps going up. That is the main reason we are in this player development. It is good to see he keeps progressing and moving up the ladder.

Aaron Breit seemed to lose his confidence. How did you and Wally work to get that back since he pitched well down the stretch?

Doug Dascenzo: I tell you what – Aaron, his last seven outings, were tremendous. A few out of the bullpen and a few as a starter.

If anyone got the most out of their year this year it was Aaron Breit. A guy that struggles so much for the most part of the year fought his way through every step of the way and to finish up the way he did just goes to show you what kind of individual we have.

We have a power arm that never gives up when times are tough. When you think about it – the Major League level is like that every single day. You are fighting for your life every single day. The kid was doing that all summer long.

The way he finished up and what he went through for the most part of the season shows me that this kid has got it inside of him. Nothing is going to beat him down and he is going to come out fighting. He did a great job the last month of the season and I was very happy for him.

Ernesto Frieri impressed with his season out of the pen. How has he evolved over the last year?

Doug Dascenzo: Ernie has terrific stuff. He has what I call a quick arm. He has a very deliberate type of delivery. His arm is not the conventional long delivery. He has a quick arm and the ball gets on you. He throws 91-93 but it probably plays 95 or 96. He has touched the mid-nineties at times. His fastball plays three or four miles per hour higher than what the gun reads. I think that is what surprises a lot of hitters when the face Ernie.

He was tremendous for us last year and again this year. He wants the ball. He wants to throw. You can't help like that.

You only got to see Cory Luebke for a little while. What was it about him that enabled him to succeed?

Doug Dascenzo: Cory is also the same way in a sense. I think his fastball plays a little higher than what the gun readings show. He has the ability to throw the ball inside to right-handed hitters and has a nice breaking ball as well. He also has a nice feel for a changeup.

We talk about competitiveness. This kid has about as much as you could ever want. Coming out of Ohio State and a real nice program – he competes like the dickens and you like that a lot. I like Cory and I think he is somebody who can probably go pretty quick.

Allen Harrington became a go-to guy for you. What was it about him that you liked?

Doug Dascenzo: You keep bringing up these names and the competitiveness keeps going higher and higher. I just said it doesn't get any better than Luebke but I guess it does. Harrington is truly at the top of the list. He is not a very big guy but I tell you what, I wouldn't mind walking down a dark alley with him any day.

He throws strikes. He understands the game. He does not like to lose. When you couple all that and the ball coming out of his left hand...he throws a nice breaking ball and we started him a couple of games at the end. He will need to get a feel for a changeup – and while he has the feel, he does not throw it as much as he should as a starter. Somebody to come in and give us two or three innings of relief is invaluable.

Wilton Lopez can throw hard but seemed to buy into the pitch to contact mantra. Is that accurate?

Doug Dascenzo: Here is a power arm, power sinker guy that is not afraid of anybody. That is what he showed us when he was here. He went up and had some success in Lake Elsinore. Sinker/slider guy. Someone throwing 94 MPH and has that much movement on his ball has a chance to get a lot of people out. We were excited by him as well.

Did anything surprise you as a manager?

Doug Dascenzo: As far as the wins and losses go it was a frustrating year for all of us. None of us like to lose. That was one thing we learned as a team and as a group. Learning how to deal with it.

I told the guys, ‘You are going to learn a lot about yourself. Continue to go out there and continue to fight and do the best you can. We are going to get out of this.'

We went to the ballpark every single day thinking that way. It never seemed to break for us. I commend the guys and the group. They never ever gave up. They played their butts off. We had a couple last series of the season, capping it off with three wins at the end of the year.

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