Championship prospects offer lots of promise

We caught up with manager Randy Ready to discuss the quality at-bats of Matt Antonelli, Chad Huffman's leadership, Drew Macias' defense, Will Venable's demeanor, Cesar Ramos' steadiness, Will Inman's talent, Wade LeBlanc's confidence, Edwin Moreno's confidence, Neil Jamison's professionalism, Paul Abraham's arm, and Jon Ellis' adjustments.

Matt Antonelli comes into San Antonio from Lake Elsinore and continued to perform. What did you see out of the young man?

Randy Ready: Matt had a solid season if you combine San Antonio and Lake Elsinore numbers. He gives you a quality at-bat. A very patient hitter. He had some pop when he first got to us. I think fatigue set in in his first full season. This guy loves to play. He is going to play in the big leagues some day.

Chad Huffman performed well too. What are your thoughts on him?

Randy Ready: He gave us a shot in the arm. Huffman is a leader in his own way. He is very loose. He goes at bat to at bat and game to game. He brings some of that mental toughness with him. He is a grinder. He was a big shot in the arm to our lineup.

It was unfortunate he whacked his knee there at the end and was hobbled. He tried to go the couple of games but it opened up the door for Dowdy to get some more playing time.

Drew Macias seemed to take a patient approach at the plate. What does he need to do to take his game to the next level?

Randy Ready: Thee is no question that Drew can play defense at any level – and throwing. He led the organization, I would assume, in assists. Very consistent outfielder – can play them all. Offensive, he needs to create some more consistency in his approach. No matter where he is hitting in the lineup, he has to make contributions. Basically that is it. Once you are consistent they can't hold you back.

Will Venable hits .278 after skipping a league and some – not me of course – say he had a down year. This is the second year you are seeing him – what do you think?

Randy Ready: Will just grinded and fought his way through the whole season. That is a credit to his competitiveness. This guy, coming from Low-A with a minimum amount of at bats in professional baseball plus college experience, and here he is finding himself right in the middle of our lineup in Double-A. Had a real tough workout coming out of spring. Was he going to survive or not? As mentioned, that is just Will's competitiveness.

He is a survivor. Every time you thought he was exhausted in number of games played he would say, ‘I am good. I am ready to go.' He really understands what he has to do to be a professional ballplayer. He wants to play at the top level.

Cesar Ramos had a very good year for you. What impressed you from the southpaw?

Randy Ready: He had a solid year. Cesar has great life on his fastball coming from the left side. He pitched some big games for us and really came through. Location-wise – he is constantly working on his secondary stuff. At times his slider was very effective. At times his changeup was very effective. He just needs a little more consistency and something to put hitters away from Double-A and on up. He was very consistent for us. Again, when he took the mound our club was confident we could win the game.

You got to see Will Inman down the stretch. What can you tell us about the newcomer?

Randy Ready: Will came to us – he is working on some delivery things with Abby. Milwaukee had changed some delivery things.

A young, talented kid. He really likes to pitch. He is going to maximize his abilities. He did some nice things. He had a lot of innings so we kind of throttled him back a little bit. I look for big things from him coming up in the spring.

Wade LeBlanc was a solid addition to that pennant run. Another lefty that knows how to pitch – there has to be more than that.

Randy Ready: These guys were very confident and they fed off each other all year long. It started with Josh and Cesar and then Eck when he got in there and whoever we plugged in as we had some guys in and out.

Here comes LeBlanc and he says, ‘I want to be part of this thing too. I am going to step up my game. Watch and see. Just watch me. I am going to back it up.' And he did.

He was very confident when he took the mound. When Wade locates his fastball down in the zone and on both sides of the plate – that sets up his secondary stuff, which is above average. He had some success right away and was confident and really came up huge for us in the playoffs.

Edwin Moreno came in as your closer and performed well. What enabled him to succeed?

Randy Ready: We had an opportunity to grab Eddie out of the Mexican League where he was started. He really helped us out because we had Ellie and Jamie and we were not sure how we would close the game out. Moreno comes in and said, ‘I would really like an opportunity to do this.' He starts closing a couple of games and really gained confidence. We were lucky to get him. He did a nice job for us.

Neil Jamison had a rough patch of games in the beginning of the year. How were you able to get him back on track?

Randy Ready: I think Jamie – there was a time where each pitcher went through it. We were real solid in April and in May it kind of just hit us. As a staff we kind of started losing confidence. It started with our command and leaving balls up. Balls don't bounce our way and there is some damage with balls in the gap. It is nothing a pitcher won't go through over the course of the summer, especially in the minor leagues. If they were that dominant they wouldn't be there all year long.

These guys all made adjustments. That is the sign of the competitiveness and professionalism you are looking for – when a kid doesn't cave in and is always looking to make adjustments and hone his skills. Jamie did a nice job doing that.

Why doesn't Paul Abraham get as much play as I think he should?

Randy Ready: This guy – coming out of Spring Training with the tilt on his slider...There is no question Paul has a great arm. He really stepped up his game this year. He was confident every time out there. I thought at some point we would lose him to the big league club. That is how effective he was throwing the ball.

The injury was a big setback at the time. He regained his form. He wanted it and was instrumental in our season all summer long.

Jon Ellis – is it just about cutting down on the walks for him to reach his potential?

Randy Ready: Ellie went through some growing pains there where he just lost his command. It is funny. When you are not there you say, ‘Geez, he has walked a lot of guys.' Same as Jamie. They weren't missing up in the zone. They were missing down in the zone. A credit to them – they were trying to use our pitching philosophy of three pitches or less. When the hitters were patient, we couldn't get it done. They fell behind in the count and all of a sudden it is ball four.

I like what we were trying to do. We were trying to attack the strike zone and did a nice job of doing that. Using our pitching mantra – get us a ground ball in three pitches or less.

How does it feel to be named the Manager of the Year?

Randy Ready: MadFriars Manager of the Year! You guys are the best. Do I have to take you guys out to dinner? Are you setting me up to take you out in the spring? This isn't my first rodeo. Tell me what you want.

Of course we told every manager they won the award.

Randy Ready: I am going to check MadFriars to make sure Randy Ready is Manger of the Year.

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