Ready is exceptionally popular with his players, but as catcher Nick Hundley said, whose played for him on three different teams, "If you're not out there getting after it, you're not going to be on the field."
What are the differences in managing on the Triple-A level as opposed to managing in Fort Wayne at the Low-A?
Randy Ready: Probably the biggest difference is there is more hands-on at the lower levels and also in your physical and skill work. At this level, it's more individual and mental work to get over that last hurdle. You talk about two tough hurdles; it's getting to the major leagues and then trying to stay there.
I would say the biggest differences: there are more shortcuts for more experienced players with our staff. The younger players need more hands-on work on the field than these guys, not that we don't tune it up, but more quality and less quantity.
At this level, is it tough on certain players who have accomplished so much in the minors already but they are blocked by someone on the big league team? Is it tough on these guys mentally to keep going out there and giving one hundred percent?
Randy Ready: Everybody's goal is to play at the major league level but just because you are blocked by one club doesn't mean there couldn't be opportunities on 29 others. There is always room for more information and improvement.
You had some tough seasons in Fort Wayne with quite a bit of player movements and maybe not always the best talent. I know your focus is always on development, but last year had to be great for you having such a talented team in San Antonio and getting a chance to win.
Randy Ready: It was refreshing because we had some stability, but we had movement too. The bottom line was that when you create that kind of stability and positive environment good things will happen. I think it all came together in the end, and the proof was in the pudding how they came together and won the championship.
How has Matt Antonelli been progressing defensively this year? Last year when I spoke with you in San Antonio you talked about working with him specifically on one thing everyday defensively.
Randy Ready: He's been making progress. I think playing on the turf is a new environment for him. It's an adjustment we have to make as infielders when we go from turf to the natural surfaces. He's so new to this position, and I don't think he's been as comfortable out there as he will be. He continues to make progress every day.
You played on some pretty rough surfaces in Philadelphia and Montreal, how does the turf in Portland compare?
Randy Ready: It's a lot more forgiving here. It's got six inches of pad underneath and on some gravel, it plays true. It's just much more forgiving than the stuff I played on that was an inch of padding and on concrete. It just really wore on you, and here you can wear spikes out there and not feel it on your body.
Chase Headley got off to a slow start this year. Did some of the publicity affect him this year, which could have been the reason for his slow start?
Randy Ready: That is a couple of tough things that you are asking. He's playing a new position so he feels pressure to perform. There is no question about his offense with the great camp he had this year and what he did in San Antonio. Right now, he's smart enough he'll figure it out and turn it around at the plate.
Since you have managed Nick Hundley for a few years could you talk about his improvement defensively?
Randy Ready: He's making some good throws, his setup is much better and his movement has improved. He's doing an excellent job blocking the plate along with his game calling skills. He's got a good bat, gap power and he's really effective when he stays in the middle of the field. He can be a very effective offensive player.
Last year, you guys made a big jump with Will Venable, moving him from Fort Wayne to San Antonio. This year you have him as the everyday centerfielder. What did he do to impress the organization to put him in that role?
Randy Ready: He's so athletic and he likes playing out there. He can see the whole field, and he has great closing speed. He runs good routes, and before he went on the DL, he was getting to everything. I think he's going to be able to be out there consistently once he gets healthy. The thing with Will is he just answers the bell with whatever challenge we put in front of him.
You just don't see that many guys make that kind of jump. I know he didn't hit with that much power but just to be able to do what he did was impressive.
Randy Ready: He just rises to the challenge. He's has great attitude, work ethic and really all of the intangibles that you need to perform well.
It seems like you guys tinkered with his swing a little this year. I read in the Instructs the organization thought he had too many moving parts in his swing?
Randy Ready: He went to camp with (Jim) Lefebvre early, in January and started to work with his foundation. He knew what he wanted to do but was just kind of fighting through it in '07. This year, he is much more comfortable with what he is trying to do. He's much more stable with better balance and control, which is going to allow him to get the bat through the zone quicker and generate more power.
The three starters that you have here, Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos and Wade LeBlanc are all somewhat similar. None of them have big fastballs but all experienced success last year in San Antonio because of their ability to keep hitters off-balance. What are their biggest strengths and need to improve upon to make the majors?
Randy Ready: Geer is a control guy, he needs to stay down in the zone, locate and change speeds. He likes to work fast and the defense enjoys playing behind him. Ramos has to locate and command his fastball and work on his secondary stuff. At times, he shows a nice slider and changeup. He needs more consistency in the strike zone. With LeBlanc there is no question about his changeup.
Randy Ready: Yup, changeups. He tries to vary them but his biggest thing is going to be to locate the fastball and make progress with the two-seamer, which will get him out of jams and get him some double play balls.
How has his progress been with his two-seamer?
Randy Ready: It's been good; he's starting to like it. I think there was some apprehension at first on his part, but being around guys in major league camp and especially with Shaw Estes here helped him to realize why he needed it.
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