Tom Gamboa: He has been on a very fast track to the big leagues. He has such an advanced changeup – a real, real good changeup. His performance has forced us. He got indoctrinated in Eugene in '06 and he was off to Fort Wayne. In the Instructional League and that great changeup and advanced feel, he bypassed Fort Wayne and was in Lake Elsinore. By the halfway point, he was dominating the league and we moved him to San Antonio and he was a big factor in that team winning the pennant. So, we pushed him into Triple-A.
Somebody is going to hit a wall and it just depends on where it happens. In Wade's case, his first start was dynamite where he struck out 11. once word got out, and the experience of Triple-A hitters, that he was a backwards guy – I saw an outing in Vegas where they were just sitting on the changeup because they knew two of every five pitches was going to be a changeup. He got his lunch handed to him. He got very frustrated because he had never had his changeup hit before.
With (Mike) Couchee and (Glenn) Abbott – they got through to him that when the hitters make an adjustment, you have to make an adjustment. When you see people sitting on it and you throw a good one and it is hit, you have to know it is not the quality of the pitch, it is that they were sitting on it and you might have to consequently throw your fastball more. You may have to pitch in more to get them off that changeup.
Wade's velocity is a little short but it is certainly good enough. He is not a power guy. He went along with Couchee and Abby convincing him that a two-seamer would run a ball in on a righty and thereby opening up the outer half of the plate for that good changeup.
I think when we look at it as a whole now, there was a time when his ERA was near 7.00. He hit a wall but when you look at the whole package, he has been the pitcher we thought he was. He has made some real good adjustments and is back on track now.
We think we have a guy that is going to be a good big league pitcher for a long time.
What can you pinpoint with Matt Antonelli. He struggled at the end of last year and in the Arizona Fall League. The spring was not that great and it has carried over through the season.
Tom Gamboa: Like LeBlanc, here is a guy that had instant success with us and was on the fast, fast track. He dominated that California League and his performance forced us to move him to Double-A. He homered in his first game at Double-A and he hit 20 for the year with an on-base percentage over .400 at two levels.
When I went to the fall league in watching both him and Will Venable, there was no doubt they were tired. When you take a young guy – college they play Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, maybe four times a week, and now we are playing 140 games and now we are adding the fall league to it – they were both worn down but benefited from the experience of it.
Matt hit a wall this year. Having been there three times, what I have seen is for the first time in pro ball, he got out of the gate very slowly. A poor average – he was still getting his walks but he started to press. When you press, you mentally go into a game thinking, ‘I need two hits today.' You are aware of where you average is at.
For the first time in Matt's career, I saw him start to jump at balls. By that I mean being heavy on his front foot where he has always been a guy that was real soft and quiet and let the ball come to him. He started getting jumpy and along with that he lost his trigger and separation to get his hands started. His hands started going with that stride, which now the ball on the inside of the plate, if you have movement going forward…you are speeding the game up rather than slowing it down. He began to get fisted a lot. Well, when a hitter breaks bats and gets fisted, not only is it a pride thing but it makes him wonder if he is slowing down so the tendency is to start even sooner. Now, if you get a changeup or a breaking ball, you are spiraling.
Having been there, now Max Venable has done a good job with Matt to getting him a nice separation. The walks are still up, the on-base percentage is creeping up, but he remains heavy on his front foot. He has just done it so much that it has become a bad mechanical flaw he has to overcome. We look at this as a learning year for him. He has had so much success. How many guys that signed when he did in '06 are playing Triple-A? To his credit, he got there fast and is now taking his lumps.
He is a mature guy. He is a competitor. I think when the season is over and he reflects on it, we feel confident that he is the player that we saw last year and it will just take the repetition of Triple-A to get the mechanics back in sink.
Yefri Carvajal has to have what you deem to be a successful year. He has not hit for power but is putting the ball in play, which is all you can ask for at this point.
Tom Gamboa: We are very, very pleased with the progress that Carvy has made this year. He had a terrific Instructional League and he has power that we are not seeing yet in terms of his statistics. We got to see it in the Instructional League on a daily basis in BP and in the games, as evidenced by the fact that he was the MVP.
This year, he got into a real bad habit out of the gate of rapping the bat. What we are talking about is when the bat head is overloaded and literally pointed at the pitcher. When I went in there the first time after a good spring training, I saw right away why he was hitting less than .200. When he committed to a pitch, the bat had to go so far back before coming forward that he was getting jammed a lot. Consequently, he knew he had to start his swing sooner and when he did he was chasing breaking balls that weren't close to the strike zone.
When (Tom) Tornicasa, Muser, and myself tried to put him back to where he was in the Instructional League and keeping the bat on the back side of his head so he can be quicker to the baseball. He was able to slow the game down and let the ball get deeper. His pitch selection got better, his walks went up and he got better pitches to hit.
To think he is hitting .270 after hitting about .180 after the first month and a half, he has probably hit somewhere near .330 after the first month.
He does have only four home runs and some doubles, but I think getting .500 at-bats this year, his first full year in pro ball playing every day, next year we will start to see his power numbers increase. We are very pleased with how he is coming along.
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