Doug Dascenzo: He had some immediate success and towards the end he kind of fell back into it a little bit. He just needs to get some confidence, and he will. He's a fighter, he's not a quitter. When you see that in an individual, you know you've got something, and we know that he's got the arm to do it. Now he's just got to match it up and make it work. Those guys that were out there in instructional league got that done for him.
Allen Harrington was great before the injury to his left elbow and is someone you once said you would love to have with you in a dark alley. How good was he?
Doug Dascenzo: He was very good. He was part of that eight-man deal when we were starting out the season. He was pitching well and then his elbow started bothering him a little bit, and he really never recovered from it. We're anxious to get him back throwing again; and to have a competitor like him on the mound and around the team is very nice to have. So, we'll see how he bounces back from that.
Jeremy Hefner was consistently good for you – how has he been so successful?
Doug Dascenzo: Pretty much so, yes. I think I can only remember maybe one start when he just got banged around a little bit. The guy can pitch, there's no question about it. He's come a long way; he's got a great changeup, he's got a great command of it. His slider, he's got great command of that as well. It may be a little bit big at times, and I think they worked on that in the instructional league. But, he can move the fastball around a little bit. He can throw his changeup any time he wants to. I think he's going to do just fine.
Corey Kluber came to you after struggling in Lake Elsinore. Was it a matter of regaining confidence for him?
Doug Dascenzo: I don't know how to explain it, but it happens that way a lot of the times for somebody who starts at the next level. They struggle a little bit for whatever reason, and then he comes back down here. Just a true professional, he goes about his business the right way. Just like a lot of those guys, pretty much the whole team this year. He came down and he just went to work. He got it, he found it, and he was just tremendous.
He's back on track again, there's no question about it. I really didn't get a chance to see a whole lot of him last year. What I saw this year I really liked. He's got a great command of his fastball and mixes his changeup in there pretty decent. He, along with Cory Luebke, is pretty much in the same boat. They just were struggling with a few things here and there and they are back on track. I think they'll be on their way and there won't be any problem next year.
Cory Luebke also joined you after a tough stretch with the Storm. What did you see from him that bodes well for the future?
Doug Dascenzo: I think there was something in him, there was a little tap in his delivery they were working on with a couple of little other things that would allow him to get more command of his fastball. He just lost command of his fastball. He couldn't pitch; he couldn't throw the ball inside when he needed to. So, they just kind of cleaned that up and worked on getting rid of that a little bit. Now, that ability to throw that fastball where he wanted to allowed him to be able to pitch. When we had Cory here last year, that's what he did. Again, for whatever reason, something pops up in the delivery and hampers your fastball command – it's going to be very difficult to pitch anywhere.
You had Mat Latos before the oblique injury. What did you see out of Mat early in the year?
Doug Dascenzo: There's no question, he's got a great arm, a good breaking ball and, for the most part, when he did throw it, a pretty good changeup. He just threw a lot of fastballs, a lot of sliders, and just really overmatched the guys.
The thing that he has to understand is that at some point in time if you decide not to throw a changeup, at some point in time, you're going to have to start throwing it. You might as well start throwing it now, get used to it and get comfortable with it. It's not really just going out there and pitching five, six, seven innings and blowing people away with two pitches because, at some point in time, you're going to need to mix all three of them in there, if you're going to be a starter. I know he understands it, I know that he knows that's what he needs to do. It was unfortunate that he got hurt.
Jeremy McBryde had a tough stretch in June and July but really improved at the end. What was the reason for the turnaround?
Doug Dascenzo: Well, just like we just talked about with Latos. He was stubborn in a sense where he wouldn't throw the changeup. Finally, he just started throwing it, he felt comfortable with it.
If you were to take a video of him walking around on the mound in April and walking around the mound in August, you would have said there were two completely different kids out there walking around. The guy in April obviously had no confidence, and the guy in August had all the confidence in the world. The only difference is that he threw more changeups. He pitched inside a little bit more with his fastball and is obviously having success. It's pretty simple.
We can read a book about trout fishing, but if we don't go out there and get our feet in the water and try and do it, the experience, you cannot beat the experience of getting that success. You really don't know what you're doing when you first go out to do it, but after you do it for a while and have success, now you know what to expect. That's the difference, that's what we saw in Jeremy. It was a great thing to see a young man walk around the mound with all of the confidence that he did there in the last month of the season.
Bryan Oland was dominant out of the pen for you yet began the year in extended. What kind of stuff does he have?
Doug Dascenzo: I don't know how he's not on the team when we leave spring training. But in any event, he got there, he was there and man, what a story right here. Here's a guy, like you say, starts in extended, and now he's on the team and he's throwing the ball 93-94, sometimes 95 miles an hour. He starts throwing, comes up with this split-finger changeup that almost acts like a float-ball in a sense. It's hard and it dips and it's late. It's really a power trick pitch. He feels he fits the eighth inning role to a ‘T' and could have done the ninth inning closing just as well as Quezada. He's a two-pitch pitcher. He throws a little slider every now and then and probably needs to throw that a little bit more. But, he did a wonderful job. He had a 0.80 ERA. If you have that, then you're doing something.
Wynn Pelzer was very good until August – was that a matter of him wearing down in his first season of pro ball?
Doug Dascenzo: That's why we only had pitched him five innings in the month of August, was to hold him back because he had only thrown a total of 42-43 innings when you combine the college and the cape league, or wherever he was in the summer where he got hurt. You're going from 42 or 45 innings and now he ended up with 118. You've got to be very, very cautious when you start doubling, and 150 percent add on. We were very careful with him. We skipped him some starts, we got him on the back end of the rotation in August with some off days and just doing five innings.
He was another one who hadn't had good confidence in the changeup. All of these guys come in here, not only the pitchers, but the hitters too, they come in here and they're always going to fall back to what's comfortable to them; what made them have success in college. Let's face it, that's what got them here. The trick is to get them to believe that you need to do these things in professional ball this way or tweak a pitch or add a pitch there so you can get guys out at the major league level. It takes some time with guys.
Wynn, I think, truly understands that now. He was kind of like Jeremy McBride in a sense where he didn't throw a whole lot of changeups in the beginning. But, he had some great starts. This kid is gifted with a great arm and really worked on his delivery and threw some outstanding, outstanding games. This is a guy that we're going to keep our eye on in the future.
Jackson Quezada had a great year and was dominant versus righties. What made him so good against them?
Doug Dascenzo: Oh yeah. We're playing, basically, a seven-inning game when you talk about having those two guys. Then, when you add, whether it was Bright or (Dylan) Axelrod, or a lot of times it was Breit in the seventh and then Oland and Quezada. If you can get a lead by six innings, there is a good chance you're going to win the game.
Jackson just did a tremendous job. I think he finally realized that you he didn't need to overthrow and fall off the mound and head jerk and all of that stuff to get guys out. He did that. He was able to stay on line better in crucial situations and started throwing the slider a little bit more and changeup on occasion. But, when you get to the eighth and ninth inning and you've got a chance to win the game, these guys are coming in there and throwing their two best pitches and getting six outs. That's exactly what they did all year.
What changes for you, this is your third year managing that you just finished up. How have you grown from that first year to now?
Doug Dascenzo: There are all kinds of stuff. Like I told the players, you've got to look back on every year and say, ‘You know what; I accomplished at least one thing from the year and maybe learned two or three more things to work on for the following year.'
I think the one thing I learned and tried to accomplish and tried to utilize in the managerial part of it was trying to make everybody as comfortable as they possibly could be; get more involved with the pitchers in the bullpen, in the sideline work; personality type of stuff. I try to set myself up every day to try and go out and make everyone feel as comfortable as they possibly can. Get to know the guys a little bit more on a more personal basis. Having the opportunity to go to spring training and watch Buddy Black work in the clubhouse and around the field, I knew I had to do that better than I did in 2007. I think I did that. It was fun, it was a lot of work, and I can do a better job of that as well. I think I can add on to that. I think, because it doesn't matter how much information you have, if you don't have the relationship there, you're not going to be able to get the information to the kid. That was one of the things that I set out to do and I believe I accomplished that. That's just going to make me a better manager down the road, or coach, or wherever it may lead me in to the future.
The other thing was that I had a bunch of crazy plays pop up this year. I couldn't pull out rule 6.04c on any of the arguments, so my goal for next year is to have the book memorized by number so when I go out there to talk to the guys I can know exactly where I need to go. Because, when you go out and talk to the umpires, you can say, ‘You know what, common sense says that's not what's supposed to happen; my experience says that I know that's wrong.' That's not good enough when you're arguing with an umpire. My goal this year, this winter, is to memorize that whole book and know every rule by every number and letter and be more prepared for that.
Have you ever gone out there purposely trying to get thrown out?
Doug Dascenzo: There are times. There are times where you have to go out there and the team might be struggling a little bit, just kind of get them fired up. There's times where you go out and you say, ‘You know what, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make some noise and get everybody going.' That's maybe once a year.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards