Riddoch on Padres short-season prospects

Eugene manager Greg Riddoch sees big league talent from many of the Emeralds he witnessed. We caught up with him to discuss Anthony Bass, Rob Musgrave, Pablo Menchaca, Simon Castro, Mat Latos, and Jaff Decker.

Anthony Bass worked in relief for you after throwing a lot of innings in college. What does he need to improve upon?

Greg Riddoch: Yeah and command of four pitches, and he just needs to make sure he uses them. Sometimes, he gets locked into fastball, fastball, fastball.

But tremendous fielder, great kid, fields his position, it's like having another shortstop on the field when he's on the mound, quick feet, quick hands, fields his position well, and I don't know where we drafted him. He might have been the first pitcher we took.

Yeah, he's definitely got a good chance to play in the major leagues. You know, him and a couple of the other guys that we had – Musgrave – we had to protect their arms, which is important the first year. So, if we used them two innings, we had to give them two days off and sometimes three, just to make sure we protected the arms so that they didn't show up at spring training with a bad arm and getting worn out.

Rob Musgrave struck out 66 in 42 innings out of the pen – what was he doing to get hitters missing his pitches?

Greg Riddoch: Great changeup. I think his fastball will be better than what we saw. I think he was tired. You know they wear those guys out in college and here they run off for the summer. But a tremendous changeup. Sometimes he pulls it across the plate on left-handers. He just needs to use his curveball more versus left-handed because he has a real great curveball.

Pablo Menchaca had some good starts with you and some that weren't so good. What is the difference between the good and the bad?

Greg Riddoch: Yeah, just his biggest thing has always been consistency. Took him out of rotation and he kind of got a little bit mad about that. The next time he got a chance, man, he came back out of the bullpen like the old Pablo that we knew. And then he was kind of sporadic, he had a couple good games and a couple bad ones where he couldn't get them out. Just inconsistent in what he was doing. We never see him at 95 anymore. He's 89, maybe, tops, 87-to-89 mph.

Simon Castro made some nice strides this year. One of the keys to success for many Latin kids seems to be tied to learning the English language, which he has done. Is there a link between that and success?

Greg Riddoch: Right and he is really smart. We have our English classes and they were impressed with how fast he picked up the English. But then the other side of that, too.

In fact, I'm made a t-shirt for him that's got all of his new sayings on it. When you say, ‘Hey, Simon, how you doing?' ‘Never better, man!' So I've got ‘never better' on there, and ‘Dude' and ‘Bro' and ‘Brother from another mother,' I mean all of these English - little English phrases that he picked up. I can't tell you how much fun we had.

Then the dugout divided into thirds, so our Latin kids took up the far end and they called it "Spanish Town." So if you went to go into Spanish Town, they'd hold a bat down like, ‘Show me your passport or you can't come into Spanish Town.' But he was behind having that kind of fun in the dugout, creating that kind of leadership.

So, I'd go down to tell somebody to get ready to pinch run if so-and-so got on the next inning, and I'd say, ‘Do I need to show a passport? I'm the manager.'

‘No, you can come through.' Just playing fun stuff with them that creates that family atmosphere where it's not just all that hardcore stuff. He was responsible for the Spanish Town; he created it and kind of monitored it and all that stuff. I even looked down there one night and Spanish Town had the wave going on! So we made a comeback and I told them, ‘Hey, that's great, but don't be doing that anymore because the other team's liable to think we're mocking them and they'll start nailing our players.'

They were just having fun, like kids will have when you're young like that. He was the leader behind most of that stuff and really the Latin leader on our team. And man, did he come on with a changeup! I think one game he threw 17 out of 24 for strike. Who really hardly ever threw one before. So he came a whole lot. He came two years in one summer in every aspect of the game. He has a big leaguer – a 95 mph fastball. He's a big leaguer someday, 19 years old.

Is the Mat Latos you saw at the end of this year better than the one from last year?

Greg Riddoch: Oh, yeah, because of maturity and the mound presence. His on the field stuff is just 10 times better – totally under control. He'd lose his control and his personality and all that stuff last year because he was young. And that's going to be a continual thing that he's going to face because where he's come from and all the stuff that he's gone through, like anyone of us with dysfunctional things in our lives and paradigms that we've had to overcome that we've been led to believe that's as good as we can be, and he's overcome a lot of those already.

But he has a long way to go. But he is not a number five, four, three, or a two starter in the big leagues: he's an impact, number one pitcher-type pitcher. Just got to get it all together. Twice as good this year than the last. That's all I look at – are they getting better?

You only had Jaff Decker for three games. Any impressions?

Greg Riddoch: Well, like any other high school kid, first game I threw him right in. I said, ‘Hey, we're in a pennant race, and you're getting right in the middle of it, I'm playing you in left field the next three games.' And the first game he was like 2-for-5 and he hit fastballs, and then they kind of went, okay, 18 years old, here comes this thing called a slider and a hard curve and then they started getting him a little bit. But again, it's 18 versus 22, 23 years old, and experienced, and like any young 18-year-old,

I remember years ago when the Bellingham Dodgers lost 26 straight games to start the season, which is still a professional record. And they had Mike Scioscia, Pedro Guerrero, Rick Sutcliffe, all these young 18-year-old kids on the team in a year of 23-year-olds. And it's the same kind of situation.

You have to go through learning what that thing is called a slider and a curveball because in high school it's mainly fastballs. And so as soon as they started throwing breaking pitches and changing on him, then they got him a little bit.

But he only had three games to look at it.

He's got a tremendous, hard – when I first met him he came up introduced himself I said I got a nickname for you right now, he said what's that I said, ‘four-by-four'. He looked like a guy that used to be 6-foot-6 and was walking downtown Chicago and somebody dropped a safe out a third storey window and compacted that down into this 4x4 frame.

You hit him in the chest or mess with him and it's like wrestling a wall. He's a rock, he's hard as a rock. That's all muscle. We got a dandy in him, too. That's why I keep going, ‘Jiminy Christmas.'

And I didn't see (Chris) Wilkes and some of those good young ones we had down in Arizona that were just like that. So I just keep saying, ‘Just keep backing these drafts up, Grady. Draft you another like you did last year.' Now we got this year.

And the other thing to think about, too, we got four number one picks coming into the system this year with (Cesar) Carrillo coming back, (Nick) Schmidt is going to make an appearance, (Matt) Bush is going to make an appearance, and (Mat) Latos is going to be in there. There's four number one draft picks that's going to come into the system, provided totally healthy, they're going to come into the system and that's going to add a lot of punch in our pitching department.

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