Glenn Abbott: At the beginning of the year, we were trying to get him to throw it and he hardly wouldn't throw it, so I said, ‘to heck with it.'
This might sound kind of corny, but I did this and it worked. It's like you've got to find a way to get somebody to do something. I know even Buddy Black talked to him at the end of spring training about throwing that two-seamer. And you talk to him, ‘well, I just don't have that two seamer; don't have enough movement.' Well, I think, ‘you don't know until you try it.' You've got to throw it and all of that stuff.
I said, ‘I'm not going to beat you over the head about the two-seamer anymore, you know it; you've got the information, blah, blah, blah.'
Next thing you know, he's throwing it on his own, and he started throwing it a lot. It's almost like a kid: you want them to do something and the more you want them to do it, the more they want to fight it. He started throwing it and used it a lot to right-handers, and it ended up working out for him. He made a tremendous amount of progress from the first half to the second.
Is that his pitch sequencing on the mound?
Glenn Abbott: No, more mental. We had several conversations with those three, him, (Cesar) Ramos, and (Josh) Geer about trying to cover our bases and make sure that they understand. They have moved up pretty quick through the system. In Triple-A, you can start running into some more disciplined hitters and you have more trouble. It was amazing, and I talked to him several times, anyways, he gets caught, guys were looking for his changeup and these more experienced hitters can hit it when they're looking for it.
In the first half, he just almost hit a wall there. I told him all along even if they were struggling early, I told all three of them, ‘look, things will get better, don't panic, do not panic. It's all about how we finish, this is a marathon, this is not a sprint race here.'
Sure enough, he kept with his basics and next thing you know, the second half starts rolling around and he starts throwing the ball well. He had like two outings in the second half where he didn't do very well, but the others he is pitching six, seven innings and he gave up one run. A lot of it is just a confidence thing. Here's a kid who has never struggled; he's never struggled in college or wherever he has played in pro ball. His changeup always, if he's in any trouble, his changeup always got him out of it. He had to learn that doesn't work all the time. You've got to learn to pitch and use your stuff. And, he did; he got so much better with it.
He improved a tremendous amount in the second half. I was glad to see them call him up. I didn't know if they would since this was not his roster year, but they ended up making the call anyways. I talked to Randy, and they said he did pretty good. He said the first time he was nervous, he did ok. The second time, he said he did a lot better, was a lot more comfortable, so I was glad to hear that. I think both of those guys, or all three of them, once they pitch a little bit, they'll get comfortable. That's a big jump. When you go to the big leagues, gosh dang, you've always wanted to go, but you're nervous and you're scared and you want to do good. A lot of times you can get in your own way. Maybe if they get a few games under their belt and relax a little bit, then they can pitch like they can.
You mentioned Cesar Ramos and it has always been said that he has better stuff than the aforementioned two but has not reached that potential. What is the key to Cesar Ramos?
Glenn Abbott: He's gotten better. For me, he's got to get a bit more efficient with his off-speed pitches. He's got to be more efficient with the quality of them in the strike zone. He has gotten better when he used that changeup more. He wants to pitch a lot.
So many times, he's pitching about 75-80 percent fastballs. I told him you've got to be more of a 60-40 guy, 60 fastball, 40 off-speed. I said that he's got a good live fastball. I said it's not that good to pound guys with it.
I think that the confidence is getting better with it over the second half with his off-speed, his slider. He couldn't even throw one last year when we started. It's been a slow process, but it's getting better. When he throws a good one, it's a ball, it's a ball. He can't throw that real quality one in the zone. A lot of his good ones, in other words, when you throw it, it's a good slider, but it's a ball when it leaves his hand. The hitter is able to recognize it quick enough to lay off of it. He has gotten better with that and now I'm happy to see that.
It's just kind of disappointing, he's not making the progress as fast as I would like him to be. But, that's being selfish on my part. I would like to see him make it a little bit quicker than that since he's getting a feel of the slider. It's like any pitcher; they've got to get a feel for the pitches. He's just been a little bit slower getting a feel for that, to throw that quality one for a strike.
His biggest nemesis this last year was with men on base in scoring position. He couldn't make a pitch when he needed to in that situation and that's when he gave up runs. I think they hit close to .300 off of him with men in scoring position. That's not good for your ERA when they're hitting .300 with men in scoring position.
Edwin Moreno was really tough on lefties – he was very strong early for you and then struggled late.
Glenn Abbott: He pitched for us last year in the second half of the year in San Antonio and was real good. I think he went right into the closing role; we needed one. He did very good. The same with when he came up here at the end of May to Portland. We lost our closer, and he walked right into the closing role. He was doing just like last year and then, we go to Fresno, and he blew three saves. He blew two or three in a row, I think and he never rebounded from that. Two of the saves, they were not his fault. We booted routine balls that we should have caught, and the game would have been over on all three of those games.
He's a good kid and he wants to please. I think he really takes it real personal if he blows a save regardless if somebody blew two balls. So, he tries to make better pitches, and I think he gets in trouble with that. That's what I think happened. He just never was as good after he blew those three saves. I think he ended blowing like five or six saves down the second half of the year.
I think it was seven. I think he converted nine straight to open the year.
Glenn Abbott: Right, right, and then he blew like seven at the end. At one stretch, he had like 40 something hitters that he didn't give up a hit or anything. It just snowballed on him I think. He feels he's close; he's in Triple-A and all of that. He put a little bit of added pressure on him I think.
Joe Thatcher did well – while you didn't have him the season before, how can he get back to being the pitcher he was in the majors in 2007 where he was obviously very successful?
Glenn Abbott: I think it's a comfort level for him. I know I talked to him some this summer. It's like when you're first in the big leagues, like I was telling you about before; you want to do well, this is where you want to play. Sometimes you try to do too much. I think he tries a little bit too hard; it got him in trouble in the same way.
I think if he could just relax and just be comfortable, he would be ok. He threw the ball fine for us. He did a good job. I think he will there too, but he's just got to learn to relax and just have fun and enjoy himself. I felt like he was in Portland. Don't put too much pressure on yourself, just trust it. But, so many guys that want to do more. The guys who are able to trust are the ones who are able to be successful. The really good ones, they believe nobody can hit them. They've got so much confidence when they go out there; they make some mistakes too like the rest of us, except they've got so much confidence and conviction with their pitches they're able to go out there and just go right through them. Even though it might be a bad pitch, he just believes so much that the guys can't hit them that they end up getting outs. It was just a comfort level I think.
We talked about this at the end of the year. They didn't call him up; I said, ‘Don't let this be a negative.' He said, ‘Well, I'm not going to let it be.'
I said, "You can pitch there; you know you can, you did last year when you were up there for the last part of the year.
"You've just got to relax and let your stuff work because you've got nasty stuff, throwing from down side where you throw. You'll be difficult to hit, but, you've just got to believe it, and don't try to help it and trust it.'
Hopefully, that will, just having this year, for him to experience this year about what he needs to do, then, maybe he can go down to winter ball, have a pretty good winter, come in to spring training and have a good camp and make the ball club.
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