Eugene Emeralds Notebook V

Keizer, OR: On the road with the Eugene Emeralds at the Volcanoes facility, the time to prepare is limited for the visiting team. The home team gets all the money time – and the visitors scramble to get work in before a game.

  • If there is a home advantage – and there is – it comes in the form of practice time and strategically placed down time. While the home team is on the field earlier than the road squad, they are also off the field by 5:15 PM for a 7 PM game. They get to eat and replenish the reserves in the luxury of the clubhouse.

    The road team – in this case Eugene – is on the field late to begin stretching and has to wait until the home team exits the field to get batting practice squeezed in – limited to about 30 minutes to get all of their hitters look.

    When they are done – the game is upon them. If they appear weary – they bussed in, got dressed and immediately went to the field. No time for play or settling in. And they bus home each night back to Eugene – another hour on the road rather than getting into a hotel and getting some rest. Rinse and repeat for the series.

    The team arrived at the ballpark at 4:17 for a 6:30 start time and were stretching by 4:40. They were back in the clubhouse 40 minutes later.

    "I don't know about all that," manager Greg Riddoch said. "We do get to eat at home before we bus up here."

    While the meal is certainly better than the fare served in the clubhouse, it still isn't the more relaxed feel when they play at home. And the time for fundamentals is certainly expanded since the club is on the field and throwing bullpens by 2:50 for a 7 o'clock game.

    Interestingly enough, the work that Salem-Keizer did before the game had some interesting quirks. Every single batter spent time with the bunting machine – bunting the ball between cones on the field in a variety of zones.

    Also, the first five swings after an off-day were targeting the opposite field foul line.

    The goal for Volcanoes manager Tom Trebelhorn, "Get the ball deep and track it. After an off-day, we all have a tendency to jump at pitches early. This will help you have a better approach and allow the ball to travel deep so you won't be as susceptible to the off-speed pitch."

  • Pedro Hernandez, Chris Wilkes and Matt Jackson all threw bullpens on Wednesday after the day off.

    The left-handed Hernandez looked much improved from earlier in the season. His focal point has been not short-arming the ball and getting full extension over the top to gain better command of his pitches.

    On several occasions, his fastball and changeup have been up in the zone. By getting on top of both pitches, he will have better downward action and increased command.

    Another key component is keeping his head on a line. He has a tendency to have his head tilt to the side, which ultimately affects his arm angle.

    Bronswell Patrick was impressed with his session, telling Hernandez several times that he was doing a good job.

    Wilkes has also had more issues with command than ever before. Most of it can be chalked up to balance and foot placement on his landing.

    The right-hander has not had a good balance point on release and his foot placement has varied. If his body is in front of his arm, the ball tends to rise as his arm can't catch up to the landing. When he sticks the front foot down in separate locations his release point is affected – which will ultimately cause his command to waver.

    "You get in trouble when you timber and fall off," Riddoch told Wilkes. "If you place your foot here, here, and here – your release point is here, here, and here."

    Jackson has a more interesting approach to his bullpen sessions. He throws from a standstill with his feet in a finished position to force him to keep his body aligned and his chest up in the air in a good position to get a downward angle on the ball.

    The right-hander also works on his leg position during the windup – stopping it while it is in the air to get its position consistent before going towards his catcher with the ball.

    "Those drills are great," Riddoch said. "They will help teach you that muscle memory."

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