Tom Gamboa: In the minicamp, we certainly liked what we saw out of Chris Fetter and he has backed that up. We were anxious to see more of Jerry Sullivan – he signed a little bit later – and regained his command and confidence at the end.
We like the funkiness of the left-hander Jeff Ibarra. In my tenure with the Cubs, we couldn't find a left-hander out of the bullpen. In my tenure back in San Diego, we have had a tough time getting a left-hander in the bullpen. They are tough to find. Ibarra hides the ball well, has some funk to his delivery. It will be interesting to see how he comes along.
Another guy that impressed me and I saw him in Lake Elsinore was Ryan Hinson. He showed very good poise in the brief time he was in Elsinore.
We still have high hopes for our little Dominican Pedro Hernandez who lit it up in extended but had never played under the lights or with crowds. I think he was a little bit in awe because his numbers in Eugene did not reflect what we saw down in Arizona.
Talk about the kids down in Arizona. Was there anyone down there that impressed you and left you feeling good?
How about Rafeal Arias closing out games. His velocity is up and a lot of people seem to be talking about him.
Tom Gamboa: That is a perfect example of what development is all about. Arias was just a little guy – a Pedro Martinez not a prototype body – but gifted with tremendous arm speed and a plus-plus fastball but had no command of it. To be truthful, when he came to the states, I thought it was before his time. The game was way too fast for him. In the first couple of outings I saw, he was a fish out of water. He had a difficult time competing. By the time extended ended, Bronze (Bronswell Patrick) and Jimmy Jones were telling us that you would be amazed by this guys progress. I saw a guy with much more confidence. The game had slowed down. He had better presence. He had better command. Better on the mound skills with fielding and throwing. He worked his way into the closer's spot. When you have a guy that can throw 95 and has a pretty good slider to go with it – that is exciting.
Adys Portillo – are you surprised he did not have more success in his first professional season?
Tom Gamboa: Yes – there is a guy with a prototypical pitcher's body and arm strength. When we got him, his first time in the states in Instructional League he not only had the raw stuff but performed.
Unfortunately, sometimes in development, a guy will take one or two steps backward before he takes three forward. Adys ran into some mechanical problems with his delivery. I think his confidence got shaken a little bit when he had some rough outings. Then he started pitching away from contact. When you are not used to getting hit and do get hit, the result is it looks like you are pitching away from contact. The walks went up – more men ended up scoring. There is no question his confidence took a beating. Although he has been somewhat inconsitent, no one is disappointed. He is a youngster in his first full season.
We have high, high hopes for him in the future. He has all the ingredients to be well worth the investment we have in him. It will just take some time.
It seems like a lot of Latin American players are learning English faster these days. How can you further expedite that process?
Tom Gamboa: I asked Yamid Haad how his grasp of English came along so well and he told me that when he first signed. They had put him with a Dominican player as a roommate and he went and asked to be put with an American player. 'Then in the room it forced me to point to different things and ask how do you say that.'
To try and accommodate the Latin players, we have let them live together because we want them to feel comfortable. There is hardly a day that goes by that we don't ask our American players to bring a Latin American with them to the mall or out to eat because you can learn from each other.
We are now going to room a Latin player with an American player. Yamid proved to me that that would expedite the learning curve. The only way to communicate is to talk.
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