Abbott on Triple-A pitching prospects

Portland Beavers pitching coach Glenn Abbott was the man who prepped many of the young San Diego Padres arms in Triple-A. MadFriars.com caught up with Abbott to discuss many of the players who showed up in San Diego during the year.

Josh Banks really had a great year for you and came up with some nice starts throughout the year.

Glenn Abbott: He did. He started using his pitches a little bit differently this year. I've been talking to him about it last year but this year he was using his curveball and the split more. Before he wanted to just do a lot of cutters. So I think it just paid dividends to him. He was like second in the league in pitching. He had a game where he gave up like 5 or 6. He pitched excellent.

It had to be considered a disappointing season for Matt Buschmann. What did you see?

Glenn Abbott: It was. It was disappointing to everybody. I think for him and the same for the Padres too.

He had told me he couldn't get the ball to the outside part of the plate to a right-hander he was so far across his body. I don't know if he could do that in Double-A or not, I don't know because I didn't see him. I know a lot of times you move up levels - there's a better quality of hitter at each level you go to. There's quite a bit of difference between Triple-A and Double-A. He had trouble getting that ball away to the right-hander. So he left the ball in the more in the middle of the plate and the middle of the plate end. He threw strikes, but it was the same way. And it's the same way with Will Inman, the same difference. Will was the same way, he couldn't get that ball away to a right-hander. It makes a difference when you pitch in the middle of the plate.

Cesar Carrillo comes to you late in the year. Was he a little bit tired?

Glenn Abbott: No, I don't think so. Well, I think a lot of that too was that fact that he went up a level, a little bit too much in the middle of the plate. That's always been a problem of his, even before he got hurt was getting that ball away to a right-hander, which he was better at it. He was just getting himself behind in the count and too much in the middle of the plate.

His stuff is good, but the command within the strike zone was what was hurting him. In Triple-A, they get better and had more veteran guys and they took advantage of that. I liked what I saw of him this year a lot more than before. I had him a half a year the year he got hurt, and everything was better, everything. He hasn't pitched really in two years because of the arm surgery. I liked everything I saw about him better; it's just the command.

I am pretty sure that Mike Ekstrom should never – and I mean never – be put into the rotation. This guy is electric out of the bullpen.

Glenn Abbott: I'm going to tell you something. There's a guy I would never have believed. I had him in Mobile and he pitched for me there and then in San Antonio and he wasn't that good.

I know in San Antonio, we were going to move him to the pen late in the year but all of a sudden he goes to the bullpen. Well in four days something has happened and we needed a starter and since he had been starting he ended up being the starter so we never got him into that bullpen bowl.

But when I saw him this year when he came up out of that bullpen, he was like a totally different pitcher. Totally. Everything's better. He's got a nice quick arm. His stuff was good. So he pitched very good for me all year long.

To me, he is Major League ready to get a chance.

This year, earlier in the year, we had pitcher problems, and we had a doubleheader, and we needed a guy that could give us three innings. A bullpen guy is going to be a bullpen start. Well, since Ek had the starting experience, and we knew he could give us three we went with Ek. He had been pitching really good he must have given up five runs and he was like a different guy.

I was talking to his roommate at the time and he said Ek was kind of worried about that, because he has gotten comfortable with the relieving. Between the psychological and everything else; it was the only time I had not seen him very consistent. He just couldn't make the pitches. But in the bullpen he is like a different guy. I told Randy at the time, ‘we don't every want to start him ever again.'

Eulogio De La Cruz was added to the 40-man roster – the biggest problem for me was the high walk totals but he missed a lot of bats when he was in the zone.

Glenn Abbott: He was. He's got the stuff and you see him on a given night and you say ‘wow, let's get him in the big leagues today.'

I don't think he keeps his focus that consistently from day-to-day because when he goes out there he's got a good changeup and he's got a 95 to 98 mph fastball. I haven't seen a good swing on his changeup all year long. He pitched good. I've seen him go out there and throw 15 pitches and he might have thrown five strikes but he got them out! Five strikes. It's uncanny.

It's not like he is all over the place. He's just down low or he's a little off the plate. I've talked to him and talked to him and trying to be honest about it; there's a reason why you're not in the big leagues. When you've got as good a changeup as you do and throw as hard as you it's just getting that consistency there. That's what has held him back I think his whole career. He's got two pitches that he can go up there and pitch and do fine in the big leagues with. He did a good job for us, even though his walk totals are up. He did a nice job for us.

You talked about Will Inman hitting too much of the plate – a constant theme in Triple-A it appears.

Glenn Abbott: When your fastball's fairly straight and you're in the middle of the plate you're going to give up some homers. That is just the way it is going to be. It's one of these deals where he's got to make adjustments, he's got to be able to make those adjustments. And he's got to tighten that up, because I don't think it's a good enough breaking ball to be effective in the big league. It's a good enough breaking ball to throw early in the count but not to finish a hitter off. It's just not crisp enough. It's too big and not crisp.

Wade LeBlanc goes 4-9 but it is almost unfair for him because he threw well for you. He went up to the big leagues, gets hit hard and then comes back down pitches well again for you. What did you tell him before he went up the second time?

Glenn Abbott: Wade LeBlanc could easily have won 15 ball games for us in Portland. At one stretch, in eight starts he had, there were nine runs scored for him. So he got zero run support. But he grew a lot this year.

I was concerned about him and Ceasar Ramos both for the simple fact they struggled such early last year and then they sort of figured it out the second half. I didn't want him to take a step backwards, and he didn't.

The last time, it's so ironic, because I guess it was about 10 days before he got called up for about a week we were just talking in casual conversation, talking about pitching, and I said, ‘you need to just go up there and pitch like you pitch here, don't try to do more.' That's what so many guys do. They go up, whether it's going to the big leagues, but especially the big leagues they do, going up a level - and they go up and try and do more than what granted them the promotion.

And I said, ‘go up and pitch like you pitch here and don't do anymore. You pitch like you do here and you'll be fine.' The rest of it is just getting the experience. I know he went up and he pitched pretty well this last time. I was traveling and I didn't get to see anything in the paper, but I've seen where he went 3-1 so evidently he did pretty well.

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