Dascenzo on Fort Wayne pitching prospects

Pitching wins championships. If that is the case, Doug Dascenzo had plenty during his Midwest League title winning time with Fort Wayne, the Low-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. From Anthony Bass, Simon Castro and Erik Davis to the backend of Brad Brach, Alexis Lara and Nick Schumacher – he had it all. Those are just a small sample of all discussed in this exclusive interview.

Anthony Bass was with you early in the year and I don't think there was more than two outings that saw him get hit around. He was a rock in the rotation for you.

Doug Dascenzo: He's definitely one of the guys who got us going in the first half, and the promotion in the second half is well deserved. Attacks the strike zone with three pitches, bulldog type attitude, and when he does that, that's when he's at his best. He's got a great career ahead of him as well.

Brad Brach ended up blowing one save this year and his biggest problem appeared to be non-save situations. That is where most of his runs came across.

Doug Dascenzo: Well, we use Brad in a lot of non-save situations more so than you would normally use him. If we had a four-run lead, he'd pitch the ninth inning, and that's the way we felt about it. Just an unbelievable season, like you say, including the playoffs.

In game of round two against Great Lakes, when they hit the three-run homerun off him it was only his second blown save in 37 trys. When he entered the game you felt very, very comfortable of taking a ‘W' home. He's got a fastball in the low-90s that plays a lot higher. He's got a little slider in there and mixes in a little split. But his command of his fastball that plays higher than his velocity is the key to his success.

What did you see from the limited exposure from Dexter Carter? While he didn't have the success he would have wanted, was the talent evident in this kid?

Doug Dascenzo: No question about it. Here's a big, tall kid that will have and should have probably more tilt to his pitches. He's going to be in the instructional league and they're going to work on that; but a real good curveball. It's got a lot of bite to it; 12-to-6 curveball, as well as a changeup.

Now, this guy didn't obviously have the success that he thought or we thought we'd see when he got here, but you can definitely see that there's some ability there and there's a good starting pitcher in that body somewhere.

No one has made the kind of progress that Simon Castro has over the last three years. The thing that impressed me about the kid was 37 walks total on the year. He continues to get better and better.

Doug Dascenzo: Yeah, here's a guy two years ago that had trouble keeping it up against the back stops. I remember him a little bit, but everything from his English, to his command of his pitches, to doing interviews, has accelerated so, so much and so beautifully that this guy could go fast.

The only thing was that at the beginning of the year he didn't want to throw his changeup a lot. And why would you when you throw a 94 mph fastball? He found out that only two pitches could get him through the lineup twice, and he realized that the third pitch allowed him to not only get through the line up three times but four times as well; and throwing a no-hitter. A seven-inning no-hitter this year and also taking a no-hitter into game one of round one against South Bend, which he ended up having to come out of the ballgame. Just a tremendous, tremendous individual; great fastball, big league slider, and getting a very, very good feel for his changeup.

Erik Davis is in the bullpen to begin the year and ends up winning 16 games for you out of the starting rotation. What kind of pitcher did you see out there?

Doug Dascenzo: A command pitcher, with three pitches, who pitched backwards for the most part, would a head with his breaking ball, lull you to sleep with his changeup, and if he had to come back and finish you off with a fastball or just keep throwing his changeup to get you out.

Not overpowering stuff, but just knew how to pitch, and when he had command with all of his pitches, which he did most of the time, he'd get you five, six quality innings every time out.

Chris Fetter came in down the stretch and played a key role for you in the playoffs. He is not a backwards pitcher by any means and uses his fastball as much as 85 percent of the time.

Doug Dascenzo: Yes, Chris is kind of the same mold as Simone Castro - big tall kid. His fastball, it's an easy 92, 93; plays a little bit higher than that.

He doesn't have the slider yet like Castro has, but he'll be in the instructional league as well. He was actually here with us for a little bit before we sent him back to Eugene and then he returned for the playoff run. Just a tremendous, tremendous kid. He went to Michigan and we were glad that he was able to come back and start those games down the stretch and into the playoffs.

There was no one better out of the bullpen than Alexis Lara in the second half. What changed for him?

Doug Dascenzo: Well I think Alexis finally realized that he needed to calm his delivery down. He's still a maximum effort kind of guy, but now instead of going 110 percent, he's only going 98.4 percent. So, I think realizing that he doesn't have to throw 96, 97 that he can throw 94 with some command.

And, of course, he has his great pitches, his changeup and realizing that throwing fastballs and mixing those up more so than just throwing changeup after changeup after changeup after changeup with a calmer delivery showed that he could have success at this level and probably at any level.

He was in the instructional league working on a slider a little bit more and give him a third pitch. He just gained so much confidence when he was finally able to sit back and get out of the fishbowl and look and see exactly what he was doing.

Rob Musgrave struggled out of the rotation early in the year but really found himself in the bullpen. What happened that caused the change for him?

Doug Dascenzo: For whatever reason, the starting position and coming out of the bullpen were really two different guys, but a lot of people didn't realized was he started throwing his cutter a little bit more in the second half, which he had in college, which he did not throw as much as a starter as coming out of the bullpen.

There was one game shortly after we started the first half where he came in and faced the Lansing team, primarily all right-handed hitters and really carved them up, and I was like, ‘what's going on.' And they said, ‘he's throwing his little cutter he used to have in college.' That has made all the difference in the world because he's got a great changeup.

So now he had a pitch that was going into the right-hander with some velocity and he had a pitch that was going away from them as well with the changeup. So that made all the difference in the world.

I think we would anticipate him, maybe in the future, coming back as a starter. Now that's up to the bosses in San Diego, but here's a guy who, especially down the stretch that we setup and tried to build up a little bit to sit behind (Stiven) Osuna to kind of protect him a little bit down the stretch. If we needed him, we could bring him in and he could go three or four innings; which he did in game two of round two against Great Lakes, where he pitched four and one-third innings right after Osuna pitched four and two-thirds innings to secure that win. So, a good crisp fastball with a cut fastball and a great changeup really did a lot for him.

Stiven Osuna – outside of two outings did very well in the rotation. Those two outings were awful and he walked eight in one game and gave up 10 runs in another. Did you see him getting tired and that was the idea behind the protection?

Doug Dascenzo: No, not necessarily. Stiven had, when he was on just like any of the pitchers at this level, when they're on, they're going to be really good. And then when they're off, they're not going to be really good.

We were just being cautious in the playoffs, particularly against a left-handed hitting line up that Great Lakes had. We wanted to have somebody to be ready just in case and he was on that day. Actually, like I say, he pitched for one or two of those innings, but Stiven, when he lets his delivery go ahead and fall the way it's supposed to fall and stay on top of the ball and have tilt to his pitches, he is very, very good.

He's shown, in the month of July I think he had a great month. Then we got into August and it was a good one, and a bad one, and a good one and a bad one. So, a young pitcher his age, you're going to see that, that's just what you see sometimes in A-Ball. He's got a good slider, a good changeup, and when he doesn't rush his delivery and when he stays back and gathers himself over the rubber and let his arm work, he's just as good as any of them. He just needs to find consistency in that delivery.

Nick Schmidt you had early on and he became perhaps a different pitcher in Lake Elsinore after not having pitched at all last year. What did you see out of Nick?

Doug Dascenzo: What we saw, was that with every start, at least with us, he just kept getting a little stronger and a little stronger. The stuff was getting a little more crisper.

I'd have to agree with you, I didn't see him in Elsinore, of course, but coming back a year after the surgery, you probably saw some fatigue and the ups and downs. He had a few more valleys there than he did when he was with us.

He had good command of a breaking ball, good command of a fastball, great changeup. I think this year was the year for him to just kind of get through this, the surgery, and get everything out of the way. I would anticipate, or we would anticipate, him having a great, great season next year and a great Major League career down the road.

Nick Schumacher is the Bryan Oland of 2009. He doesn't begin the year with you and then comes in and dominates when he does get the opportunity.

Doug Dascenzo: Dominates is right. I think he had a 1.10 run average this year. He pitched in various duties for us. He gave us multiple innings at times. He pitched the seventh inning most of the times ahead of Zach Herr, and he actually closed down and saved the game the last week of the season or maybe into the playoffs. He got his first save and it was in a playoff game. So, he just had a tremendous year.

He was a guy from the right side who was kind of like Musgrave, and he started throwing this little cutter and that just helped him out so, so much. Attacked the zone with three pitches, down in the zone for the most part and his numbers pretty much just tell the story on how his year went.

Michael Watt is a guy who fought a lot of mental issues and was kind of hard on himself. How did you get him out of that funk?

Doug Dascenzo: He did it himself. You've got to think about this now, if you're 19 years old and you get traded to a different organization – he's trying to figure out who is who, and all this stuff combined, that takes a lot on somebody, let alone somebody that's 19 years old.

I thought he handled it very, very well. He's got a great arm, he's got great stuff. There was a situation with the trade where maybe he was saying that maybe it was a little bit more difficult for him to kind of come to grips with, but once he did, he did a great job for us.

We hear so much about the great pitching but talk about the catching tandem of Robert Lara and Adam Zornes. Were you happy with how they handled the staff?

Doug Dascenzo: I am – very much so. Robert Lara is the one that caught that no-hitter for Simone Castro. Adam Zornes did a great job with all the pitchers, as well as Robert Lara did. They're very, very personable guys. They can communicate with everybody and that's one of the biggest items that you need in a catcher. When they did that this year that just goes to show you, and that's got a lot to do with how and why that pitching staff is second in the league.

What did winning the Midwest League Championship mean to you as the manager?

Doug Dascenzo: Well, for myself, and for the coaching staff, it was to see a group of guys, the satisfaction of seeing those kids go out and obtain and get something that they worked so hard for all summer long. That's what we get paid to do and we were glad to be a part of it. They did a great job with it and we're very, very happy for all the 53, I believe, guys who came through and were a part of it.

Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards

Join MadFriars.com on Twitter at http://twitter.com/madfriars

MadFriars Top Stories