Gary Jones: Number one I think he's healthy. He reminded me of the first day he signed, when I was in Mobile, he came to Mobile and pounded the strike zone down. He used his breaking ball, used his off-speed, he had a lot of confidence. That's what he reminded me of.
I think he's just now starting to get back healthy. His arm is just starting to get back its life. I think he just touched the tip of the iceberg this year to what he's going to be able to do much better. He has confidence, a little swagger about him, and all that's good. He's got self-confidence, and as you know in this game, anytime a guy has self-confidence in this game, that's half the battle.
Mike Ekstrom is a guy you have seen in the past. As a starter, we didn't know what we had. As a reliever, his stuff is crisper and he really takes command out there.
Gary Jones: Always a guy that pounded the zone. As a starter, I don't know. Some guys as starters they try and pace themselves and they go to the bullpen and it's like, ‘I'm only going to be out here for a couple of innings I'm just going to turn it lose and here we go.' So I don't know if that's what happened.
I do know this – he's got it. You love to have him in that bullpen because his arm is resilient. He's going to go out and he's going to throw strikes he's going to throw a sinker, he's going to get groundballs and here's a guy that can pitch pretty much every day. I just think with his command and with his approach, he is a legitimate bullpen guy in the big leagues.
Wade LeBlanc is a guy that has had a lot of success with Portland. It didn't translate to the big leagues until that last time he went up. What did you tell him before he went up?
Gary Jones: Well, when he got called up, Abbey and I told him he was going up. Basically, I just told him, ‘Go up and do what you've been doing here and not try and do too much and give the hitter's too much credit.' And that's what Abbey, to give Abbey credit, I saw Abbey worked with him with the cutter. I saw him on TV one night and he pitched a great game. I think you have to give the credit to Glen Abbott who stuck by him and worked him and gave him the confidence to throw the cutter. As a result, he has been better, he was even better his last three or four performances.
Sometimes, it takes a guy a time or two to relax and understand, ‘Hey, this is the Major Leagues but they're hitters just like in Triple-A or hitters just like in Double-A. They're probably better hitters, so all I have to do is throw my strikes, my quality strikes. I have to have more quality strikes, be a little bit more consistent with throwing those strikes, because I am playing at the top level.' These guys are the best hitters in the world, but at the same time you can't get stressed. Let's face it, even the great hitters, you are going to get them out seven out of 10 times. You're still winning in those situations.
Aaron Poreda comes to you from the White Sox. He had some command issues but still has some electricity in his arm. What did you see from him that makes you believe it can be turned around?
Gary Jones: Just a young kid that probably hasn't touched the tip of the iceberg as to what he's actually capable of doing. He's got a power arm, loves to work, loves to compete. But young.
You're talking about a 22-year-old kid, but a lot of 22-year-old kids are still in A-ball, or maybe Double-A.
It's just a matter of just getting those consistent mild touches; him starting to learn what he's capable of doing, understanding himself, understanding his mechanics as far as what it takes him to be consistent in the zone all the time.
Like I said, he's 22 years old, he's 6-foot-4, maybe 6-foot-5 and he's strong as an ox. It's just going to be a matter of him understanding his body, understanding, ‘I've got to just back off, settle down, let my stuff work for me.' He's just a young kid and he's been called ‘green'. It's like a tomato. He just hasn't gotten ripe yet, but once he gets ripe he's going to be something.
Cesar Ramos – is he the same or better than you have seen in previous years. What did you see at the end of the year.
Gary Jones: I think he was coming back from the surgery from an injury. I think he had a couple of starts, but I saw a guy that still had the good mound presence, still had good command and just needed more innings – a guy that could still pitch. Left-handed he could still get it around 90, 92 mph when he needs to.
Adam Russell is another guy who came over in the trade. Outside of one inning where he allowed seven runs, he was outstanding.
Gary Jones: Love it. Power arm, 6-foot-8, goes right after the hitters, an intimidating guy on the mound. When he stayed aggressive and just let the power sinker work for him, I think the sky's the limit for him. Just absolutely a tremendous presence on the mound. Intimidating is the word I like to use with a guy like that on the mound.
I know you only saw Ryan Webb once or twice. Any initial impressions?
Gary Jones: I only saw him one time, but I liked him. I say kind of like a Russell but just not as big. Power arm, good sinker and good mound presence.
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