Fort Wayne TinCaps Notebook IV

Fort Wayne, IN: Dexter Carter and Nick Greenwood threw bullpens on Monday. Improved approaches are the reason for their success of late and it was clearly evident. The team has rattled off wins in seven of their last eight.

  • Dexter Carter threw a bullpen on Monday, working on one drill in particular to get his foot placement right. Walking towards the rubber, Carter would continue his motion through – the idea being to give him a more direct line to home plate.

    Imagine stepping towards third base and then throwing home. Not an easy proposition.

    Carter has been falling off to the third base side and his foot is not landing in line with the plate. That causes his arm to drop and a cross-body motion ensues.

    "As the season started progressing, I started creeping more and more towards third – balancing towards third base rather than towards home," Carter said.

    Once he went through the drill, he got back into his normal spot and worked on foot placement as he brought his hands over his head. The hands over head is new, giving him a chance to take a short break to check himself.

    "It gives me a chance to stop instead of the rhythm of rocking back," Carter said of going over his head. "A lot of pitchers do it for that reason."

    The one benefit that was clear was Carter finding his own balance point and foot placement. He began to notice when things were slightly out of whack, allowing him to self-correct. The best pitchers are the ones who can adjust on their own from pitch-to-pitch rather than game-to-game.

    The end goal was to see Carter's line to home plate improve, giving him a chance to get his arm over top rather than dropping down. When he does that, his ability to locate all of his pitches improve.

    While Carter has been relegated to the bullpen to find confidence, the right-hander needed the extra side work to find the flaws within his delivery.

  • Nick Greenwood tossed his first pen between starts – one of two that occur. The first one of any session is always done with the catcher in front of the plate.

    There are several reasons for this – to take off some stress on the arm and to get the pitcher to work down in the zone. The catcher target doesn't change in height, therefore, when the backstop returns to his normal squat behind the dish, the pitcher should be more in tune with that downward plane to work low in the zone.

    Greenwood works on different things, depending on how his last start went. He usually reserves the first bullpen as a focal point for his fastball while using the second to improve his off-speed, although that can change.

    Feeling his fastball was a little flat during his last start, seeing its movement was Monday's goal.

    "A lot of my pitches the other day were flat," Greenwood said. "I am a movement guy. I was trying to fine tune the movement and get the sinker and changeup down."

  • These young players are improving and there are signs that the squad is ready to take the next step. Besides their burdgeoning belief with themselves, the approach is vastly improved from when the season began.

    Everett Williams saw an 0-2 count when he first arrived at the dish on Monday. He worked that to a full boat before grounding out. It was the type of at-bat that isn't talked about but shows the progress.

    Later in that same game, Williams again saw an 0-2 count, only to drive a double into the left-center gap that drove in a run.

    Jeudy Valdez also saw an 0-2 count in a pivotal moment in Monday's game. He promptly took one over the left field fece.

    "Williams double, Valdez homer – it is good to see," hitting coach Tom Tornicasa said. "We tell them when you get two strikes to keep battling. The approach is look middle-away and adjust but it comes down to how hard you are going to keep working.

    "Early in the year, Williams, as an example, would get two strikes on him and the next pitch he was out. Today, he went 0-2 and saw five more pitches before grounding out. You have to keep looking for a pitch to hit."

    Griffin Benedict was the first to crash the two-strike party with success, lining a ball to left field on a 1-2 count.

    Nate Freiman pounded out a pair of 1-2 hits on Sunday. Behind in the count, the first baseman doubled to left center and lined a sharp single.

    Jason Hagerty wasn't afraid of his 2-2 count. He drove a single up the gut to score a pair of runs during Sunday's game.

    Edinson Rincon also took advantage of a mistake on a 1-2 pitch. He dropped a bullet into center field for an RBI single on Sunday.

    They were the type of at-bats that the squad struggled with early in the year. Oftentimes, a two-strike count meant a sure out. Things have changed.

    "We preached that a lot all through spring and in batting practice," manager Jose Flores said. "Put the ball in play and see what happens. Seldom do you see a 0-2 homer – it goes to show that these guys are battling pitch-by-pitch."

    "I don't look at the numbers," Tornicasa said. "The numbers are the end result. I look to see if they are moving in the right direction with their approach. I am seeing better things than early in the year. A lot of our approaches early in the year were terrible. Now, we are getting fairly good. There is still some ways to go. Straighten out the approach first and that will put them in a position to swing at good pitches and battle with two strikes. It is coming around."

  • The Fort Wayne team is one with a lot of fight. They battle back, regardless of the run differential in a given contest.

    "It has been fun to watch," Flores said. "I give these guys a lot of credit. We are having clutch hits right now and it is working to our advantage."

    There are a few veterans sprinkled into a lineup – and it is the lineup that has matured while the rotation and bullpen provide season-long stability – that is littered with young talent.

    "We have a lot of young guys who are up and down," outfielder Danny Payne said. "You get one guy swinging the bat well and everything gets contagious. The pitchers are doing a great job of keeping us in ball games to enable us to win games."

    When the team was assembled, the Padres believed it would take time to get the most out of the hitters. The squad, made up of many prospects who are still shy of drinking age, is easily the most exciting roster put together in ages. While the Fort Wayne team of a season ago – in Lake Elsinore this year – has an incredible assortment of winning players, the TinCaps lineup is loaded with prospects who have All-Star potential, albeit quite raw.

    If things click, the players on this squad could end up in San Diego and take the franchise into the distant future. Sure, there are ifs. But the prospect of an enticing future can't be denied. There is speed, power, average, and more contained within the lineup.

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