Dave Roberts: My title is Specialist of Baseball Operations. I was brought in by Jed Hoyer this off-season. I wear a few different hats in the organization: front office, part of the evaluation and scouting side of things, as well as spring training where I committed to being there for the big league club as well as the minor league side. I work with the base running and bunting. I also get a chance to be in San Diego to watch the big league club play at home to keep that continuity with those guys. I go out and evaluate each affiliate and that was my commitment to the organization. It has been a learning process. It has been fun for me to familiarize myself with what we have in the system, as well as the big league side of things.
Jed Hoyer talked about pushing the play and being aggressive out there. What have you seen from some of the guys on the minor league in getting with the program?
Dave Roberts: I think there has been a little bit of recklessness. But going into this season, we wanted them to be aggressive with their leads and take an extra base, pushing their stolen base attempts. At this stage in their careers, it is all about development. We are trying to see if these guys can understand their limits and then you can harness that and hone those in a little bit, progressively. That is what we are seeing and I am pretty pleased with the development side of things. At the big league level, obviously, when you implement something like that, the big league guys take to it better because they are more polished. That is what you are seeing with the big league guys. On the minor league side, there is a learning curve and that is to be expected. Patience is key. We are still pretty pleased.
How has the coaching aspect changed from Fort Wayne to Portland? You have to teach the guys differently, because, as you say, the guys are going to be a little bit more polished in Triple-A than in Low-A where this might be their first or second season.
Dave Roberts: I think that there should be more instruction and coaching at the lower levels. However, the same philosophy should apply. From Buddy Black on down, we are still trying to get that same philosophy throughout the entire system. It should be one in the same, but I think that guys that have played more baseball and have more baseball under their belts should take to it easier than guys at the low levels. We want those guys to stay away from the recklessness but still applaud the aggressiveness.
Where is the balance?
Dave Roberts: The balance comes when guys start to play more and get more familiar with what they can and can't do. At the lower levels, you might need staff showing them what is balance. But at this level here, I think it is good for these guys to push the stolen base attempts and not worry about getting thrown out. Try to go first to third, work the bunting side of the game, and see how their leads develop. I would rather error on the side of being more aggressive.
You worked with Jeudy Valdez and Jonathan Galvez on the bunting aspect. Are those two guys that should be bunting more? How do you get those Latin guys to do that because they think "power" and "power" means something to them?
Dave Roberts: A lot of times the young Latin players see the power and they want to swing as hard as they possibly can. I talked to Valdie and he's bunted only twice in his professional career. But he is aa guy who can run, who is going to play the middle infield, that just doesn't make sense. Regardless of wherever you hit in the minor leagues, that doesn't necessarily mean that it where you would hit at the big league level. You still need to hone those skills. If he doesn't develop those skills this year, then that part of the game is wasted for him. Then you are starting back next and he wouldn't have gained anything in that facet of the game. Valdie, same thing. Even Everett Williams is a guy who can run and is going to be playing centerfield, but he has never had to use that facet of the game. But at the big league level, it has to be a part of his game.
What did you see out in Lake Elsinore and now San Antonio. A guy like Drew Cumberland who is dynamic player when he is healthy. Is that a fair assessment?
Dave Roberts: It is. It is very fair. He is still a young player, a nice player. He has a high baseball IQ. He is athletic. He is fun to watch. When he is on the field, he is always productive. They have some athletic ability over there. Cumby is another player that is doing some things this year and pushing the envelope and having some success. Allan Dykstra is starting to come into his own with the bat. Dan Robertson is another guy who is showing how dynamic he can be. This organization is looking to gear towards those athletic players.
One guy who does not get that much press is Cole Figueroa – that steady guy who does all the little things right. Is that fair?
Dave Roberts: Yes. He has obviously been around the game a long time. He understands how to play all the aspects of the game. He is a coach's dream and a manager's dream. He can play anywhere, he can hit anywhere in the order. I equate him to a David Eckstein type guy who really is a coach on the field.
Cole is a guy that is going to have to continue to put up numbers at every level and reprove himself. I think that as far as tools alone, he has a plus glove and makeup is plus. He has a nice bat. He will have to continue to prove himself at each level.
Luis Durango was called up to the Padres for a brief tour before going back to Portland. What did you see from Luis out in Portland and how can he improve his stolen bases? It seems like while he has been trying, he hasn't grown as much as we hoped he would.
Dave Roberts: Yes. He is definitely one of the fastest guys in the organization, if not in all of baseball. You get to that level and it is about production. It is not about development. He got a call up recently, and when you get to the big league level, it is all about results. His stolen base percentage has to be more efficient. He has gotten a lot better at getting jumps. He is still young but with the situation with the organization, he has been summoned up and he needs to be productive. He is still a work-in-progress, but I still believe he has a high ceiling.
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