Randy Smith: It is going to be highly concentrated and more specialized in terms of playing three days a week and work days the other three. We are going to do a lot of drills and a lot of simulated simulations to work on.
We talked about guys working on their jumps, stealing. If you do that in a game, you are lucky if you can do that a handful of time during the entire instructional league. We will bring out a pitcher, a first baseman and the catcher and have the pitcher work on pickoffs, the base runner work on jumps and the catcher work on footwork. In the 10 to 15 minutes of the drills, you will get more time than the entire instructional league in a real game.
A lot of drills, a lot of developing guys for Petco – aggressive on the base paths, an aggressive-patient approach, a fastball dominant staff, guys who can control their fastballs to both sides of the plate.
Nothing revolutionary. We just think we can get more accomplished with drills and setting up game situations than we can playing six games a week.
How do you get some of these guys with the rotational swings in that kind of atmosphere to lengthen the time their bat head is in the hitting zone?
Randy Smith: It goes back to drills. We will do a lot of drills with swing path. Staying with an approach and getting rid of the bat waggle. If these guys can stay back instead of being lungey or jumpy, we can spend a lot more time drilling guys than seeing live pitching.
In that context, you see one swing in batting practice and when the game arrives it is a totally different beast.
Randy Smith: Absolutely. That is why they are in A-ball or rookie ball. You are trying to get to the point where it becomes muscle memory – a habit – so they can take the swing into the game. We are going to have game situations where there are enough live at-bats, whether it is against our pitchers or an opponents, so they can carry that thing into the next season and game situations.
We are nearing the end of the season. Has anyone exceeded expectations with their year?
Randy Smith: That is always a tough question. Right now, since he has been hotter than an Arizona summer, Jason Hagerty. Hagerty has had a tremendous second half. The last six weeks, the ball has looked like a basketball coming in there. If he gets his pitch, he isn't missing it.
A guy that has really, in our opinion, is Corey Adamson. The fact that he hit .300 – I would have been happy, quite frankly, if he hit .220. That is about where I pegged him to be. His work ethic, ability to hit .300 and has driven in the runs he has driven in is fantastic. He has a long ways to go. His experience level – he is as raw and crude as anyone coming in. The fact that he has done what he has from extended spring on has been great.
Have you had any higher expectations that just hasn't played up to the level you wished to see?
Randy Smith: I prefer to accentuate the positives. There are some guys that have had years they are probably not satisfied with and that we thought could do a little better. For the most part, throughout the system, we have been pleased with the way guys have battled through things. I think as a whole, the pitching has been very, very good. It is hard to say that many guys have disappointed. That is a credit to Mike Couchee and the pitching coaches.
We talked about the Fort Wayne club having a solid second half before the season began. They have played 15-20 games above .500. Did you expect this kind of turnaround?
Randy Smith: We thought that was one of the most talented teams in the system in terms of prospects. We thought they would be a .500 team in the first half and a much better team in the second half. I expected them to be a playoff caliber team, and they have certainly done that.
The guys we thought would hit have been relatively consistent all year. Hagerty is a guy we thought would hit, and he has come along. Edinson Rincon, since it has warmed up, has been pretty solid. I wouldn't say they have exceeded expectations but everyone is very proud of them. It is a young club, and we have changed some pieces around, but it is still pretty young. They have done really well.
That team, even in April, never quit. They always played nine innings. That is the one thing that impressed everyone that went through there. They played nine innings every day. You had to beat them.
The San Antonio club has been fighting for this playoff spot. Did you think it would be a little bit easier given the talent level of the player base?
Randy Smith: There are guys that we like and had high expectations for going into that season. You look at that roster and see a lot of guys going into their second full season and have to realize there are going to be growing pains. Other people may have had higher expectations than some of us did. I just know there will be growing pains when you have that many young players in their second full year trying to become established at that level.
They have had a knack for coming on strong at the end of both halves. Hopefully, they can get a playoff spot. The pitching is where the experience lies. That is the strength of the club.
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