Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Brad Holman

Single-A Hickory pitching coach Brad Holman is currently instructing the Surprise Rafters pitching staff in the Arizona Fall League. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the coach to discuss some of the Rangers' pitching prospects in the circuit.

Jason Cole: What are your thoughts on Eric Hurley through his first five starts in the Fall League?

Brad Holman: First and foremost, I just got the opportunity to observe him. I've never really had any history with him. So my first course of action was just to watch him throw and see where he was and how he felt and rebounded and everything.

The first couple starts, he was okay. You could tell that he wasn't at his best or feeling at his best. In watching him after a couple starts, we realized that his lead arm was low. His glove was underneath his front elbow and he was scooping it sideways. It was leaving his front side moving toward first base. As a result, his arm was dragging and he was getting some soreness in his elbow.

So we went to the bullpen and changed his front side––got his lead arm working up and over his delivery. As a result, he is able to work behind the baseball better and pitch down in the zone. It has helped his deception, command, and stuff as well. So lately, he has been 92-94 mph with his fastball. The last three outings have all been five-inning shutouts, so his last 15 innings, he hasn't given up a run. It's a credit to him. He was able to make an adjustment and take it right out to the mound.

Cole: Were the mechanical issues a product of showing rust from not pitching in games for two years?

Holman: I think that's some of it. Not pitching for two years is obviously significant time off. But my understanding is that the issue he was having with his front side is something he did in advance to his injuries. It actually may have had something to do with contributing to those injuries.

Cole: I've heard that his slider has improved of late, particularly over the last three outings. I to assume that came along with the mechanical adjustments, correct?

Holman: Yeah, no doubt about it. Because he can work behind the baseball, he can get more up-down action with the slider instead of the sideways sweeping action. And as a result, he's able to get a sharper bite, a later bite. Again, deception comes into play because of the fact that he works behind the baseball. It's just harder to pick everything up.

Cole: Obviously even with this excellent performance, quite a few question marks surround him going into a full season in 2011. Given what you've seen out of Hurley in the AFL, can he compete for a big league job next year?

Holman: Realistically, I don't know if that's going to be a consideration right out of Spring Training. But I think as the year progresses and he logs some innings––I think that's very realistic. Right now, with the way he is throwing, the soreness has gotten out of his elbow. He gets it in his larger muscle groups and his lat and legs and low back and stuff––the stronger muscles.

Only time will tell, but I think as he logs some innings––that will be the first course of action with the amount of time he has had off. I think it's very realistic, especially with the way he is throwing the ball right now.

Cole: One guy that you have gotten a chance to work with in the past is Fabio Castillo. He really seemed to start having his breakout as a prospect about halfway through the season. What has led to that breakout and turnaround? What is he doing extremely well right now?

Holman: When I had him in Hickory, the one thing we always battled was the fact that he kind of stood up and spun off of his pitches. He just didn't have a lot of directional momentum. We attributed that more to his lower half, because he had a tendency to swing his foot open––his front foot. When that toe comes open, so does his hip and it causes him to leave his pitches early. Obviously, that leaves pitches arm-side and leads to inconsistencies all around.

Now, he's staying to the plate. He's getting a lengthier stride. He's working over the delivery. His velocity has spiked significantly from the low-90s to all of the sudden around 95 mph and––at times––up to 97. It's the same situation as Hurley. In doing that, he is working behind the baseball and creating more deception and depth on the sinker and slider––depth being downward action.

Cole: His slider velocity has spiked into the upper-80s and the pitch has a distinctly different break these days. Is he throwing a different breaking ball, or did that just come with the mechanical change?

Holman: I just think it's the consistency of the delivery. It has so much to do with what comes out of your hand in terms of repeatability, in terms of deception, in terms of the type of tilt you get on a breaking ball––how the action is.

If you spin sideways with your body, your hand works sideways and the ball works sideways. It's just a more visual delivery from the hitter's standpoint. It's easier to see what is coming out of the pitcher's hand. Similar to Hurley, working behind the baseball has drastically changed a lot in terms of what the ball does on the way to the plate.

Cole: The stuff coming out of Fabio's hand certainly looks like big league stuff right now. But how far is he from the majors in terms of what he has to work on before taking that final step?

Holman: I think it's just the consistency of it. I know Fabio, over the course of the last year, has really changed for the better in terms of his work ethic and the repeatability of the delivery and the action and the stuff on the ball.

I guess, if there's one downfall, it's his fielding of the position. He's not the most fleet of foot, so that's one area we could go work on. And holding runners and the little things that go along with pitching. I think those are the things he needs to start keying on.

But he has got the biggie knocked out of the way, which is the delivery and the repeatability of it and the execution of pitches. I don't think you need to be the best fielder in the world to pitch at the big league level if you've got those other eight guys behind you. I think he's close and I think he'll pitch there. It's just obviously a matter of opportunity and other things happening to allow that to happen.

Cole: Daniel Gutierrez had one outing in the Fall League. His velocity was down in that game, and he has since been removed from the roster. What is his status?

Holman: I think it goes without saying that Danny's stuff hasn't been what it was in the past. He has had some soreness issues. When I saw him throw for the first time out here, there was some obvious favoritism in what he was doing.

The extent of his injury––I'm not even that privy to. But I think it's something that they're just going to rehab and not repair surgically. I think it's just a situation where it's hard to go compete without your best stuff.

To put him out there in that environment––particularly with the level of play here in the Fall League––would have just been asking him to do something that I don't think he was capable of doing. I think that decision was made to get him rest and strengthened and healthy before we throw him to the wolves.

Cole: Corey Young has given you guys 7.2 scoreless innings so far. What are your impressions on his performance?

Holman: I think he's your typical lefty. He has a loose arm and he commands the baseball. He has got three pitches––a fastball, a slurve, and a changeup that he throws over the plate. And he has got some funk there that makes him effective. He just attacks hitters.

I think sometimes you're going to run into stints where the ball goes to people and you make the necessary pitch to avoid some trouble, and right now, Corey is just making those pitches––those pitches that are required to keep those runs from crossing the plate and keep you out of trouble as a pitcher.

Cole: During Eric Hurley's last start, I'd heard that Jose Felix threw out a base stealer at second after stabbing a ball that was in the dirt and well off the plate. Since you're a pitching coach, I wanted to ask you about how Felix is doing behind the plate in terms of handling a pitching staff.

Holman: He's everything you ask for from a player from work ethic to a student of the game to just a good person. He's also talented, obviously, which is most important. But to add all those intangibles makes him a pretty special player. He carries a good rapport with the pitchers.

That particular pitch that you're talking about was an 0-2 count. And in talking to Jose after the game, he said that, because it was a pitch significantly out of the zone, he cheated. He figures that if the hitter swings at it, he's a really bad hitter. So he cheated and came forward and picked it and then threw the guy out. I got him at like 1.9, which is a good time for a catcher when he catches the ball in the air, let alone when he picks it out of the dirt.

I don't know of a runner that has stolen successfully on him. I have seen one stolen base without a throw attempt as a result of the runner getting such a good jump on the pitcher. But the other times, Felix has thrown the guys out. I think a 40 percent success rate is considered good, and he is probably much higher.

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