Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Brad Holman (Part 1)

WILMINGTON, Del. – The Myrtle Beach Pelicans' pitching staff currently leads the High-A Carolina League with a cumulative 2.82 earned-run average and six shutouts. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Pelicans pitching coach Brad Holman to discuss some of the team's top prospects in part one of this two-part feature.

Jason Cole: Last night, we had a great outing by Nick Tepesch, and it seemed that Kyle Hendricks did a nice job of following that up today. What were your general thoughts on how Hendricks pitched today?

Brad Holman: Obviously he's a pretty stoic guy. He has a way about him. He has got zero panic. He's a four-pitch pitcher––fastball, curveball, slider, changeup. He commands them all. But the changeup is well above-average. And I think, obviously the way he pitched today––hitters have trouble timing him.

He does a good job of mixing––uses in and out, not just with his fastball but also with his secondary pitches. He commands them to both sides of the plate, and not just for strikes. And he knows how to expand the zone. He'll pitch inside.

He just does a lot of things well. And on top of that, he knows how to pitch. He's an intellectual guy, and he has a plan.

Cole: Hendricks throws both two- and four-seam fastballs, but it seemed that he was really able to change speeds on his fastball today. He'd throw an 88 mph two-seamer with good run and back it up with a 93 mph four-seam fastball. How important is that?

Holman: Right. Like I said, he has got a sense of how to get hitters out in terms of disrupting timing. He uses the count. Sometimes, if it's in the hitter's favor, he might subtract a little bit. And when it comes time to bury one in on a guy or put a guy away, you might see him add three or four miles per hour.

But he pitches in that range––it's a comfortable velocity for him. He can go above it if he needs to and also below it if he falls behind.

Cole: Tell me about his changeup. It seems unique with the big velocity separation. He was mostly throwing it between 75-78 mph today. What kind of changeup is it?

Holman: Well, it's just a normal circle changeup. There are a lot of things that can create a lack of velocity. Robbie Erlin, last year, was a good example of that. He would sometimes get as much as 15 to 17 miles per hour off his fastball. Kyle is around the 12 to 15 mile per hour mark.

But just the utilization of weaker fingers––it's a circle changeup that he buries deeper into his hand. And when it comes off his fingers, it's the exterior fingers––more towards the ring finger and pinky. Those fingers just can't generate as much speed.

Cole: It seemed like Hendricks was standing there set about 20 seconds before hitters got into the box. What did you think of his tempo today?

Holman: Like I said, he's a competitor. He's a quiet competitor, too. You don't see that in him. He doesn't show a lot of antics. He's the same guy whether he's giving up runs or whether he's putting up zeros. You're never going to see a change in his demeanor.

I advocate––with all the guys, not just with Kyle––but to get up there and get ready to throw the next pitch. The advantage of that is that the last pitch is still on the mind of the hitter. And as a result, you can use that pitch to gain an advantage with the next pitch as opposed to taking 30 or 40 seconds. Then, all the sudden, the hitter has no recollection of what you threw him last pitch, so it doesn't have an effect in terms of sequencing.

Cole: It's probably safe to say that Cody Buckel's last start was his best of the year, but he has been excellent all season. How do you feel he has progressed since the beginning of this season?

Holman: Cody has a pretty good wealth of knowledge for his age. At 19-years-old, he has a good understanding of the biomechanics. He is always tinkering. He always wants to maybe work on a different grip or work on a different pitch. And he's not afraid to work outside the box.

With that, I think this year the major progression has been in his changeup. In the last outing, he threw more changeups than he has. It has been too hard in the past, and he hasn't been comfortable with the grip in the past. We kind of tinkered with some grips and worked with that pitch. It has probably been a major contributor to his recent outings. But I think he has a pretty good package coming in. He has a pretty good sense of how to make adjustments and does all that on his own.

Cole: You mentioned a guy like Buckel, who is very intelligent on the mound but also likes to tinker and work on lots of different things at once. Can that be both a good and bad thing for a young pitcher?

Holman: Yeah, I think it can. I think, especially if it's hindering maybe your other pitches––trying to carry too many ideas to the mound with you. It can take from your clarity a little bit.

But I think Cody is a pretty common-sense kid. Where if something's not working or something is taking from his game, he is the quickest one to say, ‘No, I'm not ready for that.' That has been the case this year with his sinker. He has been using it a little bit in the bullpen––his routines in the bullpen––pretty regularly. But in the game, he's using it more sparingly and just mixing it in here and there with the lefties. But he is pretty good about that, where it comes to not trying to do too much.

Cole: In spring training and in the past, Buckel has had that cut-slider. When I spoke to him the other day, he said he'd separated them into two distinct pitches. Can you talk about that?

Holman: Yeah, the cutter is obviously very similar to the slider. But what separates those two pitches is probably two or three miles per hour. The slider has a little bit more depth in terms of the downward action of the pitch. It works better as a swing-and-miss pitch or a ground ball option.

With the cutter, he can even elevate with it, but it has more of a flat movement. It still has a little bit of depth, but it's just firmer. One is about three or four miles per hour off the fastball, but the other is about six.

Cole: It seems like there has been steady progression in pretty much every outing for Wilmer Font this season. What are your thoughts on his overall performance?

Holman: Well, the fastball is coming back. That's the biggest thing. He's doing a good job of keeping his direction. When he throws a fastball, it has a heaviness to it that plays out higher than the velocity readings. He has been more 92-95 mph, but he's basically just living on his fastball.

We have really been working with the secondary pitches. He's throwing a slider, a curveball, and a split-changeup. Those, in the bullpen, are very consistent. In the game, he tends to try to over-torque then and loses the command of those pitches a little bit. But thus far, he really hasn't needed anything else. The fastball is pretty good.

Cole: You mentioned the slider, which is a new pitch for him this year. Where is that pitch developmentally right now?

Holman: Right now, it's close to an average slider. But, like I said, the feel, the repeatability, and the consistency of the pitch really isn't there. It's a little short. It's probably 83-85 mph-type velocity. Every now and then, he gets a little big with it––comes around it too much and gets to be more of a sideways curveball.

But lately, about the last couple weeks, it has been a shorter and firmer breaking ball for him. And like I said, it has been very good in the ‘pen. It just hasn't quite translated over into the game yet, but I think it's close.

Cole: Do you think the slider might even play a little better off his fastball than that big-breaking curveball he has?

Holman: I do. Especially with his mentality, which is kind of an attack-type mentality. He's an aggressive kid. He's not afraid. With his fastball, he is able to throw it into the zone. And with his slider, I think he can carry the same mentality with that pitch. Then he can show the split and curveball more to get the hitters off those other two pitches.

Cole: How is he going to be handled pitch count or innings-wise throughout the season? This is his first year back from Tommy John surgery.

Holman: Sparingly. I think, right now, we're kind of looking to keep him around the 75 or 80-pitch range. I think that may be the case indefinitely throughout the course of this season––just to make sure we don't tax him too much.

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