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

WILMINGTON, Del. – The High-A Myrtle Beach pitching staff currently leads the Carolina League with a cumulative 3.04 earned-run average. Lone Star Dugout caught up with Pelicans pitching coach Brad Holman to discuss Matt West, Roman Mendez, and Wilmer Font in part one of this two-part interview.

Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Brad Holman (Part 2)

Jason Cole: What have you taken away from Matt West's first few outings out here?

Brad Holman: I just think he has been a little bit across his body. He's pulling the ball across the zone. For Matt, this is kind of like his spring training all over again. He's trying to get his legs under him and trying to get comfortable on the hill.

Just right now, I don't think it's coming as natural and as easy for him. But I think we've definitely made some strides in the right direction. It's just a matter of him throwing pain-free. He's getting a little jab in his elbow. So to get that out of there is our first course of action.

Cole: West is currently sitting out for a few days so you can work with him between outings. What kind of work have you done with him during that time?

Holman: Obviously we're trying to get him on the mound on a regular basis. We're trying not to ever give him more than two days off. We want to give him scheduled outings and make sure that he's getting on the mound on a regular basis––trying to get him to where he's starting innings and then throwing a bullpen sometimes in-between just to work on things.

But here lately, we've kind of gone into what's natural to him, which is hitting him some ground balls––especially back-hand ground balls on the third base side. We want to have him drop-step and throw the ball across the infield, which is what he did just a year ago. And that's what gave him the comfort when he stepped on the mound to begin with. We're trying to get him back into that comfort zone.

Cole: Even though the mechanics haven't been there, West's velocity has been okay for the most part, no?

Holman: Yeah, he has been pretty consistently 92-96 mph. He's pitching around 93-94. Just the feel hasn't been there as much. He was a guy last year, I know, who was able to step on the mound and throw strikes at will. And that wasn't just with his fastball. That was also with his curveball and his changeup.

The other night, he got into a little funk where he was pulling the ball across the zone. It was a steeper mound, which is a little bit hard to combat as a pitcher––especially if you're not sure as to how to do that. So with Matt, I think it's a matter of him having to actually learn what he's doing as opposed to just gripping it and ripping it, so to speak. But he is very open to information and hungry for it.

Cole: I talked to Keith Comstock about Roman Mendez when I was recently in Arizona. He said Mendez was starting to get a little rotational in his delivery and was having some pain in his forearm. Can you talk about what the general plan was in sending Mendez to Arizona?

Holman: Just prior to the All-Star break, I went home for four days. And then obviously there's a three-day window during the All-Star break on top of that. Then we had a seven-day road trip just after the break. Because of that, he had already been shut down on a limited basis. He was just feeling some forearm soreness that had permeated up into his triceps. I don't think it's anything extensive. However, he does have a little variation in his delivery from pitch to pitch.

Commie (Keith Comstock) hit it right on the head––it's a rotational issue. I think it's not because he doesn't know as much as he's just used to kind of grabbing a baseball and getting people out with his God-given ability. Like Matt West, he's having to learn how he does it and how to repeat it from pitch to pitch. By design, executing pitches within the zone as opposed to just throwing his best fastball or whatever he throws to the plate and challenging a hitter in the zone––he's now starting to have to work towards locating the ball within the zone.

It's just something that takes as much him as it does us teaching him. He's got to take it and apply it. And that has been the issue with Mendez thus far. You can give him the information and watch him do it and then two days later, all the sudden he's back to doing what he was doing before. So for him, it's just a matter of getting to a point where he decides he's going to do it.

Cole: Wilmer Font keeps progressing as he gets further and further away from his Tommy John surgery. How has he progressed in the last four or five starts?

Holman: I can't say enough. His velocity keeps increasing. I don't think it can go up much more. He has been pretty consistently 92-95 mph, and on quite a few pitches he'll run it up there at 96 and has even touched 99. On top of that, he's commanding it. It's really fun to watch. And it's not a normal fastball. It's a very, very heavy ball, and hitters just aren't getting good swings. So there's some deception that goes along with it, as well as some sinking action at times.

Now it's a matter of him rolling into his secondary pitches. He's starting to throw his curveball and the newly acquired slider and also his split for strikes. That was the issue early on––he was just kind of a one-pitch guy. But now he's starting to add those pitches in. He still doesn't really need them because I think the fastball plays out that well. But at the same time, just for the sake of his development at the next level, it's something that we've been kind of forcing on him.

Cole: Have his mechanics changed at all this year?

Holman: Yeah. For Wilmer, the one thing he's always had a tendency to do is kind of attack the pitch from the top of his balance point. You'd see his head and his front foot kind of go to the plate together. So we've tried to create some separation there where, when his front foot goes forward, his head matches more with his throwing hand so you see that separation of the lower half and the upper half. Once the lower half gets grounded, he's really, really focusing on being in a good strength position.

That used to be something––like Roman Mendez––that I used to have to tell Wilmer on a daily basis. And to his credit, he's taken it this year and he's repeating it. He's holding himself accountable. Not just himself, but I think he's also starting to lead some of the other guys.

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