Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Dave Chavarria

BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Bakersfield Blaze pitching staff is loaded with top, high-ceiling prospects this season. Chris Hadorn chatted with pitching coach Dave Chavarria during his recent visit to Bakersfield.

Chris Hadorn: First off, I wanted to ask about Zachary Phillips. You guys moved him to the bullpen and he's doing really well. What do you attribute his success to?

Dave Chavarria: I think it comes down to him. He's always had a good work ethic and stuff. Right now, his confidence is very high. I think his delivery is a lot cleaner than what it was last year. Right now, I think he's in a good spot confidence wise and mindset wise. He's really slowing the game down right now.

Last year it seemed at times that sped up on him. Right now, mindset wise, everything, he's working really well slowing the game down, confidence, all that stuff. So it's really good for him right now.

Hadorn: From what hear, he's added a little bit more velocity to his fastball.

Chavarria: Yeah, that happens sometimes with guys that make the transition from starter to reliever. Sometimes especially with younger guys as a starter they think they have to save stuff for later on in the game, and et cetera. And all of the sudden they switch to the reliever they've have always had it, now they feel like, okay I'm out there for two innings, three innings tops, I can cut loose with it a little bit.

And lot of it also has to do with conditioning and stuff. Albeit they get a little stronger and the whole thing stuff and stuff. You know with him, that's what it has come down to and he's looking sharp, really sharp.

Hadorn: And he has two pretty good secondary pitches doesn't he?

Chavarria: His curveball is anywhere from average to above-average at times. Really tough on left-handed hitters. His changeup is a plus-pitch at times also. He has a real good feel for pitching. He's a little bit different where a lot of guys that make the transition from starter to reliever it's because they have only two pitches. Well with him, he has three pitches and he's always had three. He adds a little bit different recipe down in the bullpen than other guys. The thing is he knows when to use them, what situations and stuff. So he makes him that much tougher.

Hadorn: What about Tim Murphy? I hear you guys are going to revamp his mechanics and his delivery.

Chavarria: I don't know if it's revamping, it's just making subtle changes in his delivery, and he's done it for the last week. He's really worked hard at it. He's taking it in and watching video on it and stuff. He's seen where his mistakes were. And to his credit, he's adapting, he's making the adjustments. He sees what he is doing wrong. He's feeling, which is the most important thing. Because pitching, that's what it is. It's about feel aspect out there. (He) threw a pen today and looked really good and those changes are starting to benefit him right now.

Hadorn: What about Kennil Gomez? Last year he started off really strong in the Midwest League and I guess it happens to a lot of young pitchers, the fatigue kind of catches up to him and he had a sore shoulder. What are you guys doing to combat that this year?

Chavarria: We've been lucky so far. A couple times in his BP sessions, where he's supposed to have BP, we've had other stuff going on and we've just had to push it back and have him throw a light side those days. And we've just kind of monitored him a little bit.

He's taking it upon himself. He's starting to understand about controlling his tempo a little bit more, his effort and stuff in his sides (sessions). It was fortunate and unfortunate at the same time. We had a game where he was pitching, the lights when out and he got one inning in, which was the unfortunate part. The fortunate part was he got a little extra rest.

For him and for where he's at, age wise, development wise, it doesn't hurt to have that extra day right now. The heat is starting to pick up here a little bit in Bakersfield. It wears and tears at these guys. It' just like we tell them, "it's just like it's in Arlington", same heat factor and stuff a lot. They get an extra day's rest here and there to start off the season and it sort of helps them out later on and hopefully that's happens for Gomy.

Hadorn: Do you think that's a good thing, being out in here in the California League, it's an offensive league, it helps them prepare them for Arlington which is a tough place for pitchers?

Chavarria: You know the Cal League is an offensive league. The one thing you do learn how to do in Bakersfield with the pitchers that have gone through here is you learn how to pitch. You have to learn how to keep the ball down because of the dimensions of the ballpark and some of the ballparks you play at. You have to learn when to pitch inside and when you have to go away and what innings and et cetera.

(For) a lot of guys it's a big jump because the hitters are that much better just like they get better. It's one of those things where guys, they just have to make the adjustment. Eventually they do, they figure it out and when they do it's fun to watch.

Hadorn: Do you think for a young guy, Blake Beavan, in terms of command and knowing how to pitch, is beyond his years?

Chavarria: His last outing was really good and that was the conversation we had with him up to that point was, not only us, but that's what he should expect out of himself every outing. It would be nice if he could go out there every outing and throw a complete game and the whole thing. Is it going to happen? Who knows. But he should expect that out of himself. That's one of the conversations that we have had with him and he understands that.

He has the body, he has the stuff to do it. It's just like with a lot of the young pitchers, it's just confidence in themselves and trusting their stuff and their ability. He did that his last outing. And he was kinda like, "wow, that was kind of fun". And that's the way it should be. And you put in all your hard work in the four days in-between, and you get out of that fifth day and it's worked when you go out there and it's fun because you prepared for it. He's had an outing where he didn't do that and it caught up to him. This last outing, he changed a whole lot of stuff on his own and he did a real nice job with it.

Hadorn: There has been a lot made about his decreased velocity and because of his big body, do you think over time he has the projection to get it back up there?

Chavarria: Yeah, his last outing he was 93. I don't know a whole lot about how hard he was in high school and all that stuff. A lot of people have to remember, especially a high school kid comes into pro ball, velocity is going to drop down because they are throwing everyday. Because we are playing everyday. And in high school, they might go out there for three or four days, or whatever it is, they only might only pitch for one of the days. Here it's game on everyday. So their bodies do take a toll.

And he's 20-years-old, he's still getting stronger. He's a big kid. And you know bigger athletes, pitchers, it takes a little bit of time for stuff to fire. But his last outing, he was 90-93, so it's there. We are working with his delivery a little bit and he's comfortable. If he's 90-93, or he's 92-94, I'll take that and he'll take that. If he's getting people out and working all of his pitches and pitching and doing his things, he'll be happy with that.

Hadorn: Michael Main, do you think he might be the best athlete or one of the best athletes on the team?

Chavarria: Yeah, Michael is up there as one of the best athletes on the team. He works hard. He has some ways to go still, yet again, he's just 20-years-old out of high school. It's a big jump. He's a year and a half out of the draft and that's a big jump. He's playing with some guys that next year will be in the big leagues. And hopefully Mike works on commanding some stuff, commanding his fastball a little bit better and stuff and eventually he'll be in that mix also. Overall, he's one of the top 3 or 4 guys on the team as an athlete.

Hadorn: I see this year he's struggled a little bit with his control and command, what are some things that you are helping him work on to straighten that out?

Chavarria: Right now, he's working on getting more extension out front on his release point. Getting down the slope of the mound a little bit and on-line. He's always had the arm and the man upstairs I guess kind of blessed him a little bit with one of those arms. And when you have one of those arms, you can get away with a lot of stuff, delivery wise, etc at the lower levels and even in high school. At some point, it catches up.

Right now he's in that mix and he's working extremely hard at it. We have made some slight changes. We've moved him over to the third base side of the rubber, he's feeling really comfortable over there. Right now, he's in a good place and I think he's about to turn the corner and get things going. I am looking forward to seeing him pitch.

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