Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Dave Chavarria

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Dave Chavarria is in his fourth season as the pitching coach for the High-A Bakersfield Blaze. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the former Rangers farmhand about some of his pitchers.

Jason Cole: Richard Bleier pitched the other night. How do you feel he is faring in his first full season of pro ball?

Dave Chavarria: For me, he's pitching alright. There are some aspects that could be better. There are some aspects that he's doing really well at. But overall, there are opportunities for some big improvements in there on the mental side.

The physical side, he's starting to understand what he's trying to do with the baseball down in the zone and what the effect is when he does that. When he does that, he's good. But still some work on the mental side that has a lot of improvement to go forward with.

Cole: Ryan Tatusko has had his ups and he's had his downs, just like he did last season. What is the key to getting him more consistent?

Chavarria: With Ryan, it's the focus part and trying not to do more than what he is capable of doing. When he tries to do more, the ball flattens out, the ball stays up in the zone, and he rushes through his delivery just like most pitchers do.

But when he is locked in and he's focused, he gets his breaking ball over early in the count and he is able to locate his fastball down in the zone. A lot of it has to do with his delivery. He tries not to rush, and then those things will happen. But when he rushes, the ball stays flat and it is very hittable.

Cole: He told me that a big focus for him lately has been the changeup. How is that pitch developing of late?

Chavarria: It is coming along pretty good. We've been using it in the bullpen, and he has thrown more and more during the game. We changed—what he had was a split grip and it was just basically a show-me pitched that he used maybe once or twice. We changed to more of a conventional kind of changeup.

We talked about rotation and hand path and stuff. To his credit, he picked it up. He understood it and he is starting to feel more and more comfortable with it. When he does that, it's just like any other pitcher learning how to throw. The more you throw it, the more comfortable you get with it. He's at that point right now, and hopefully when he goes out there, he'll get some opportunities to use that changeup.

Cole: I saw Kennil Gomez pitch in Modesto a couple of weeks ago. The stuff still looks really good, but the results have been inconsistent this year. What do you make of his season?

Chavarria: It has been up and down. He shows flashes of electric stuff with his fastball and his breaking ball and his changeup. He has a good feel of when to throw things. Sometimes that is a good thing and a bad thing, because sometimes it takes aggressiveness away from him using his fastball, where he'll go more offspeed.

But the big thing I think Gomez is finding out is just being focused every single pitch of every inning that he throws. When he usually runs into trouble is when he loses focus. If there are two out and it's a walk, it usually leads to something. Or if it's a little flare, he tries to do too much and he loses focus. We're just trying to get him to where those little things won't hurt you. You have to focus on what you're doing with this pitch at this time and stuff like that.

His last outing up in Lancaster was probably his best outing of the year. He really locked in for every single pitch and made some real good pitches when he had to. Unfortunately, a little bloop infield single and a walk and another base hit and that's all they needed. But he is exciting to watch. He works real quick tempo-wise and he can be really aggressive.

Cole: One thing I noticed during that start in Modesto was that he didn't have a lot of velocity separation on his changeup from his fastball, but he was having a lot of success and getting lots of swings-and-misses with it. Is it just the action on the pitch?

Chavarria: Yeah, the action—he's a two-seam guy, but there is some fade action to his changeup. There is, at times, more of a differential with his changeup and his fastball than at other times. He is a different type of breed. A lot of finger pressure on the ball with him makes the ball do some things that other guys can't do. Fortunately he is gifted to do that.

Cole: When the Rangers sent Beau Jones back down here, it at least seemed like he was figuring something out. What did you do with him that kind of got him turned around down here?

Chavarria: Nothing really. We sat down and we just talked. Me having Beau last year made things easier. Maybe it was a trust factor, I don't know. We just kind of talked about swing paths and stances with a hitter.

Then from there, we just looked at mechanics and didn't really hammer anything out in that aspect. We just made a slight adjustment in his alignment. That was basically about it.

A lot of the credit goes to him. He started off really well, and I think the confidence factor plays a huge part. Then he started to figure out little things here and there with swing paths and guys' stances and what he can get away with and what he couldn't. He took it from there and just ran with it. It was really good on his aspect.

Cole: Michael Main has been gone for awhile, but I'd like to talk about him for a second. How much do you think his struggles this year were more attributed to just not having the strength because of the sickness?

Chavarria: I think probably 99 percent of it was. I don't care who you are—whether you're in the big leagues or in Arizona in rookie ball—if you're sick and going out there and battling, you don't have the strength that you normally do.

We kind of saw that in his fastball. His fastball kind of dropped a little bit. Last year, he was 93-94 and all of the sudden it's 88-90. When you're not used to throwing at that velocity, you try and do more. You try and grind out things more.

For me, I think his whole season was based on him being sick and not being able to get over it. But next year, or in instructional league hopefully, he's bouncing back really well. Hopefully he gets himself back to form, where he was a year and a half ago in instructional league and he's off to the races again.

He has the type of stuff that goes from him maybe starting back here next year and then within about five or six starts, who knows? He could be on the fast track, where he was. He has that type of stuff and he has that mental toughness in him.

Cole: Have you talked to him ever since he went back home to Florida?

Chavarria: It's funny—we texted him yesterday and I told him we missed him and hope everything is going well and the whole thing. He's in good spirits right now. It's always good to let those guys know that we're still thinking about them.

It's hard to miss, for him, three-quarters of the year and feel like you're in no-man's land. It is good for the guys to hear that he's doing alright, and it's good for him to know that those guys still think about him a lot. He's in good spirits right now.


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