Jayce Tingler: I think the the biggest thing for Blackwell was getting on a professional routine. He came in as kind of a 6-foot-5 baby calf, and he has really worked hard in the weight room. It was a goal of his to get up to about 220 pounds.
I think the biggest thing is that you start to get some man muscles. With that, he's able to repeat his delivery more, get the fastball down, and the curveball is tightening up. I think just getting physically stronger has been his biggest key.
Cole: Carlos Melo tossed five no-hit innings in his last time out, which is obviously a big step for him. What was he doing in that outing that allowed him to raise his game?
Tingler: His last outing was just the ability to focus and stay locked in for five innings. He pitched well the first time, but he struggled for two innings and just had a little mental hiccup and wasn't able to lock in and execute pitches in the third inning.
Then the pitch count gets up and he's not able to finish. I think he learned from it. Hopefully he can built on it, stay locked in, and stay focused on keeping the ball down in the zone and obviously pitching off his fastball.
Cole: He's always had the good arm with nice velocity, but the secondary stuff has been a work in progress. How is that progressing?
Tingler: They're definitely coming along, but his big deal is locating his fastball well enough over the plate. That's his put-away pitch; that's his go-to pitch. The secondary is going to come. The curveball is starting to tighten up a little bit, and he's getting the feel for a changeup––especially against left-handed batters, to keep them off the fastball. His key is that fastball.
|Stuff isn't an issue for Ahn. b>|
Tingler: He is. It's going to be a process with him. I think the biggest thing is getting him in situations to where he can succeed and build the confidence. As the confidence comes, hopefully more strikes come.
His issue has never been stuff-wise––it's a matter of if he can consistently throw the ball over the plate. The stuff is good. He was up to 94 mph last time out, and hopefully we can build off that.
Cole: You've been able to bring a lot of these guys up from the Dominican Summer League with you. How proud are you of these guys, to see pretty much all of them succeeding here in the States?
Tingler: I'll always be proud of them. But we really don't get into it until we see them in the big leagues. They know our expectations. We obviously started with that group on July 2nd about two years ago. A lot of people had a hand in that. I treat those kids like they are, in a way, my kids. I'm proud of them––they know that.
It's fun to watch their progress––the first time they got to the States for instructs, and now it's their first year in the States. I'm nervous for them. I'm probably more nervous than they are.
But now they're starting to relax, and they're starting to play their game and let their abilities show. And that's the fun thing––watching them turn into men. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to develop men, and part of that that comes along with developing men is hopefully we can turn some baseball players out of it.
Cole: You have some guys like Chirino and Herrera whose abilities are both suited to play shortstop, a couple guys who can play center every day, and so forth. How difficult is it to juggle the playing time with situations like that?
Tingler: That's been the big challenge at least in the games. But to be honest with you, we put our focus in on our work before the games. The game is just relaxation time to play.
That's how we juggle the numbers––by their work from 1:00 or 2:00 to 5:00. They grind it out in the sun, getting their ground balls and getting in their routine. That's when we put the pressure on them. We try to speed up practice and make it almost quicker than a game. That's where we want to see the execution, because we know if they can execute there, it's going to translate on to the field.
It doesn't happen every night, but we know down the road, that's where it's going to be. The game is for their enjoyment. It's only an opportunity for them to learn. By juggling their time, we can get them all in during practice in that three-hour window.
Cole: People generally think of the complex leagues as being strictly about development, but it does seem like there is a definite emphasis on winning games and getting a championship out here. Can you talk about just how big of an emphasis that is?
Tingler: I think we do take pride. That's from Scott Servais. In all of our organization, we take pride in playing winning baseball. We believe that if we develop them right, winning comes. That is part of the process.
I think also, with the young kids we have––with the young Latin kids––they have a chip on their shoulder. They weren't the highest-signed bonus babies, but they're good players. I think they have that chip to where they want to win. And these new high school kids are coming in, and they're blending right in with the group we have.
Hopefully the chemistry––we'll start pulling from one another. I think we're seeing signs of that. The winning is the enjoyment part. Hopefully we can develop those guys to be winners as they go up. The key is that they don't have to be superstars, but they just have to be contributing pieces to winning teams as they go up.
Cole: Drew Robinson has had a couple errors here in the early going. Obviously he has the tools to succeed, but what are you guys focusing on with him defensively right now?
Tingler: We've kind of let him play the first week or so. He had just basically one game where he lost a little focus. It's no concern. Corey Ragsdale has been taking him to the back fields––he's doing the work just like everybody else.
I think the challenge for him is being 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2, and learning to play the game at a lower level. I mean that by getting down a little lower on ground balls and working through with his legs.
We're starting to see that in the practice, and I'm looking forward to seeing it in the games, because he's doing it in practice now. This has been the first week that he's done it, and we'll get a chance to see it tomorrow.
Cole: He's doing well at the plate so far, and he's drawing a lot of walks. Given that he's just out of high school, does he have a bit of an advanced approach up there?
Tingler: We've only seen him two weeks, but he seems like he does control the zone a little bit. He puts the ball in play, he draws his walks, and he uses the big part of the field––I mean gap-to-gap, middle of the field. That's good to see.
Obviously somebody in his high school or summer program has done a nice job with him. A lot of young kids are very pull-happy, and he's very inside the ball. He does a good job and kind of knows what he does––stays on top of the ball and fills the gaps from gap-to-gap.
|Lane is hitting .333 through nine games. b>|
Tingler: His jump has been probably the biggest out of any of the kids I've seen from instructs to where we are today. Him and Hector Ortiz have worked very hard at the plate. And Braxton is starting to understand what his game is. That's putting the ball in play and using that plus speed that he has.
The more experience he gets, we're seeing the results. Hopefully he can keep it up through the summer and continue to build, and hopefully he can be a weapon down the road.
Cole: Jordan Akins' raw tools are extremely impressive, but he's also pretty raw. Can you kind of sum up his game so far, and what are you and your staff planning on really focusing on with him this summer?
Tingler: Jordan is a big-time athlete that has a pretty good feel for baseball, coming from a football background. Jordan comes to work every day ready to work and ready to accomplish one thing––to get better.
Whatever it is, whether it's his bunting, his jumps in the outfield, whether it's his turns at first––we just try to accomplish one little thing every day with him. He's a very intelligent kid, and he seems to grab that information and then be able to advance to the next day for whatever the lesson is.
Cole: I know Kellin Deglan has been catching bullpens, but he hasn't been throwing the ball out here. What is the injury that is keeping him out?
Tingler: He just had a little inflammation in the triceps, and he's cleared to go. He threw today, so we're expecting to have him back probably in the next two or three days. It'll probably be in a DH role, and then we'll get him back behind the plate on day three or four.
Cole: So it's nothing to be worried about, just being cautious?
Tingler: Oh yeah, exactly.
Cole: It seems like Teodoro Martinez brings a real energy to the game from the top of the order.
Tingler: We've had Cafe since he was 15 and a half, and one thing that he always did––from when he was 5-foot-8 and 125-pounds––he played with a passion, he played with an energy. The one thing that's good about Cafe is that he loves to play baseball. All that energy you see, it's not fake.
When it comes time to cross the lines and it hits 7:00 and the first pitch is thrown, he just loves to play the game. And with that, since he has that passion, he loves to work at it and he loves to get better. He'll be fun to track down the road.
Cole: Oduber Herrera had a ton of errors last year, but he seems to be progressing just fine. He seems much more mature in the field. Since you coached him in the DSL last year as well, how much improvement have you seen?
Tingler: Oduber's progress started in the second half of last year. He had a lot of the errors in the first half. We forced him to play short, and he continues to get better. He's starting to get the ability to slow the game down a little bit and to make his plays.
Really, for almost the last year now, he's played a pretty steady shortstop––played a pretty steady defense. A lot of those errors happened at the beginning of last year. We're hoping he continues to grow, especially defensively, because he really has an ability to hit.