Jason Cole: Tell me about the streak that you guys have been on for the last couple weeks. You guys have 10 consecutive wins and have taken 14 of the last 15.
Kenny Holmberg: That's how it always goes with those streaks. You play really good baseball and you get some luck along the way. But these guys have been really grinding. You can tell they're a club that wants to get better as the season progresses.
Our pitching staff has really blossomed. They're bigger and stronger and they're not losing velocity. Their fastballs are staying sharp, the breaking stuff is staying sharp, and they are really just getting better in all aspects.
Offensively we're just trying to play a little more team baseball instead of statistically driven at-bats. That's moving runners and driving guys in. Giving yourself up a little bit more for the club in order for the club to win at the end of the day.
Cole: Was there anything that sparked the team on this run? Did you notice a turning point somewhere?
Holmberg: We lost a tough game to Toronto and then we had about four consecutive rainouts. With that time, we pulled the kids into the classroom and we had a great baseball 101 on attitude and purpose behind that attitude.
These kids have really bought into what we were preaching and what we expected out of them. We said, ‘It's how you finish, it's not how you start. And everybody in this room has an opportunity to get something done and to help this club win.' I got a little mythological on them––broke out the myth of Sisyphus on the kids.
They've bought into it, and every day these kids have pushed the rock the right way. It has been a special, special past three weeks. We've got two weeks to go and hopefully they continue to work hard and cap it off with a special ending.
Cole: You're getting to work with guys that are mostly between 17- and 19-years-old. How much does it help having young players whose bodies are able to bounce back quickly?
Holmberg: We challenge the kids every day. They're still human beings––they're going to get tired. Their bodies are going to get sore. It's 10:30 games every single morning, so it's not so much a baseball routine, but it's more of a job. These guys have to come ready to play starting at about 7:00 in the morning instead of 7:00 at night or 4:00 in the afternoon for a BP.
But we challenge these kids––the more tired your bodies get, the more your mind should grow and the smarter you should get. I think with that being said, with the bodies coming down a little bit and getting a little tired physically, the mind gets to grow a lot more. These kids are absorbing a lot more information and getting better from it every single day.
Cole: I know the players there are able to watch the Rangers game just about every single night. Tell me about the benefit of the kids being able to see the big league team on a regular basis, even though they're quite a ways away from the show.
Holmberg: It's extremely important. I think the Texas Rangers do a great job in getting those guys involved. Elvis Andrus was down here in February. Neftali Feliz was here in February. Warner Madrigal, Omar Beltre, and Alexi Ogando have been here. So these kids are familiar with the faces that are on TV. They have relationships with those guys in the big leagues. And they feel like they're part of that club.
These guys are up watching those games. Sometimes with 10:00 west coast starts we can't have them up until 1:00 watching it and then trying to get ready for a game the next morning. But they're on every pitch, every swing.
Cole: A number of those guys got a chance to play with Ogando and Beltre in the Dominican Summer League last year. Obviously it's not a standard situation, but what is it like for them to see recent DSL teammates contributing on the big stage now?
Holmberg: When you say, ‘I'm pitching in the DSL last year and then I'm starting against the Angels this year,' you can basically say anything happen in this game, which is true. You hear it all the time.
I'm not going to say we've got a kid down here this summer that's going to break the big club out of Spring Training next year or get a September callup or anything. But they definitely know it's a step-by-step process and it is a possibility to get out of here, go to rookie ball, A-ball, Double-A, and climb the ladder and find themselves in the big leagues.
I think it's really cool and it sets a great example for these kids to have a purpose behind their attitude and work for it.
Cole: I want to talk a little about David Perez. What has his maturation throughout the year been like? It seems that he has developed into sort of the leader of that talented pitching staff.
Holmberg: He has been fantastic. He's a young kid that went over to instructs as a pup last year. When he goes back to the States he's going to go over as a big dog. When he gets his opportunity to set foot in the United States, he's going to open some eyes. He's done so down here.
The offspeed command has been great. Fielding his position has been great. With his fastball––the velocity is there and it's going to continue to grow. He's a big kid, a strong kid. He's a kid that has gotten better and stronger as this summer has progressed.
He was our lone All-Star from the pitching staff, and it was much deserved. Just a great kid that comes from a great family. There is a lot of potential in this kid.
Cole: His last start was obviously outstanding, starting off with seven perfect innings before allowing a leadoff single in the eighth. Can you talk about that outing?
Holmberg: You could just see how determined this kid was to be perfect on that day. We were playing a club that swings the bat aggressively, puts the ball in play and can hit in the Tigers.
He was just mowing them down. He was down in the zone, getting his ground balls, getting his strikeouts. Alfaro provided a great tempo for the game. The defense supported him outstanding. There were a couple nice plays here and there. He went into the eighth and got a two-strike count on a guy and was cruising. But he gave up a little bloop single in front of a diving Hector Martinez.
Everybody had a sense of what was going on, which was also pretty unique for a young club. That just goes to show how involved and how focused these kids have been over the past three weeks.
Cole: Since he was throwing strikes I imagine he had a pretty manageable pitch count. But was he going to stay in there as long as he had a perfect game?
Holmberg: It would have been a tough decision, but in the ninth we would have let the bullpen close it out. That is just a part of development. With that said, I see David having more opportunities down the road in a similar situation.
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Kenny Holmberg (Part 1)
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