2014 Spring Notes: Jeff Kunkel on the Staff

Prior to the 2013 season, Jeff Kunkel made the shift from being an official player in the organization to being the big league team's bullpen catcher. TigsTown caught up with Jeff to talk about what spring has been like, the differences between playing and catching, and which pitchers stood out, especially among the youngsters.

On who has impressed so far in spring:

Verlander obviously coming off that surgery he's looking good – pretty amazing so far.

On which young pitchers he'd single out as looking good:

[Drew] VerHagen, that was the first I had seen him pitch and he really stood out.

Also, Robbie Ray, probably a little behind him, but he's got really good stuff, and he picks up on things real quick. He's a student of the game – you can tell him something, and next pitch, he's doing it.

On what it's like being a bullpen catcher as opposed to playing:

It's been great, it's honestly not much different. In the minor leagues I wasn't playing every day anyway, so it hasn't been too hard. I do a lot of the same things, catching bullpens. If a pitcher is doing something and they ask me a question, I tell them what I see, just like I would in the game, so it's been pretty easy for me.

On the differences in spring with the new manager and staff:

It's been fun - with a new staff it's definitely different. Jonesy [Pitching Coach Jeff Jones] is the same, as far as pitchers go, doing the same types of things. But with the staff, we just have more types of activities, guys are going to different places, more meetings but having fun in them – been a lot of fun.

On Drew Smyly's move back to the rotation from the bullpen:

He's working on the same things, even when he was in the bullpen last year, he still had that starter mentality. His routine hasn't changed much, but the move will help him have that consistent schedule and get him some rest here and there when they can.

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