Q&A with Charleston Pitching Coach Jeff Ware

We sat down with Charleston RiverDogs pitching coach Jeff Ware for a Q&A session to get his thoughts on what kind of progress he saw from Jose Ramirez, what his impressions were of Graham Stoneburner, what he thinks has been wrong with Jairo Heredia, if Josh Romanski should be one to keep an eye on, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: We all know Jose Ramirez has plus arm strength and a great changeup to boot, but did he start developing the consistency with his breaking ball at some point this season?

Jeff Ware: It came a little ways. I don't feel it came as strong as we would like it to be and get it where we want it to be. It definitely still has a lot of room to grow. He did show signs throughout the year that he could use it as a swing-and-miss pitch, but for him it's about repeating his delivery and arm action to make the breaking ball work. He'll get a little east to west instead of pitching downhill, what we call north to south, and when it starts going west that's when his breaking ball starts to get sloppy. When he can pitch downhill and stay behind his curveball, get the rotation out in front and get that downward spin and rotation on his breaking ball, that's what we want him to do. He showed signs of that and that's what we have to keep working on to get better.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jairo Heredia didn't have a good year again and his velocity seemed down most of the year, but yet he pitched well out of the bullpen later in the season. What's up with his velocity do you think? Why is it down?

Ware: It could have just been one of those years where he lost a little bit of arm strength but towards the end, in those last few outings, he started building it back. We've just got to get him stronger. He needs to stay in the weight room, eat right, and gain some weight. He's not the biggest guy out there. He needs to build up more muscle and be more of a physical type guy. Hopefully his arm strength will come back because a couple of years ago he had Major League fastball to go with his secondary stuff. He was a tremendous pitcher and now he doesn't quite have the velocity he had in the past, and I think he lacks confidence in his fastball right now. For me he just needs to build his arm strength back up to where it was before. We're trying to get him to use his fastball more because at times he uses his offspeed pitches more. He does have a lot of success with that [approach] because they're both swing-and-miss type pitches, but we all know at the higher levels you need to use your fastball.

PinstripesPlus.com: Sean Black had a horrific start to the season and then he pitched extremely well down the stretch. What changed?

Ware: I think early on after five or six weeks into the season he started building arm strength and gained some velocity on his fastball, but what I think put him over the top was the development of his curveball. We got him to throw the heck out of curveball and speed up his arm speed. He had a tendency to slow down his arm speed and just kind of throw it for strikes, just too mechanical with it rather than just throwing the heck out of it and tightening up the spin. Once he did that his curveball went up 4-5 mph and really got some late bite towards the end. I think he got intrigued early on and said 'I'm going to throw this big curveball, the bigger the better'. In that case it wasn't what we wanted so he built confidence in throwing his curveball, although it was a lot shorter it still had late depth to it. He always had tight rotation to it but once he started throwing it harder, he built up confidence and he started getting strikeouts with it. I think that was the biggest thing, getting the confidence in it. Once he bought into letting it go, that's when he went from being an average pitcher to an above average pitcher and started having that success towards the end of the year.

PinstripesPlus.com: That almost sounds exactly what you've been looking for from Ryan Flannery the last two years, the plus breaking pitch to go along with his hard fastball. Did he make strides with his breaking pitch by the end of the year?

Wares: It definitely came a long, long, long way. Is it exactly where we want it to be? I think it can be better, but from early on the year when he didn't even want to throw a breaking ball or throw his slider because he didn't have one, it came a long way. The velocity picked up on it, it had later depth to it, and it definitely improved. With his fastball and the power movement he has on his two-seamer, if he can continue to develop his slider, I think he's got the chance to pitch in the big leagues.

PinstripesPlus.com: Josh Romanski intrigues me a bunch. He's a little Shaeffer Hall-like to me except he has that cutter going on already. Is that a fair comparison?

Ware: Yeah I believe that's a pretty darn good comparison. They both have similar stuff, the velocity is similar, and like Shaeffer Hall, Romanski has a ton of pitch-ability. He knows how to pitch, how to set up batters. He loves to pitch inside and for a guy who sits in the upper-80's it's tough to do that but he can with that cutter and he's developed a real good two-seamer that he can pitch away to right-handers and that's making his inside fastball that much better. Pitching to both sides of the plate has helped him a lot. He can throw his curveball for strikes, he can throw his changeup for strikes, and that cutter he uses, sometimes he will only use it a few times and then he might throw it 10-15 times. He can make it move 2-3 inches or he can make it move more like a slider, something like 12 inches. He has that pitch-ability where you never know what he's going to throw because he can throw all four pitches for strikes.

PinstripesPlus.com: I've become a big fan of Shane Greene's stuff. I know you only had him for a few starts this year but did you see enough to comment on his stuff?

Ware: I was very impressed. I had a chance to see him in Spring Training so I was happy to work with him [again] towards the end of the season when he got moved up to us. He's got that two-seamer with a lot of run to it. He's going to jam a lot of right-handed hitters and he's going to get some rollovers against left-handed hitters. His slider, it's kind of like a wiffle ball slider. It looks like it's going one way and then it comes back with late action towards the other way and he gets a lot of swings and misses with it. He gets a lot of strikeouts with it. He's also a right-hander that can throw his changeup for strikes. To already be able to command a changeup is a big-time bonus. That's going to help him tremendously. He's not all over the place with his slider and that's a good thing. He will throw his slider for strikes. With a swing-and-miss breaking ball, if you can be around the zone and miss down if you do miss, you're going to get a lot of chases with it. Back-dooring it is something he's already starting to work on.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know in the past the biggest thing with Kelvin Perez was the development of secondary pitches to make them more consistent. Did his move to the bullpen in the second half of the season signify that those pitches weren't come around consistently enough?

Ware: Early on in the season he was having success but it was success pitching up in the zone. That's something we don't want. It just so happened with a couple of roster moves that we put him in the bullpen, which I think mentally helped him out a little bit. It was a tough adjustment for the first couple of outings and then he made the adjustment. He started getting the life back in his fastball and the key for him is pitching down in the zone. He's a low-to-mid-90's fastball guy and a lot of times and he just tries to throw it by guys. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. For him he has to stay down in the zone. And with his curveball, he's got great spin with it but it lacks bite. When he snaps it down though it's an above average curveball and we started seeing that more consistently towards the end of the season. Hopefully he can carry that with him into next season and have some success.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know you lost him to promotion way early in the season but talk about what you saw from Graham Stoneburner when you had him in Charleston.

Ware: I love Graham. He came in and attacked guys. He challenged them and didn't care who was hitting. After the first few weeks of the season his fastball jumped up to the mid-90's range and he could throw his changeup for strikes. The biggest thing for him was tightening up the slider. It was a little loopy early on but we worked on tightening it up and keeping it as more of a true slider and get more late action. He's a guy that has great pitch-ability, he throws strikes. He throws all three pitches for strikes.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: We all know Jose Ramirez has plus arm strength and a great changeup to boot, but did he start developing the consistency with his breaking ball at some point this season?
\r\n
\r\nJeff Ware: It came a little ways. I don't feel it came as strong as we would like it to be and get it where we want it to be. It definitely still has a lot of room to grow. He did show signs throughout the year that he could use it as a swing-and-miss pitch, but for him it's about repeating his delivery and arm action to make the breaking ball work. He'll get a little east to west instead of pitching downhill, what we call north to south, and when it starts going west that's when his breaking ball starts to get sloppy. When he can pitch downhill and stay behind his curveball, get the rotation out in front and get that downward spin and rotation on his breaking ball, that's what we want him to do. He showed signs of that and that's what we have to keep working on to get better.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Jairo Heredia didn't have a good year again and his velocity seemed down most of the year, but yet he pitched well out of the bullpen later in the season. What's up with his velocity do you think? Why is it down?
\r\n
\r\nWare: It could have just been one of those years where he lost a little bit of arm strength but towards the end, in those last few outings, he started building it back. We've just got to get him stronger. He needs to stay in the weight room, eat right, and gain some weight. He's not the biggest guy out there. He needs to build up more muscle and be more of a physical type guy. Hopefully his arm strength will come back because a couple of years ago he had Major League fastball to go with his secondary stuff. He was a tremendous pitcher and now he doesn't quite have the velocity he had in the past, and I think he lacks confidence in his fastball right now. For me he just needs to build his arm strength back up to where it was before. We're trying to get him to use his fastball more because at times he uses his offspeed pitches more. He does have a lot of success with that [approach] because they're both swing-and-miss type pitches, but we all know at the higher levels you need to use your fastball.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Sean Black had a horrific start to the season and then he pitched extremely well down the stretch. What changed?
\r\n
\r\nWare: I think early on after five or six weeks into the season he started building arm strength and gained some velocity on his fastball, but what I think put him over the top was the development of his curveball. We got him to throw the heck out of curveball and speed up his arm speed. He had a tendency to slow down his arm speed and just kind of throw it for strikes, just too mechanical with it rather than just throwing the heck out of it and tightening up the spin. Once he did that his curveball went up 4-5 mph and really got some late bite towards the end. I think he got intrigued early on and said 'I'm going to throw this big curveball, the bigger the better'. In that case it wasn't what we wanted so he built confidence in throwing his curveball, although it was a lot shorter it still had late depth to it. He always had tight rotation to it but once he started throwing it harder, he built up confidence and he started getting strikeouts with it. I think that was the biggest thing, getting the confidence in it. Once he bought into letting it go, that's when he went from being an average pitcher to an above average pitcher and started having that success towards the end of the year.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: That almost sounds exactly what you've been looking for from Ryan Flannery the last two years, the plus breaking pitch to go along with his hard fastball. Did he make strides with his breaking pitch by the end of the year?
\r\n
\r\nWares: It definitely came a long, long, long way. Is it exactly where we want it to be? I think it can be better, but from early on the year when he didn't even want to throw a breaking ball or throw his slider because he didn't have one, it came a long way. The velocity picked up on it, it had later depth to it, and it definitely improved. With his fastball and the power movement he has on his two-seamer, if he can continue to develop his slider, I think he's got the chance to pitch in the big leagues.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Josh Romanski intrigues me a bunch. He's a little Shaeffer Hall-like to me except he has that cutter going on already. Is that a fair comparison?
\r\n
\r\nWare: Yeah I believe that's a pretty darn good comparison. They both have similar stuff, the velocity is similar, and like Shaeffer Hall, Romanski has a ton of pitch-ability. He knows how to pitch, how to set up batters. He loves to pitch inside and for a guy who sits in the upper-80's it's tough to do that but he can with that cutter and he's developed a real good two-seamer that he can pitch away to right-handers and that's making his inside fastball that much better. Pitching to both sides of the plate has helped him a lot. He can throw his curveball for strikes, he can throw his changeup for strikes, and that cutter he uses, sometimes he will only use it a few times and then he might throw it 10-15 times. He can make it move 2-3 inches or he can make it move more like a slider, something like 12 inches. He has that pitch-ability where you never know what he's going to throw because he can throw all four pitches for strikes.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I've become a big fan of Shane Greene's stuff. I know you only had him for a few starts this year but did you see enough to comment on his stuff?
\r\n
\r\nWare: I was very impressed. I had a chance to see him in Spring Training so I was happy to work with him [again] towards the end of the season when he got moved up to us. He's got that two-seamer with a lot of run to it. He's going to jam a lot of right-handed hitters and he's going to get some rollovers against left-handed hitters. His slider, it's kind of like a wiffle ball slider. It looks like it's going one way and then it comes back with late action towards the other way and he gets a lot of swings and misses with it. He gets a lot of strikeouts with it. He's also a right-hander that can throw his changeup for strikes. To already be able to command a changeup is a big-time bonus. That's going to help him tremendously. He's not all over the place with his slider and that's a good thing. He will throw his slider for strikes. With a swing-and-miss breaking ball, if you can be around the zone and miss down if you do miss, you're going to get a lot of chases with it. Back-dooring it is something he's already starting to work on.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I know in the past the biggest thing with Kelvin Perez was the development of secondary pitches to make them more consistent. Did his move to the bullpen in the second half of the season signify that those pitches weren't come around consistently enough?
\r\n
\r\nWare: Early on in the season he was having success but it was success pitching up in the zone. That's something we don't want. It just so happened with a couple of roster moves that we put him in the bullpen, which I think mentally helped him out a little bit. It was a tough adjustment for the first couple of outings and then he made the adjustment. He started getting the life back in his fastball and the key for him is pitching down in the zone. He's a low-to-mid-90's fastball guy and a lot of times and he just tries to throw it by guys. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. For him he has to stay down in the zone. And with his curveball, he's got great spin with it but it lacks bite. When he snaps it down though it's an above average curveball and we started seeing that more consistently towards the end of the season. Hopefully he can carry that with him into next season and have some success.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I know you lost him to promotion way early in the season but talk about what you saw from Graham Stoneburner when you had him in Charleston.
\r\n
\r\nWare: I love Graham. He came in and attacked guys. He challenged them and didn't care who was hitting. After the first few weeks of the season his fastball jumped up to the mid-90's range and he could throw his changeup for strikes. The biggest thing for him was tightening up the slider. It was a little loopy early on but we worked on tightening it up and keeping it as more of a true slider and get more late action. He's a guy that has great pitch-ability, he throws strikes. He throws all three pitches for strikes.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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