Q&A with Charleston Pitching Coach Jeff Ware

DELMARVA, MD - We sat down with Charleston RiverDogs pitching coach Jeff Ware for a Q&A session to talk about the progress of Jose Ramirez's breaking ball, what Graham Stoneburner needs to do to move up a minor league level, to see which of Kelvin Perez's secondary pitches has stood out this year, and more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Obviously the numbers for Graham Stoneburner this season have been tremendous. Rather than focus on the positives though, what does he have to work on right now?

Jeff Ware: Wow, that's tough to say right now because he's been so solid for us, especially these last few outings. Just repeating his delivery is the one thing. He has a good delivery, but just repeating it and tightening up the slider is probably the main issue. He has a good changeup. He has good arm speed with it, he gets some fade and a lot of deception with it, so he gets a lot of swings-and-misses [with it]. He's got a lot of sink with his fastball with his two-seamer and he can locate his four-seamer to the glove side. He's going really well right now. We're just kind of fine-tuning some things right now with his delivery, but he's been very solid.

PinstripesPlus.com: In your opinion is the changeup farther along than the slider?

Ware: This is the first year I've seen him. When I saw him in Spring Training, his slider was probably ahead. We've tightened that up some. It's gotten another one, two, or three mph harder. It's shorter and it's got some better late tilt to it at the end, but we're still fine-tuning that. I'm surprised that a guy who can throw in the low-to-mid-90's can have a quality changeup like that. I think that's been a big part of his arsenal out on the mound, being able to throw strikes with all three pitches.

PinstripesPlus.com: I know it's not your job or even your call, but do you think he's ready to move up at some point soon?

Ware: I can't say that, obviously, but he's certainly proven that he's able to move up. He's dominated his last several outings. When a guy's going that and he's throwing low-to-mid-90's, you certainly hope that it's time for him to move up. He's shown that he can repeat his delivery, he's shown that he can locate and command the pitches throughout the game, and he's improved with all three pitches. It's not my decision if he's going to be moved up, but certainly I could see him pitching at a higher level right now.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jose Ramirez gave up the one relatively big inning the other night, but otherwise he's been pitching extremely well this season. Have you see his breaking ball become a more consistent pitch for him this year?

Ware: It has. During Spring Training he only showed it here and there. Over his last couple of starts he's probably throwing anywhere from 15-20 breaking balls per game and a good handful, probably more than half, are quality pitches. It's not a true curveball and it's not a true slider so we call it a breaking ball. It's hard, it's got some late tilt to it, when he throws it right. But just getting his hand on the balls and staying behind it, and keeping his fingers on top and out in front of that breaking ball, on a consistent basis, that's really going to boost him. He's got a plus changeup already that he loves to use and it's been very effective for him. With him also throwing low-to-mid-90's with a lot of movement with his fastball, [the breaking ball] will really help him move through the organization.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is he repeating his delivery?

Ware: That is his biggest issue right now. He wants to get a little bit side to side with his shoulders. When we get him to consistently work downhill and keeping that front-side closed, working downhill and getting that four-seamer to his glove side, that's when he's going to start being really effective.

PinstripesPlus.com: The numbers for Kelvin Perez have been outstanding this year. Which secondary pitch has been the better offering this season?

Ware: On a couple of occasions it's been his curveball, on a couple of occasions it's been his changeup, and [other times] it's the command of his fastball. When he starts putting all three of them together is when he's very, very nasty out there on the mound. He's got three quality pitches that he can throw for strikes and we've just got to get him to get all three going at the same time on a regular basis. He's had a little trouble with his curveball here and there, but some games it's been a plus major league curveball. Being able to repeat his delivery, once he's able to do that it's really going to help his curveball and changeup.

PinstripesPlus.com: Sean Black dominated the New York Penn League last year and his numbers have done a complete about-face even though this isn't a huge step up in competition. What's going wrong with him in the early going this season?

Ware: Well I don't know that anything is going wrong with him right now. He's going through some minor mechanical adjustments right now that he really didn't have to do until late in Staten Island last year so he's getting used to having to repeat that delivery. We're getting him a little bit quicker to home plate, which he's having a little bit of trouble getting his hand up back-side so he can be able to throw the ball downhill. Too many mistakes have been belt-high over the plate. Once he continues to work on his delivery and starts repeating like he's supposed to be repeating it, he's going to be great. I mean, he's got three quality pitches. He's got a changeup that has good depth, some bottom to it. It's a swing-and-miss changeup. He's got a two-seam, a four-seam, and he's got a good curveball. He's got three if not four quality pitches if you count his fastball twice. Right now it's repeating his delivery, finding his consistent release point, and just throwing strikes down in the zone rather than the thigh to belt-high area. I'm not worried about him at all. He's a great kid, a great worker, he's mentally tough, he competes - he has all of these intangibles and that's one thing he has going for him. He's going to be fine. He's going to be able to repeat his delivery. It's just a matter of time before he works out these little kinks to help him move along.

PinstripesPlus.com: Is Shaeffer Hall your biggest surprise this year?

Ware: He's another guy I didn't get to see at all last year. I didn't see him until Spring Training. He doesn't have that big-time major league fastball, but what he does have is command of all three pitches. He can use his fastball to both sides of the plate and down in the zone, and he can locate. He can throw his curveball wherever he wants and he can throw his changeup whenever he wants. When you do those things, locate all three pitches, you're going to have a lot of success an that's what he's doing. And that's what he has to do because he knows he doesn't have that plus major league fastball. It's not a surprise because I saw it in Spring Training that he was able to do those things. Anytime you have three major league pitches and you can throw them for strikes, you're going to have a lot of success in the South Atlantic League.

PinstripesPlus.com: Well a guy who does throw hard is Ryan Flannery. We all know about the fastball. How are the development of his slider and splitter coming along?

Ware: That's the biggest thing we've been working on with him, finding his secondary pitches. He had a ton of success last year in Staten Island using primarily his fastball. He has a big, hard, heavy sinker. He really gets it in on right-handers, breaks a lot of bats. He doesn't get a lot of hard contact with his fastball. But in order for him to move up and have a lot of success at the higher levels, he has to be able to use his slider and to use that split to lefties. [Friday] night he showed that. He threw two innings, threw five or six sliders, three or four of them were big-time quality sliders, and that's what we've been on him to do - keep using the slider and develop that pitch. He knows he can win with his fastball, but to win at the higher levels he has to develop the slider and the split. He's another hard worker we have. We've been working [on the secondary pitches] for a short time and he's already showing signs of big-time improvement.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Obviously the numbers for Graham Stoneburner this season have been tremendous. Rather than focus on the positives though, what does he have to work on right now?
\r\n
\r\nJeff Ware: Wow, that's tough to say right now because he's been so solid for us, especially these last few outings. Just repeating his delivery is the one thing. He has a good delivery, but just repeating it and tightening up the slider is probably the main issue. He has a good changeup. He has good arm speed with it, he gets some fade and a lot of deception with it, so he gets a lot of swings-and-misses [with it]. He's got a lot of sink with his fastball with his two-seamer and he can locate his four-seamer to the glove side. He's going really well right now. We're just kind of fine-tuning some things right now with his delivery, but he's been very solid.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: In your opinion is the changeup farther along than the slider?
\r\n
\r\nWare: This is the first year I've seen him. When I saw him in Spring Training, his slider was probably ahead. We've tightened that up some. It's gotten another one, two, or three mph harder. It's shorter and it's got some better late tilt to it at the end, but we're still fine-tuning that. I'm surprised that a guy who can throw in the low-to-mid-90's can have a quality changeup like that. I think that's been a big part of his arsenal out on the mound, being able to throw strikes with all three pitches.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: I know it's not your job or even your call, but do you think he's ready to move up at some point soon?
\r\n
\r\nWare: I can't say that, obviously, but he's certainly proven that he's able to move up. He's dominated his last several outings. When a guy's going that and he's throwing low-to-mid-90's, you certainly hope that it's time for him to move up. He's shown that he can repeat his delivery, he's shown that he can locate and command the pitches throughout the game, and he's improved with all three pitches. It's not my decision if he's going to be moved up, but certainly I could see him pitching at a higher level right now.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Jose Ramirez gave up the one relatively big inning the other night, but otherwise he's been pitching extremely well this season. Have you see his breaking ball become a more consistent pitch for him this year?
\r\n
\r\nWare: It has. During Spring Training he only showed it here and there. Over his last couple of starts he's probably throwing anywhere from 15-20 breaking balls per game and a good handful, probably more than half, are quality pitches. It's not a true curveball and it's not a true slider so we call it a breaking ball. It's hard, it's got some late tilt to it, when he throws it right. But just getting his hand on the balls and staying behind it, and keeping his fingers on top and out in front of that breaking ball, on a consistent basis, that's really going to boost him. He's got a plus changeup already that he loves to use and it's been very effective for him. With him also throwing low-to-mid-90's with a lot of movement with his fastball, [the breaking ball] will really help him move through the organization.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Is he repeating his delivery?
\r\n
\r\nWare: That is his biggest issue right now. He wants to get a little bit side to side with his shoulders. When we get him to consistently work downhill and keeping that front-side closed, working downhill and getting that four-seamer to his glove side, that's when he's going to start being really effective.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: The numbers for Kelvin Perez have been outstanding this year. Which secondary pitch has been the better offering this season?
\r\n
\r\nWare: On a couple of occasions it's been his curveball, on a couple of occasions it's been his changeup, and [other times] it's the command of his fastball. When he starts putting all three of them together is when he's very, very nasty out there on the mound. He's got three quality pitches that he can throw for strikes and we've just got to get him to get all three going at the same time on a regular basis. He's had a little trouble with his curveball here and there, but some games it's been a plus major league curveball. Being able to repeat his delivery, once he's able to do that it's really going to help his curveball and changeup.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Sean Black dominated the New York Penn League last year and his numbers have done a complete about-face even though this isn't a huge step up in competition. What's going wrong with him in the early going this season?
\r\n
\r\nWare: Well I don't know that anything is going wrong with him right now. He's going through some minor mechanical adjustments right now that he really didn't have to do until late in Staten Island last year so he's getting used to having to repeat that delivery. We're getting him a little bit quicker to home plate, which he's having a little bit of trouble getting his hand up back-side so he can be able to throw the ball downhill. Too many mistakes have been belt-high over the plate. Once he continues to work on his delivery and starts repeating like he's supposed to be repeating it, he's going to be great. I mean, he's got three quality pitches. He's got a changeup that has good depth, some bottom to it. It's a swing-and-miss changeup. He's got a two-seam, a four-seam, and he's got a good curveball. He's got three if not four quality pitches if you count his fastball twice. Right now it's repeating his delivery, finding his consistent release point, and just throwing strikes down in the zone rather than the thigh to belt-high area. I'm not worried about him at all. He's a great kid, a great worker, he's mentally tough, he competes - he has all of these intangibles and that's one thing he has going for him. He's going to be fine. He's going to be able to repeat his delivery. It's just a matter of time before he works out these little kinks to help him move along.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Is Shaeffer Hall your biggest surprise this year?
\r\n
\r\nWare: He's another guy I didn't get to see at all last year. I didn't see him until Spring Training. He doesn't have that big-time major league fastball, but what he does have is command of all three pitches. He can use his fastball to both sides of the plate and down in the zone, and he can locate. He can throw his curveball wherever he wants and he can throw his changeup whenever he wants. When you do those things, locate all three pitches, you're going to have a lot of success an that's what he's doing. And that's what he has to do because he knows he doesn't have that plus major league fastball. It's not a surprise because I saw it in Spring Training that he was able to do those things. Anytime you have three major league pitches and you can throw them for strikes, you're going to have a lot of success in the South Atlantic League.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Well a guy who does throw hard is Ryan Flannery. We all know about the fastball. How are the development of his slider and splitter coming along?
\r\n
\r\nWare: That's the biggest thing we've been working on with him, finding his secondary pitches. He had a ton of success last year in Staten Island using primarily his fastball. He has a big, hard, heavy sinker. He really gets it in on right-handers, breaks a lot of bats. He doesn't get a lot of hard contact with his fastball. But in order for him to move up and have a lot of success at the higher levels, he has to be able to use his slider and to use that split to lefties. [Friday] night he showed that. He threw two innings, threw five or six sliders, three or four of them were big-time quality sliders, and that's what we've been on him to do - keep using the slider and develop that pitch. He knows he can win with his fastball, but to win at the higher levels he has to develop the slider and the split. He's another hard worker we have. We've been working [on the secondary pitches] for a short time and he's already showing signs of big-time improvement.
\r\n
\r\n

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

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