Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 14)

WOW! Amazingly-busy week for the Rockhounds!

What an unbelievable 2-game stretch our team had over the weekend. Saturday night, we were down 8-1 to San Antonio after the 3rd inning. It was still 8-1 going to the bottom of the 8th, but we scored 4 runs in the 8th and 4 more in the 9th to win the game. Then Sunday (against Frisco), we were trailing 8-1 AGAIN, this time going to the bottom of the 7th. But we rattled off 7 runs that inning and scored the go-ahead run in the 8th to win 9-8, again. Two nights in a row, overcoming 7-run deficits late in the game...absolutely INCREDIBLE!

I don’t know the stats, but I’d venture to guess that we’re close to .500, if not better, when trailing after 7 innings. We have a team that never gives up – lots of character – and it’s bringing us a lot of success so far early this season!

Also, on Tuesday, we had a long, memorable day. Monday night in Frisco, a bad rainstorm came through the Dallas area. Apparently, the Frisco grounds crew had not put the tarp on the night before, so the field was absolutely soaked. So, in an effort to get the game in, the grounds crew spent all day ripping out about 4"-6" of mud from the third base line over to approximately where the 2nd baseman would play. They were going to attempt to bring in new (dry) dirt from somewhere else, but the process was just too time-consuming. About an hour before game time, they realized the field would be unplayable, and we packed our stuff up and headed for Midland. At around 11 PM, we were driving on a Texas interstate when a pickup truck driving the opposite direction crossed over the grassy median onto our side of the highway. Our bus driver, Eddie, did a superb job of avoiding a catastrophe. He slammed on the breaks and jerked the bus to the left. At the same time, the pickup’s driver jerked his wheel to the left, sending him into a spin. The trucked glanced off the side of the bus, and we ended up stopped in the median. Then, after about 30 seconds, the pickup driver just drove off in the direction we had been traveling. For some reason, it appeared he didn’t want to stick around and wait for the police to show up. Thankfully, no one on our end was hurt, and after a couple hours of waiting for the police report to be finished and the tow truck to wedge us out of the muddy median, we were back on the road.

We have 2 more games left on our 8-game homestand, both against 2nd-place Frisco. Then we travel to Corpus Christi for a 4-game series.



Since the last GZWI...
Rockhounds record: 5-2
My stat line: 1-0, 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K, 1 BB

UPDATED SEASON STATS (after game on Monday, May 14)...
Rockhounds record: 24-10 (in 1st place by 3.5 games)
My stats: 3-0, 1 SV, 1.42 ERA, 19.0 IP, 18 H, 13 K, 3 BB


Q&A:

A series of 8 questions from niallmack...

#1 What are some of your favorite baseball quotes that you hear all the time?

Pretty much anything Yogi Berra said... :-)



#2 How does a good pitching coach help the team?

Lots of ways...for one thing, a good PC can spot mechanical issues in a pitcher’s delivery, and give him ideas on how to make in-game adjustments or do some drills to correct problems in between outings. Also, he can help instill a good idea of how to attack certain hitters, give us quality pitch sequences to use, and ensure that we’re under control mentally all throughout the year. Furthermore, one of the toughest things is probably keeping everyone in the bullpen sharp while keeping them content with their amount of playing time. You’d like to go to the hot hand, but can’t wear him out (especially in the minors). And you can’t neglect guys, just because they struggled in their last outing. Scott "Emo" Emerson, our pitching coach here in Midland, does a great job with ALL of this stuff. He’s also good at keeping the mood light, so we’re having fun all of the time, too.



#3 What does a good training staff do to keep the team healthy and effective?

The biggest thing a trainer can do is to be available when a player needs some treatment, and the A’s trainers always are. They give us a quality stretching program to prepare us for each day’s workout, and they provide us with a strength and conditioning plan to keep us in shape during the season, as well as during the off-season. Plus, the player needs to be smart about things he does, such as workouts, eating, etc.



#4 How do you prepare mentally for an appearance, and how much does that make a difference for you and your teammates during a game?

I would venture to say that if you’re not mentally sharp as a pitcher, you will struggle in your outings 99% of the time. There’s such a fine line between a great pitch and a mistake pitch, and if you’re not on your game, especially as you get to the higher levels, you’ll be punished for it. The biggest key to being mentally prepared is just paying attention to the game...knowing the game situation, what hitters are coming up while you’re warming up, and what you need to do to best help your team. The hardest part is being ready every single time the phone rings in the pen, because you never know who they’re going to want to go in the game.



#5 What differences have you seen between different fan bases? Do you see major differences between minor league fans and major league fans? Are there really better fans of one team than another?

The fans here in Midland, while sometimes sparse, are very supportive and fun to play in front of. And the fans in Sacramento and Stockton are great fans, as well!

There are HUGE differences, even within our own league. A lot of fans can be passionate about their teams, but there are certain areas of the country when fans, as a whole, seem to have a better knowledge of the inner-workings of the game. For instance, I mentioned last week that Corpus Christi had great fans. They’re smart, they’re vocal, and they’re just good baseball fans. I threw a game there last year where I came out of the game after 7+ shutout innings, and some of their fans gave me a standing ovation. But the moment I was in the dugout, it was back to heckling the new reliever. St. Louis is that way in the major leagues. Just a really fun atmosphere.

I think the biggest difference between major league and minor league fans is the level of contact with the players. Minor league fans are down on the field every half-inning for a promotion of some kind, and they’re always talking to the players before and after the game. The security at major league games is much tighter, and I think that leads to a slightly greater separation.



#6 Is momentum really a factor in a game? Do you pitch differently in a blowout vs. a tight game? Are there times that you pitch differently according to the situation, and why would you do so?

I think our games over the weekend were a good indication that momentum can be HUGE in baseball. We got down early, and for awhile, we couldn’t get anything going. But the moment we did, the other team seemed to tense up, we got confidence, and our hitters reeled off monster innings to get big come-from-behind wins.

One thing I will say about those 2 nights...walks played a HUGE part in both comebacks. On Saturday, there were something like 5 walks in the last 2 innings. And Sunday, after hitting the first batter of the inning, the Frisco starter walked the next 2 guys before they took him out and we put a run together against the bullpen.

That said, you do have to pitch differently. Sometimes when you have a big lead, you need to give in and throw a pitch down the middle, just to keep from walking a guy...and hope he still makes an out. And there are times when you need a strikeout or need a groundball for a chance at a double play, so those situations affect the pitches you throw, as well.



#7 Do you believe that a coach gets better with more experience? Have you seen somebody who has gotten better through experience?

Yes. I think everyone gets better with experience, no matter what you’re doing. Todd "Trick" Steverson, our manager here in Midland, is an even better manager now than in 2005 (and he wasn’t bad then). But you can see he’s developed, and he’s got a better understanding of his players and does a great job of handling the team.



#8 Have you ever played on a recreational team (adult league baseball) when there was no other team to play for to stay in shape?

No. I don’t play on a team in the off-season because of the chance of injury. I do my own workouts, and will occasionally pitch against the hitters at Missouri State (my alma mater) prior to spring training.



5 questions from Jay...

#1) Who do you think has the most talent/tools among your current (or past) teammates? That is, which guys would get an old-school scout's heart beating a little faster?

Sticking with guys that have been here just since I’ve been with the A’s, probably Buck. He’s big, strong, fast, he’s a great hitter, and he’s good in the outfield. A close 2nd would be Nelson Cruz (big leagues with Rangers). Tools-wise, he’s pretty special. If he puts it together, he’s a scout’s dream.



#2) If you had to bet on one current (or past) teammate becoming an impact major leaguer, who would you take?

Ryan Howard. :-) Is that fair? If you’re talking with Oakland, I would’ve said Putnam, Buck, or Kurt Suzuki. They’ve hit at every level, and they all have great mental make-up.



#3) If you could add one pitch to your repertoire, what would it be? (Other than a 100 mph heater...)

A 99 mph heater.



#4) What would be tougher, starting Game 7 of the World Series or closing it out?

I have no idea. I’ll let you know when I get there... :-)



#5) Any thoughts on Daisuke Matsuzaka? Does the gyroball exist?

He seems to be a pretty good major league pitcher. And, sure, the gyroball exists. I don’t know what it is, but he can call it whatever he wants. :-)



Enjoy your week! Next week’s post may be on Tuesday, also, just because of our travel schedule. I’m trying to get to all the questions from past weeks...just might shorten the answers a little to get to more of them.

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