AAA Champions! It has a nice ring to it. Even though I don’t believe you can determine a champion in baseball by a 1-game playoff, the t-shirts we got after winning the Bricktown Showdown said "AAA Champions" on it, so it must be true! :-)
The Showdown was a lot of fun. We jumped out to a big early lead, then cruised to a 7-1 win over Richmond. Game MVP (and team captain) Lou Merloni had 2 hits and 4 RBI to lead our offense. He had a 3-run homer, which started the scoring in the 3rd inning, and Brant Colamarino followed shortly after with a 2-run homer to give us the big cushion. Shane Komine left the game in the 2nd with a little shoulder stiffness, and Kaz Tadano came in and gave us 4.1 outstanding innings of relief to pick up the win. Julio Manon and Ron Flores closed it out the rest of the way to end the year on a great note.
Lots of questions to get to, so answers will be short – I want to try to get to all of them that I haven’t answered so far...
FINAL PLAYOFF STATS...
River Cats record: 6-2 (now 9-0 all-time in the PCL championship series)
My stat line: 5 G, 1-1, 2 SV, 2.45 ERA, 7.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 K, 2 BB
FINAL REGULAR SEASON STATS...
River Cats record: 84-60 (PCL Pacific Southern Division Champions)
All-level Cumulative: 12-3, 2 SV, 2.41 ERA, 78.1 IP, 26 R, 21 ER, 65 H, 62 K, 18 BB
AAA stats: 8-3, 2.96 ERA, 54.2 IP, 20 R, 18 ER, 46 H, 44 K, 14 BB
AA stats: 4-0, 1 SV, 1.14 ERA, 23.2 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 19 H, 18 K, 4 BB
Whose idea was it for you to become a submariner? Did you take to the idea right away, or did you have doubts? What was your major in college? Have you thought about what you plan to do after retirement? Have you picked out a name for your daughter? -- ozzman99
The A’s came to me about it at the end of last season. I had doubts at first, but they assured me they’d give me a legit chance for this to work, and I could always go back to the overhand at any point if it wasn’t working. I worked on it all off-season, then tweaked it again right at the end of spring training. By June, it was starting to get comfortable, and at the end of the year, I felt great.
My college degree is in mathematics. After retiring from playing, I’d love to get into front office work in baseball, or maybe coaching somewhere.
Our daughter’s name is going to be Kaylin. :-)
How big of a deal is the September call-up for the AAA team? I guess you haven't gone through it before but does it seem like the organization tries to set up the Rivercats for a championship, or is it mostly trying to make the big league team as good as it can be? It seems like it could really shake up the roster. Also did you ever have a chance to meet Chad Bradford? His delivery seems like the extreme of the sidearmer style you've taken up. Your numbers look pretty good with over 3 to 1 K/BB and less than one hit per inning, I'm sure we'll be seeing you up in Oakland. Do you imagine yourself against guys like Vlad Guerrero? I'd guess the biggest nightmare for you would be an endless lineup of lefties like Hafner, Ortiz, and Bonds. -- niallmack
I think the A’s will call up any players they feel are ready when they have the roster room. They’ll let the AAA team worry about itself, for the most part, which we were able to do this year because of an outstanding coaching staff and a great core of veteran players leading the way.
I did meet Chad. He rehabbed with us in Stockton in ’05 when he was coming off a back injury.
I imagine facing guys like Vlad often, but I figure when it’s on the line, and it’s playoff time, it’s more likely that I’ll be facing A-Rod, Jeter, or Manny. Would love every minute of that challenge. And I’m not scared of any lefty. I retired something like 16 of the last 17 lefties I faced this year (the 1 that reached was on a walk), and I felt way more comfortable against them in August and September than I did in June.
Suppose your daughter wasn't due on October 27th, 2007 ... but, rather, October 27th, 2009, when you are a key setup guy in the 'pen of an Athletics team on it's way to its 11th World Series championship. That would likely be game 3. How would you deal with it? -- devo
As long as the doctor says it’s okay, induce labor on the travel day :-)
Because of the nature of not only maturing as a pitcher, but the changes you've chosen to attempt (i.e. throwing from various arm slots as a starter...and then switching to a submariner full-time), how difficult is it to remember from outing to outing, or month to month, or year to year, how to throw? I'm talking about the subtle things...grip, posture, arm slot, follow-thru, picking up the target, etc. Pitching reminds me a little of a golf swing and I marvel at the consistency it takes, especially of the guys who do it best. For young pitchers, would you recommend keeping notes?
Definitely. Keeping notes is one of the most important things to help me remember what I need to do to be successful. Especially when I’m struggling with a certain aspect...once I figure it out, I go write it down in case I ever run into the same problem again sometime down the road. And as far as the "subtle things" you mentioned, the most important thing is repetition. The more you do it, the easier it is to repeat it without having to think about every little step. That’s why pro golfers hit thousands of balls each day...they can focus on little things then, because the big things happen without thinking.
How about walking us through your outing in game 4 with SLC in the playoffs? I would love to hear what you were thinking and feeling as you entered the game. How nervous were you, especially during the ninth? -- alox
I wasn’t nervous at any point. Lots of adrenaline, and lots of excitement, but no nervousness. I wanted to be aggressive, but I didn’t want to get beat by a mental mistake. I was doing everything I could to keep the ball down and get the Bees’ hitters to hit grounders. The crowd was electric that night, and it really fired up our whole team. When Danny hit the homer, the excitement couldn’t be contained. No idea what I looked like jumping around, but didn’t care one bit. Incredible feeling that I haven’t felt at any other point in my pro career.
If you were given the choice to join the big league team while the Rivercats are in the playoffs while the A's are trying to stay out of last place in their division, would you choose to join the A's immediately or stick with the Rivercats until the postseason is over? and why? :) -- gotgreen
I'm curious though about how you guys feel about losing Barton and Blevins to the big league club after they had such an impact in AAA, especially during the playoffs? On the one hand, you have to be happy for these guys getting their shot in the majors, but isn't it difficult to lose a couple of your big weapons just as you're trying to win it all? -- LoveDemAs
For the record, it’s never a choice. But if I had a choice, I’d go to the big leagues. That’s the ultimate goal. You never know what next year will bring, and while you hope it’s not your only chance, you don’t want to miss out on fulfilling a lifelong dream. Minor league playoffs are nice, but it’s still the minor leagues.
Losing Barton and Blevins was big, because they were integral parts of our success. But they both deserve the opportunity they’re getting, and we had players step up and take their place more than adequately. That’s one thing this team did all year. We had nearly 200 transactions (I’d guess average for a season is 60-80?), and we won the league. That success comes from a lot of unselfishness and guys just understanding and executing what they need to do to help our team win night in and night out.
Looking back, now that the season is over, was the transition to submarine worth it? Did you do better than you would have if you still threw over the top, or did this new style of pitching improve your game enough to stay with it, and perfect it? Will the change make you a Major League pitcher? -- Zonis
At this point, it definitely feels worth it. I’d like to think I’d have still had success overhand, but I can’t for sure answer that either way. Statistically, it was my best season by far, especially in the categories the A’s told me to focus on. I hope I can keep progressing to the point that I become a big league pitcher. I feel like I can pitch at that level, and I hope I get the shot soon.
If I missed a question at any point during the season, I’m sorry. It was totally unintentional, because I tried hard to get to every one.
This will probably be my last GZWI, unless I re-sign with Oakland. I don’t think it’d be right to be regularly posting on a fan website for a team I don’t play for. Plus, my wife and I are expecting our baby girl in less than a month, and I want to spend as much time preparing for that as I can. Whenever I sign a contract, whether it’s with Oakland or someone else, I’ll find a way to let everyone know – probably through Blez. I’ll try to get pictures of our baby girl for everyone to see, too. But if I do sign with someone else, let me say that this has been a great experience for me. I’ve loved the questions, getting to meet ANers at games, and getting fans’ perspectives on various aspects of pro ball. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed posting. Even if I’m with another team, please feel free to say "hi" to me at games (preferably before the game starts). See ya at the ballpark!