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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 10)

Hello again! First off, let me apologize for the delay in posting this week. It’s been a pretty hectic schedule since we got our season started, most of which has been caused by weather. On Thursday, we opened up at home vs. Springfield (St. Louis’ AA) and got off to a good start, winning 7-1.

On Friday, a cold front started moving through town (yes, in Texas), dropping the high temperature for the day into the low 50’s. Along with the cold temps came a 25-30 mph north wind. At game time, wind chills were in the high 20’s, and by the end of the game, it was sleeting and the wind chill had dropped to single digits. Our bats were cold most of the game, as we trailed 3-0 going to the bottom of the 9th. But Brian Snyder hit a 3-run homer to tie the game, and we added another run in the 10th to take home the victory.

That night, the wintry mix of weather moved on into town, and our game Saturday was snowed out. On Sunday, Arkansas (Angels’ AA) came to Midland to start a 3-game series, but there was still too much ice and snow on the field to play. So we scheduled a double-header for Monday evening. (As a side note, all minor-league double-headers are scheduled as two 7-inning games.)

On Monday, we started out in a little bit of a hole, but rallied to take a 6-5 lead on the strength of a 3-run double by Danny Putnam. After Arkansas tied the game, we went on to play 12 innings. We won the game on a walk-off homer by third baseman Jeff Baisley, his 2nd homer of the game. I pitched the 12th inning, so I was able to get my first win since converting to relief pitcher. In the top of the 12th, Baisley and shortstop Gregorio Petit made back-to-back TREMENDOUS plays on grounders. Those are a lot of fun to watch when you’re standing on the mound...

After the game, a thunderstorm moved in and washed out the 2nd game, so a double-header was scheduled for Tuesday. We got beat up a little bit in the first one, losing 9-1, but we came back in game two and got another walk-off win on a double by Eddie Cornejo in the bottom of the 7th.

Then we loaded up the bus and took off for Springfield, MO, leaving at around 10:15 PM. We got into Springfield around 10:30 AM, and we have a day off today.

Rockhounds record: 4-1
My updated season stat line: 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 K, 0 BB

<ins>Q & A:</ins>

Do you have any superstitions before a game? -- gotgreen

I really don’t. I have a routine that I go through, but it’s not disruptive to me when it’s interrupted. And sometimes, I have to take time out to play some ping pong or card games in the clubhouse. In college, I wore eye black for every game I pitched, and that’s something I’d like to bring back at some point after I’ve established myself in the big leagues. :-)

What is your typical day like during spring training, and how does that change once the regular season begins? -- gojohn10

In spring training, we have a lot of early-morning meetings. Often, we’ll have a meeting at 8 AM and be out on the field stretching at 9. We’ll do our conditioning right after our stretch, then begin our throwing program. At that point, we’ll break up into 12-minute stations where we work on a variety of things, including team defense (bunts, rundowns, pickoffs, etc) and pitchers’ fielding practice (aka PFP). Then we’ll go shag in the outfield while the hitters take batting practice, usually wrapping up around noon for a home game (a little earlier for road games). After eating a sack lunch, we’ll play a regular game at 1 PM. There are changes to that sometimes, but that’s a very standard day in minor league camp.

In the regular season (for a night game at home), pitchers are usually on the field stretching around 2:15. After running and throwing (bullpen sessions also), we start shagging for team BP around 3:30. We’ll hang out in the clubhouse after BP (while the other team is hitting), and then get ready to go. In Midland, early in the year, the night games are at 6:30 PM (a little earlier start than it will be later in the summer – most likely to allow kids who are still in school to make it out to the games and still get to bed at a decent hour).

2 questions from Henduland in Texas...

How much do you change your approach based on the hitter? Do you have a scouting report for each individual?

Everything we do is based on each individual hitter and the game situation. We try to pick up as many tendencies on each hitter as possible so we can try to keep them off-balance and uncomfortable at the plate. We do have scouting reports, but early in the year, they’re very limited. They get much more in-depth as the season goes on. There are many guys we’ve faced in the past, but a lot of times they’ve fixed their weaknesses from previous years, so we have to adjust our approach.

How big of a role does the catcher play for you? Do you work better with some than others?

Catchers play a huge part, especially for a reliever. It’s sometimes hard to tell from the bullpen what pitches and locations their hitters were seeing early in the game. So we come into the game and rely heavily on the catcher to help mix up the sequences. It’s always more comfortable to work with a catcher the more you get to throw to them, but I’ve never had any trouble getting in-sync with any of the catchers in the A’s system. They’re all very intelligent, and they do a great job of remembering our pitchers’ strengths and gameplans.

A series of questions from HollywoodOz...

Which team do you root for (other than the A's)?

Living just outside of KC, I grew up rooting for the Royals. After Pujols was drafted by the Cards, I started following them more closely (my dad had grown up a Cardinals’ fan, too). But I followed the A’s before they ever drafted me, because Tim Hudson has been my favorite pitcher since he reached the big leagues.

If you weren't a ballplayer, what would you do for work?

If I had never gotten into pro ball, I’d probably be teaching high school math and coaching HS baseball. However, the more I’ve been around pro ball, the more I would like to eventually either be a coach, an advanced scout, or get some sort of job in a big league front office.

Do the A's put you through any courses or programs to prepare you, as you roll through the system, for things like the media spotlight, dealing with nasty fans, handling money - that kind of thing? Basically, do they teach you the Bull Durham cliches?

I went through a one-hour session like that in my first spring training with the Phillies. But since I already had pro playing time when I joined the A’s, I haven’t done anything like that with them. I’m not sure what they offer to the draft picks and other first-year players. But I know if we have any issues or questions, they have a variety of people in place to help us handle our situations and lead us down the right path.

I know in the lower levels of the A's minor league system, pitchers only take batting practice when they get a shutout the day before. But as you get closer to the majors, do the A's begin to put work into your batting - you know, so you're not looking all Zito in a World Series or inter-league game?

No, we don’t do any hitting preparation for inter-league play. I have been on teams that have taken pitchers’ BP when a shutout is thrown, but even that starts tapering at the higher levels. I’m not sure how that will be handled this season, but I do know on warm days in Midland, the ball carries very well to left field. :-)

When pitchers take BP, how do you fare? And which other pitchers hit hardest, and suck most?

I’m not going to claim to be the best-hitting pitcher, but I wouldn’t say I’m the worst, either. I’m just somewhere in the middle. Connor Robertson is the best BP hitter of all the pitchers I’ve played with in the A’s system. He’s not afraid to put some balls well over the fence.

Thanks again for the great response to this journal. Hopefully our schedule this coming week will allow me to post on Monday or soon after. Enjoy the week, and keep the questions coming!