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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 15)

Hey, everyone! Sorry I didn’t post yesterday, but I got to do something no Rockhound had done in 32 days...I enjoyed a day off! After a grueling stretch, we finally had a day without a game, and I took advantage with a solid day of fun mixed with relaxation. Even got to take in a little league baseball game last night! Hopefully the team will feel rejuvenated from the day of rest, and we can go on another big run to get ourselves a little cushion at the top of the division.

On a side note, I go back and check the past journal entries at least once a week to check for new comments that someone might have left. So if you’ve missed out on some of the older columns, here’s a link to the entire Gettin’ Ziggy With It collection.

As far as the last week goes, we alternated losses and wins everyday, not counting a game suspended by rain in Midland on Wednesday. In that game, we were tied at 1 with Frisco with 1 out in the top of the 5th when we were delayed over an hour by rain. The lengthy delay made Luis Ramirez, our starting pitcher, unable to continue. So I was summoned from the pen when the game resumed with a runner on 1st and rain still coming down. The first hitter grounded into a fielder’s choice, and the second struck out to end the inning. After we failed to score in the bottom of the 5th, I went back out to warm up in the 6th, but the umpires decided the field was getting unplayable, and they suspended the game at that point until sometime in June. The stats from that game will not be counted in the official stats until the game is completed.

The next night, in Corpus Christi, we got a great start from Ben Fritz – 6 scoreless innings. It was still a 0-0 game when I was called from the pen and had a 1-2-3 7th inning. In the top of the 8th, Gregorio Petit hit a 2-out, 2-run homer to give us a lead. I threw a 3-up-3-down 8th, and then gave way to closer Steve Sharpe who sealed the 2-0 victory for his 7th save. Teammates were quick to give me a hard time after the game about having 4 wins already this year, which is approaching what I had at the all-star break last year AS A STARTER!

Two nights later, a similar situation arose. We were in a 2-2 game, and Mike Madsen had pitched well for 6 innings. I was told to get loose, and that I would be going into the game in the 7th inning. Well, we promptly scored 6 runs in the top of the 7th, causing 2 pitching changes by the Hooks, making my warm-up time seem like an hour. I went in and had a good 7th inning. Then with 1 out in the 8th, I walked a guy. After getting a strikeout, I gave up a double down the 3rd base line just out-of-reach of Jeff Baisley. But our defense was positioned well for the next hitter, and a bloop to right was caught by RF Myron Leslie to end the inning, and we went on to win, 8-3.

This week, we have a 6-game homestand against two teams in the Northern Division: Tulsa and Wichita. Then we travel to their home fields for a 6-game road trip next week.

Since the last GZWI...
Rockhounds record: 2-3 (one suspended game)
My stat line: 2 G, 1-0, 4.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K, 1 BB (not counting the suspended game)

UPDATED SEASON STATS (after game on Monday, May 14)...
Rockhounds record: 26-13 (in 1st place -- 1.5 games ahead of Frisco)
My stats: 4-0, 1 SV, 1.17 ERA, 23.0 IP, 19 H, 17 K, 4 BB


*I was wondering how much players keep up with things like trade rumors and rule 5 drafts and such. I, for one, certainly don't know all the ins-and-outs of the rule 5, but do players know it and look forward to it? Or is it more of their agents let them know about it when it seems likely? Also, players obviously don't have a lot of control on if they are traded and such, but do teams tend to give them a warning that they may be shopping them? -- SuperBean

I would say, for the most part, players are very knowledgeable about what’s going on in the system. As far as trade rumors go, most of the time, rumors about minor leaguers don’t exist. We might hear a rumor that the A’s are looking to acquire someone, but we never know what minor leaguers are being offered. At the same time, similar to when we acquire a Jack Cust or Ryan Langerhans for "a player to be named later." That’s usually a minor league guy, and everyone is wondering who will get sent off to the other team later in the year. We just never know, and they don’t give players any kind of notice until the trade is complete.

The Rule V draft is something that’s on a lot of players’ minds, especially this year. The A’s have lots of good players who are in their "protection year" this year – the first year they’re eligible to be selected in the Rule V. So the front office has some decisions to make about who goes on the 40-man roster in the off-season. Guys are very in-tune with this, and pay a lot of attention when the winter meetings roll around. It was weird last year to see Jared Burton get taken by the Reds, after he’d been my teammate and friend for 2 and 1/2 seasons. I hope things are working out for him, but that was the first time I’d had really any personal contact with the Rule V. This off-season will be very interesting from our perspective.

*What's the mood like in the Midland bullpen? Are you guys pretty intent on the game, or is there a lot of crowd-watching/horsing around as a lot of movies and books portray it? What do you guys talk about? Also, how do you react on the mound after a big strike-out? -- nickolai

I would say, for the most part, guys are pretty intent on the game. We’re keeping a chart in the pen that gives us an idea of our starter’s pitch count, as well as how certain hitters have done in the game so far. We also do a lot of communicating, especially when someone is warming up, about how to pitch the hitters that are coming up. We do have a lot of fun, as you have to to help stave off boredom when our pitcher is dealing. It’s a loose, enjoyable group, but also very focused on what we’re there to do.

After a big K (or better yet, a inning-ending double play with the tying run on 3rd), I’ve been known to give a fist pump walking off the mound. I’m not very animated on the mound, though.

There is one player in particular I've followed for 5 years. I look forward to each season in hopes his hard work will finally pay off. He did get a Sept call up in 2004, and I know he's aching to get back. He declared FA in Oct and was never signed. Now he's working out with his HS team, hoping to still get signed this season. With this in mind, I have several questions about what the process is when this happens. -- kapers (questions follow)

*How hard does an agent work to find a team when the payoff may not be that much?

For starters, agents don’t make money from a minor leaguer’s salary. They get a portion of a first-year player's signing bonus, and they start getting their commission from a big league contract. So their job is to try to help their player get in a system and a situation that will benefit him, and hopefully it will pay off with a big league call-up. My agent works very hard for me year-round. I don’t have any experience with other agents, but I’ve never had trouble getting a contract to this point.

Do teams know he's out there?


*Do you try out for the minor league club or the major league club?

That’s a possibility, especially if he’s not playing in an independent league somewhere.

*How long would he wait before it's obvious it won't happen this season, and what are the odds he'd have a chance to sign next season if no one wants him now?

I honestly have no idea on either one. I know it’s possible to get signed after taking a year off, but I don’t know the likelihood.

*Wouldn't he need extended spring training or something before joining a club?

Very likely, but that depends on how bad the team that signs him needs him right away, and what type of shape he’s in when he signs.

*If he's going to go [to an independent league team], doesn't he need to make a decision soon?

From my experience, once the season starts, it’s a lot harder to get signed if you’re not playing somewhere.

*When your team is down in the game, say 7 - 0 and you are called in to pitch the "last inning"... what type of mind-set do you have to go to before pitching? I mean, you probably know that the game is "done"... yet you need to come in and still "shut down" the last of the batters. Any insight you could share on that? -- Yas822

The biggest thing for me is that I know at any point, one bad outing could put a damper on what’s been a good year so far. I don’t want to give the other team any edge on me. I want them to be nervous when they see me in the pen, no matter what the situation of the game is. I don’t know if that ever happens, but it’s fun to think about. :-)

From a coach’s standpoint, I would think that if a guy could come into a situation like that and pitch well, that shows a good amount of focus, and I’d be more tempted to put that guy into tighter situations, too. It’s a lot easier to pitch when the game’s on the line, because the concentration level is naturally high. But there’s something to be said for a guy who can come in and get his team some good quality innings to save the rest of the bullpen when the starter was knocked out early.

*As a former college player, during BP, I'd always see our pitchers shagging balls in the outfield. Usually, to make things interesting, they play a game where if they catch it in the air, it's like 3 points, if they catch it on one hop it's 2 points, and on two hops it's one point. I was just curious as to if you play any games like that at all? Also, are you familiar with the games "flip" and/or "2-ball"? These were common games among our team. Do players in the minors know of these games? Just a little curious as to if there were any baseball related games that you guys play on the field... -- ChavyFan03

In college, these games were very common. Not so much the shagging game, but Flip, 2-ball, and Speed-ball were played often at Southwest Missouri State. The problem with the shagging games is the risk of injury with multiple guys racing after balls, and that’s often highly-discouraged by the coaches. However, we don’t play any of these in pro ball. I think a lot of the reason is because our schedule is much more demanding than it was in college, and we just relax as much as we can. Plus, there are some pretty competitive table tennis games in the Midland clubhouse. :-)

This year, in spring training, we (as pitchers) got to play pepper for the first time since I’ve been with Oakland. Apparently, a few years ago, Kirk Saarloos suffered a minor injury in a game of pepper, and it was outlawed until they brought it back this season.

I hope everyone has a great week! I’m looking forward to getting to some of the questions and comments from the recent weeks. See ya at the ballpark!