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Gettin' Ziggy With It (vol. 20)

Hello, everyone! I hope you enjoyed the All-Star break. I definitely did. I was able to fly home to Missouri and spend some time with my family for a couple days. We’re starting a grueling stretch in our season now, as we have just one day off the rest of the 2nd half in AAA. So the 3-day break was much-needed. We ended the first half on a high note, sweeping a 5-game series at Fresno. They entered the series in 2nd place, 2 games behind us – and finished in 3rd place, 7 games back. Tucson, however, has kept pace with us, and is still only 4 games back in 2nd place.

We’ve played well since the break, too. With continued movement all over the system, our mix-and-match lineups every night keep grinding out wins, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of. Also, it was cool to get to have a couple big leaguers rehab with us. Great seeing Travis Buck again, and his swing was looking good after his 2-game stint with us. And, of course, it was neat to play with a future Hall-of-Famer in Mike Piazza. He’s a great guy, and he was swinging a hot bat during his 3-game stint with us.

I appeared in five games since the last GZWI, and my brief streak of scoreless innings came to an end at 12 and 2/3. My first outing consisted of facing two batters in the 8th inning vs. Tucson, with our team winning 3-2. The first batter reached on an error, and then the 2nd hit into a fielder’s choice, forcing the runner at 2nd. We were able to hold onto the 3-2 lead to get the win.

In the 2nd game of the 5-game Fresno series, Mike Madsen was on a strict 50-pitch limit to ensure he wasn’t sore when he represented the A’s in the Futures Game, so he came out after the 3rd inning. I pitched the 4th, 5th, and got 2 outs in the 6th (coming out of the game with a runner on 3rd – he ended up scoring). Our bullpen was able to hold on to the lead, so I was credited with the win since I was the pitcher of record, having completed the 5th inning.

After the break, my first outing was one of the least fortunate I’ve ever had. Leading 5-0 in the 6th, I threw one good inning, allowing one hit. I went back out for a second inning of work. After striking out the first batter, the 2nd hitter hit a chopper to 1st base. The 2nd hop hit the lip where the grass meets the dirt cutout, and kicked sharply to the right, past our first baseman over toward the wall in foul territory, with the hitter ending up on 2nd with an infield double. Then the next hitter chopped a ball up the middle and beat out an infield single. I was removed from the game, and both runners later scored on a triple. So I gave up 2 runs without allowing a ball out of the infield in that inning. Probably just baseball's way of evening out the times I've given up rockets right at a fielder. :)

Two nights later, we played one of the most exciting games we’ve played all year. After trailing 6-0 after the first inning, we scratched our way back to tie the game at 6 after 6 innings. Madsen was our starter this game, and he did a tremendous job of keeping us in the game after the rough 1st inning. He was able to pitch til there were 2 outs in the 5th without giving up any other runs, and our offense crept back into the game. After Portland got 1st and 2nd with no outs in the 7th, I came into the game. The first hitter unsuccessfully tried to bunt, and ended up striking out. Then I got a potential double play ball, but we were only able to get an out at 2nd. With 1st and 3rd, 2 outs, I got the last guy to ground out to 3rd to end the inning. We scored that inning, and later held on for an 8-7 win, with me getting credited with the win.

Two nights ago, I threw in a game in Colorado Springs. The first guy grounded back to me, the 2nd got an infield hit, and the 3rd struck out. Then I was removed from the game, and lefty Ryan Meaux got an infield pop-up to end the inning. We ended up losing that game, 4-2.

Since the last GZWI...
River Cats record: 9-5
My stat line: 5 G, 2-0, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 K, 0 BB

River Cats record: 55-43 (1st place – 4 games ahead of Tucson)
All-level Cumulative: 8-2, 1 SV, 2.83 ERA, 57.1 IP, 22 R, 18 ER, 57 H, 46 K, 11 BB

AAA stats: 4-2, 4.01 ERA, 33.2 IP, 16 R, 15 ER, 38 H, 28 K, 7 BB
AA stats: 4-0, 1 SV, 1.14 ERA, 23.2 IP, 6 R, 3 ER, 19 H, 18 K, 4 BB


A series of questions from xbhasharx...
2 2/3 IP in both games [back in May], that seems like a lot for you (I assumed you were somewhere between a ROOGY and a 1 IP guy, but i see you averaged 1 2/3 in AA). IS it a lot for you? Is your bullpen role different now that you're on the AAA team? Obviously you'll do whatever the team asks, but would you prefer going 1 inning more frequently or 2+ innings every three days? Do such differences have an effect on your preparation? [and from a separate post...]Does every team in the A's organization wear white cleats?

Yeah, I would say 2 and 2/3 innings is quite a bit for me (especially when I was working deep into counts early in my AAA stint). I’ve been groomed mentally and physically to be a late-inning, short-relief guy, mostly facing right-handed hitters, and that’s what I’d probably prefer. It’s not like I have 4 pitches to keep hitters guessing at all times. At the same time, I like being versatile, and the experiences in the longer relief have been good for me in my development as a submariner...and the more I’ve done it, the better success I’ve had with the longer relief, and I’m even feeling better facing lefties, even though the numbers probably don’t show it. I’ve done a better job of getting softer contact against lefties, even though they seem to still keep getting hits. But I’m to the point now that I feel pretty comfortable coming in no matter what the situation, and no matter what, I have to just be ready at all times. And, yes, all of the A’s minor league teams wear white cleats.

For folks like me (and probably the vast majority of people on this site) who don't know that much about the way the minor leagues function on a daily basis, what differences have you observed so far in terms AA vs. AAA? I'd be interested in anything you have to say, from size of crowds to organizational attitudes. Does a AAA club have a different level of pressure than a AA? -- LAXile

I don’t know that there’s more pressure in AAA, because every night we’re trying to win no matter what level it is. When the game starts, it’s just baseball. You don’t think about what level you’re at during the game. But there are some major differences, starting with the umpires: the strike zones are smaller in AAA, and the umps are definitely more consistent. And not to criticize AA umpires in any way...they're trying to improve and work their way up just like we are as players. It took me a bit to adjust to the AAA zone, but I’ve done a better job lately working ahead in counts, which helps. We definitely draw more people in Sacramento than we did in Midland, but Sac and its suburbs are probably about 5x the size of Midland/Odessa. The stadiums are nicer and we get better food in the clubhouse (while also paying more than what we paid in AA for clubbie dues). But I’d say the primary difference is how closely everyone pays attention to the big league team in AAA. At any time, we’re just a call away from being in the show, and it seems like everyone talks way more about the moves the A’s make. Plus, it helps being in the same time zone as Oakland, because we get to follow their games much easier. It’s a lot of fun.

Since I am unable to come to Sacramento to your games, it has been nice to pay the money to watch your games LIVE. $30.00 for an all year ticket is pretty cheap. My question is--is there quite a bit of difference with the media/reporters from place to place,or Single A to Triple A,or do you find pretty much all media the same? Who, in the media, have you met famous or not famous that has made an impression on you? -- StrikeThree

There are some differences in the media as you move up, with the biggest probably being the number of reporters that follow the team. As a middle reliever, I’m not speaking to the media after games as much as I did when I was a starter. But I see 3-4 reporters in the clubhouse every night after games, whereas in Midland it was usually just one (or maybe 2).

I haven’t met a lot of famous reporters, but the one well-known journalist I did meet that really left an impression was Peter Gammons. I met him in 2001 in the Cape Cod League, and he was so down-to-earth. Seeing someone on ESPN every night leaves you with an impression of them, and I just always had thought of him as a big-time reporter. And he definitely is, but when you talk to him, you’d never know. He showed up to one game out there in sweat pants and a t-shirt, just as a fan to watch the game. It was great.

A series of questions from fridaynightfan...
1. I know the catcher puts down fingers for what kind of pitch. But how do they call location?
2. Isn't it hard to see finger in a crotch (no offense) esp. under A AA and AAA lights?
3. Do batters "study up" on particular catchers and how they call a game as well as on how a pitcher throws, etc.?

  1. They kind of cock their hand to the side, as if to point with the fingers which side of the plate they’re calling for. If you pay attention to big league games, you might notice the same thing there. Granted, with a runner on 2nd, it’s totally different. But I can’t give away any secrets. :)
  1. None taken. Sometimes, especially late in the game, it IS tough to see. But usually the catcher will just go through the signs a little slower, or put chalk from the batter’s box on the back of their fingers so that the white stands out in the shadows.
  1. I’ve never heard of this. I know hitters study pitchers’ tendencies, and that’s definitely the most important, because if the pitcher doesn’t like what the catcher calls, he’ll just shake until the catcher puts down the sign he wants. So ultimately, the tendencies lie with the pitcher.

How did the wife and kids react to the news [of the promotion to AAA]? -- alox

Well, she had just arrived in Midland to visit for a weekend, and after finding out about my promotion, we knew that I’d have to fly out to meet up with the Sacramento team the next morning. We ended up seeing each other for about 12 hours – and that was mixed with having to pack, make travel arrangements for her to get home, and trying to get some sleep before the long day of travel. However, after things settled down, she was extremely happy for me, and I’m pretty sure my baby-girl-on-the-way would be excited if she understood what was going on. :-) It would've been nice to see her for a longer period of time, but sometimes that's just the nature of this game.

I hope everyone has a great week! We have a day game today in Colorado Springs, then fly home tonight. After 4 games at home against Salt Lake City, we go on an 8-day road trip. I’ll try to post again right after the trip. On the trip, I’m unsure of our Internet access (we’re going to Memphis and Nashville, 2 cities I’ve never been to before). But I’ll try to keep blez informed of my schedule so he can let you know when to keep an eye out for the next installment(s) of GZWI. Come out and catch a game! See ya at the ballpark!