Before I get started on this week’s entry, I would like to thank everyone for reading my blog and for your kind words. As a result of your interest and participation in this blog, I have received many good questions.
Since I have received so many questions, I will devote this entry to answering some of them. Also, in the future, please send your questions to me via email at email@example.com rather than posting your questions in the comments section of the blog. This would be very much appreciated.
I received a handful of questions regarding instruction. I picked this one from Jeff in New Jersey.
Hey Mike, I was wondering how much individual instruction you get from either the pitching coach or minor league pitching coordinator? Do they just check in with you periodically or do they work with you more often?
On a day to day basis I work with the Clearwater pitching coach, Dave Lundquist (Lundy). He is the kind of pitching coach that only speaks up about mechanics when he sees something that needs to be fixed. This might seem like an obvious thing, but I hear stories from many of my friends in other organizations that have changed their deliveries and pitch sequencing drastically for what they deem to be no reason at all. Lundy’s “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” mentality is very refreshing for me as a pitcher because I know that when he does suggest an adjustment, it is always correct and will make me better. For example, during the first half of the season, I had been on top of my game and Lundy did not say much to me about mechanics. My first outing after the all star break was 6 days after my previous outing. I thought I could throw light touch and a few bullpens to keep my mechanics in check. I was sorely mistaken. (Note: I am really ok with making mistakes, especially in the minor leagues because one of my strengths is learning from mistakes and not repeating them. I figure the more lessons I learn now, the more it will help me in the future) Anyway, I had developed bad mechanics that I did not even realize. Lundy has helped me make some adjustments in order to maintain good downhill leverage and really get over my front knee. I would have never been able to figure this out by myself and make the appropriate changes. In doing so, my velocity has increased from an average of 90-91 and touching 92-93 to an average if 92-93 and touching 94. I attribute all of these increases to my time spent with Lundy.
Gorman Heimueller (Gorm) is the pitching coordinator for the entire minor leagues. He will stop in about once a month for a series or two to see our progress. He has been around the game for a long time and knows more about pitching then anyone I have ever come across. Gorm’s chief concern is that each of us has a plan and a reason for our mechanics and pitch sequences. For example, the first thing he asked me was why I pitched from the left side of the rubber. When I replied, “That is just how I did it in college. I do not know why I do it.” He told me that excuse is no longer valid and that I needed reasons behind my decisions. After he explained to me the logical benefits from switching to the right side of the rubber I realized he was right and I changed. Another example came this year when he asked me why I started the number 8 hitter off with a changeup. I explained that I had faced him in college many times and that he is a first ball – fastball hitter. He was happy that I had a reason and that I was thinking on the mound. The last thing you ever want to say to Gorm if he asked why you threw a certain pitch is, “I threw it because the catcher called it.”
I did get to work with Gorm on a day to day basis in the Instructional League. That month I got more results as a pitcher than any other month of my life. I was able to command my changeup for the first time in my life. I was also able to see how uncomfortable a hitter gets after pounding them inside with the fastball. Both of these lessons are taught to all pitchers at young ages, but it was not until I saw it work for me that I learned to trust it.
Do you notice an increase in scouts due to the Halladay situation?- John from Philly
At any minor league game, there could be a scout from any team at any time and it is impossible for a player to determine what team a scout is from. However, my family was in town during our 8 game road stand at West Palm Beach 2-3 weeks ago. My dad likes to sit right behind home plate and he happened to be sitting next to a scout with a radar gun. He struck up a conversation and he turned out to be an advanced scout for the Toronto Blue Jays. (Note: Brown was on the DL at that point in the season)
What is your opinion on your teammate Dominic Brown and what do you see of his potential for the Phillies?- Chris
Dominic Brown is the definition of a 5 tool player. There isn’t anything on the baseball field he cannot do and anyone that follows him knows that. What you do not know about Dominic Brown is that he is a very humble man (far more humble then I would be if I had his skills). He has great respect for his teammates and the game of baseball. Whenever one of us needs a ride or a favor of any sort, we know Brownie will always help us out. It is very hard to match great talent with such great character which is why I will be completely shocked if he does not have a long and successful major league career.
I coach high school baseball and I feel that high school players are bored by stretching and throwing. I tell them how long tossing builds your arm up and how important it is but when they get on the field they are so anxious to go out and compete and tend to rush through it. As a minor league prospect, what advise can you give to a high school pitcher about the importance of stretching and throwing?-Nick
First, I commend and admire you being a high school baseball coach and I encourage everyone to get involved with the game we love in some way or another. As for your question, the most important thing is they long toss with correct mechanics. Kids tend to get lazy when they long toss by falling over to their glove side and slinging the ball to their partner. This can be detrimental to a pitcher because it will increase the risk of injury as well as cause bad pitching mechanics. In the off season I do pitching lessons and I explain the importance of every throw as part of a continuum. Each throw they make they are either getting better or worse and it is up to them as to which direction they go. If they want to rush through it and be lazy then they will get worse as a player. However, if they take each throw seriously and focus on one or two aspects of their delivery, then over time they will become far more consistent. In terms of stretching, I am a fan of band work instead of the traditional “arm across your chest” approach. The band offers ample resistance and really stretches out every part of your rotator cuff. It is also important to get your legs stretched out as I see a direct correlation in lazy mechanics to tight leg muscles.
As a closer, were you able to get any advice from Brad Lidge when he made a rehab appearance? If so, what kind of advice did he give to you?-Brian
As a minor league player, it is always exciting when a big leaguer comes down. Not only do you get to see him pitch, but you get to rack his brain and try to get information that will help your own pitching attack. (Note: For all of you that were against Manny spending 15 days in the minor leagues because it was a “disgrace to the suspension” you are sorely mistaken. Any time big leaguers come down to the minors it helps the fans, players, and most importantly, the game itself.) The thing I got most out of the Lidge appearance was his description of his 3 slider variations. He uses each one differently, depending upon the reaction of the hitter. I also throw a slider and have 2 variations, but he explained the importance of adding the 3rd variation to keep lefties at bay. Since his meeting, I have tried it a few times and I have had good success with it.
Last week’s comment of the week comes from Mike,
“And as far as shagging balls couldn’t they get some kid to do it for say a weeks’ time and in turn give them a tour of the clubhouse? I’m sure you’d get plenty of kids to do it as well as many adults too.”
I personally think that would be a brilliant idea that benefits everyone. A little league team would love to do it, the players would love the break, and the organization would love it because they would be doing a great thing for the community. The only problem may be one of liability, especially if someone gets hit by a ball.
If I missed one of your questions, there is a good chance I will get to it next week when I respond to your questions about scouts and the process of drafting pitchers.