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Dane Johnson is the Blue Jays minor league pitching coordinator.  Dane has jined us several times in Da Box.  Most recently Dane talked with us last summer.  I caught up with Dane over the phone last Sunday.

BB: Henderson Alvarez pitched this weekend after a ten day layoff.  Did he have a physical issue or did he need a rest?

DJ: The schedule just setup that way.  He had the all-star game in there and he had a start where he took a ball off his calf and he had to be removed early.  So when the schedule was put together it just worked out that way.

BB: Chad Jenkins did OK in Lansing but he didn't knock the lights out.  He would pitch well, then have a bad inning, and his first Dunedin start was the same.  He seems to have had an up and down year.

DJ: Well he did  a nice job at Lansing after he made some adjustments.  When you move up a level you try and make adjustments when you probably shouldn't make them and overall if he sticks to what he was doing in Lansing Chad should be fine.  He got the ball up a little bit but he was getting his groundballs still and that's what we want out of Chad.  He is going to be a groundball guy, some will go for hits but some will turn into double plays.  If he sticks to his gameplan he will be the same as he was in Lansing.

BB: When I was in Lansing they said he needed to work on his change-up and when he got into trouble he would try and overthrow and get the ball up.  Are those still the two major things he is working on?

DJ: Well if you sign a contract with the Blue Jays, no matter who you are, you will be working on your change-up.  His change-up has gotten better, he has better location with it  but we do want him to keep working on it.

BB: I saw Zach Stewart pitch a few weeks ago in Erie and I saw a pitcher with a plus fastball, a plus slider but a change-up that needs work.  It appears that the first part of the season the staff were working on his delivery, now the focus is on his off-speed pitches. 

DJ: It is.  If you have seen him recently he has had s tring of nice starts.  Some of the concentration recently has been on his change-up and he has been working on his mechanics, getting on top of the ball and driving it downwards, which he has done a nice job of.  But also keeping his arm speed on the change-up, not telegraphing it or pushing it up in the zone.  It's such a feel pitch and it is just a matter of consistency, we know it's in there.

BB: Kyle Drabek keeps producing similar starts in AA, six, seven innings, 5 or 6 hits, 4 or so walks, and a bad inning or two that pumps his ERA.  Has the team seen progression in him this year?

DJ: Absolutely.  Kyle's a battler and he has good stuff.  Some of the things we see that he needs to work on are total concentration all the way through the inning; getting hitters into his counts and then putting them away without letting them hang around.  He is still young, his stuff is good, mechanically speaking he is hitting on 80% to 85% of his deliveries right now.  We like what he is doing and he knows what he needs to do.  He needs to stay in his delivery and get the ball in the lower half of the zone on a more consistent basis and when he does that he's pretty darn good.  Sometimes when he gets in hitters counts he gives up runs because of his own undoing not because his stuff is not good.

BB: I see Bobby Bell is back on the DL.  Is that the same issue he had earlier in the year?

DJ: Yes, it is, a bit of shoulder tendonitis.  We don't think it is serious and we expect to see him back real soon.

BB: Danny Farquhar was hit around a bit today after a few good appearances.  What do you think he needs to do to get to AAA and cut down on his walks?

DJ: Tighten up his command.  We think he will have a chance to do that with more innings.  We are looking at him as a seventh, eighth inning guy right now to get him more time and more repetitions on the mound to tighten up those areas that he needs tightening up in.  He has good stuff, it's like Kyle (Drabek), getting ahead and keeping the counts in your favour and putting hitters away and he's quite capable of doing that.

BB: Bobby Ray and Brad Mills, are they throwing yet?

DJ: Yes, you should both of them at the end of the first week of July.

BB: Is Rommie Lewis a starter now?

DJ: Yes he is starting to get more repetitions out of the role so he can work on the things he needs to work on.  Namely fastball command and his secondary pitches, tightening up his slider.  It works better on a five day rotation and he is able to get more work with the pitching coach also.

BB: Rey Gonzalez and Luis Perez have had a rocky start to their AAA experience, what do they need to do to get better?

DJ: Rey needs to get back to the basics of what he did last year, commanding the baseball, getting all his pitches over the plate and being able to change speeds.  He is not a guy who is going to blow you away, he needs to work inside and use all four pitches, pitch back and forth, and pitch to contact on his terms but it hasn't gone that way for him.  The PCL is a tough league to pitch in, I am not making excuses for him, but once he realizes he is able to pitch there and use his whole repertoire, and know how to do so, hopefully he will get it rolling and be able to find success like he did last year. 

Luis is in the category of being able to command his pitches and keep the counts in his favour.  A lot of time he is falling behind.  He needs to tighten up his secondary pitches particularly his breaking ball.  He had spent a year and a half to two years at AA so he needed to be challenged at AAA.

BB: You had told be previously that Drew Hutchison was pitching well and you sent him to Auburn where he has had a few nice starts.

DJ: Last year he came into the organization and an eighteenth or nineteenth round draft pick and this year he did a nice job in the extended spring program, built up his routines and his pitch counts and he is responding well in the five day routine in Auburn.  He has a good head on his shoulders, he has three very good pitches and he pounds the zone.  I would be surprised if he has any struggles at that level with his stuff and what he has shown so far.

BB: What are his three pitches?

DJ: Fastball, change-up, slider which is more of a slurvy breaker, call it a slider or a slurve if you want to.  He throws one harder and one softer so he changes speeds on it, it's very effective for him right now.  His fastball is 90-92 with good sink and late life.

BB: You have just signed two new draftees, Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard.  Will they stay in the GCL for the next two months.

DJ: I haven't seen them yet but yes they will stay in the GCL.

Batters Box thanks Dane Johnson for his time. 

An Interview with Dane Johnson - June 2010 | 19 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
China fan - Thursday, July 01 2010 @ 08:05 PM EDT (#217800) #
Excellent interview, Gerry, and thanks for doing it.    I'm curious about Rommie Lewis.  Why are they trying to make a starter out of him?  Wouldn't he have greater value to the Jays in the bullpen, where they really need help?   Do they really think that Lewis can reach the majors as a starter, competing against all the other starters in the Jays system?    Or do they just feel that his stuff is better suited to 7 innings instead of 2 innings?

tercet - Thursday, July 01 2010 @ 08:14 PM EDT (#217801) #
China Fan,

Its probably an easier way to stretch him out to the long guy out of the bullpen.  I have a feeling next year and going forward he will have Brian Tallets long/ Emergency starter role.  Lewis seems to have better stuff then Tallet too, so maybe hes better fitted in long role opposed to being the closer, which is what he started the season as in Vegas.

Gerry - Thursday, July 01 2010 @ 08:38 PM EDT (#217803) #
I think it is as tercet said.  They see potential in him and they want to get him more innings, or repetitions as Dane says, and the best way to get someone more innings is to make them a starter.  I don't think he will be a starter next year, although things can change, but they need him to improve his pitches to be a more effective reliever.
greenfrog - Thursday, July 01 2010 @ 09:46 PM EDT (#217805) #
These interviews are great. Any word on when Tim Collins might make it to the majors? It seems as though he's getting pretty close. Maybe another year or so?
ayjackson - Thursday, July 01 2010 @ 11:19 PM EDT (#217808) #
Collins has succeeded in everything asked of him.  I wonder if they've thought about stretching him start, not to 5'11".
Gerry - Thursday, July 01 2010 @ 11:27 PM EDT (#217809) #

Collins could get promoted to AAA later this season but New Hampshire are in a pennant race and Las Vegas is a tough place to pitch, so maybe not. 

Collins should be in AAA next season and make his major league debut later in the year sometime.

stevieboy22 - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 12:27 AM EDT (#217810) #
Gerry, thank you very much for taking the time to do this...

My question, if anyone can answer it, I don't know how to look this up..

If Rey Gonzalez finishes the year with 10 wins and an ERA of 10 plus, would he have any kind of bizzare record?

Has a pitcher ever had a double digit ERA with double digit wins? Because Gonzalez has a shot...

Kelekin - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 02:28 AM EDT (#217811) #

No point stretching out Collins.  Besides, when he first started with the organization, they had him pitch 2 and 3 innings on a regular basis.

China fan - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 04:20 AM EDT (#217812) #
Thanks to Gerry and Tercet for the explanation on Rommie Lewis.   I'm still a little puzzled.  If putting a reliever into the rotation was a good way of improving him, why isn't it done for every reliever?   Even if the Jays spotted a specific weakness that he showed in the majors that needs work, why does it require a rotation role?   If Lewis can benefit from pitching 6 innings every 5 days as a starter,  why couldn't he get the same benefit from pitching 6 innings as a reliever over the course of 5 games?   Doesn't a reliever also need experience in arriving in a game mid-inning, pitching from the stretch and stuff like that?  If he is projected as a reliever in the future, why doesn't he practice reliever-type skills instead of starter-type skills?   Oh well, I'm sure there are technical explanations, it's probably just one of the mysteries of the physics of pitching.  But thanks for clarifying that the Jays are not necessarily converting Lewis to a starter.
scottt - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 06:20 AM EDT (#217813) #
You can't pitch 6 innings over the course of 5 games as a reliever. Not unless you sit most of the pen.

As a starter, he's bound to pitch from the stretch regularly.

How many pitches does he have? As a reliever, you focus on your 2 best pitches and you throw harder. As a starter, you pace yourself and mix things more. If you have only 2 pitches, it's probably better to stick to the pen.

Mid reliever are usually starters that did not make the rotation. Guys like Tallet, Janssen, Richmond.

Forkball - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 08:38 AM EDT (#217815) #
If putting a reliever into the rotation was a good way of improving him, why isn't it done for every reliever?

A numbers game.  You're trying to develop starters too, and there's only so many games.

Most pitchers that are relievers in the minors never make it.  I'd bet you're more likely to see a mediocre starter in the minors become a decent reliever than a really good minor league reliever.

How many times since, say JP took over, have the Blue Jays developed a pitcher to the majors that was primarily a reliever in the minors?
Gerry - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 09:13 AM EDT (#217816) #

Confirming what has been said above......most major league relievers and most major league closers were starters for most or all of their minor league careers.  In general pitchers with potential are used as starters in the minor leagues.  Off the top of my head current minor league starters Rey Gonzalez, Luis Perez, Bobby Bell, Ronald Uviedo, maybe Zach Stewart, and Lewis profile as major league relievers.

There are some exceptions to the starters rule.  Tim Collins because of his undrafted status, and his size, has remained a reliever.  The Jays tried to make Trystan Magnuson a starter but that didn't work.  Danny Farquhar is unusual with his delivery and I think surprised the Jays.  Alan Farina did start a bit in his first season but he has been hampered by injuries and has never pitched more than 37 innings in a season so his durability is unknown.  Other than those guys, most minor league relievers, below AAA, are not listed on top prospect lists.

ayjackson - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 10:03 AM EDT (#217817) #
To play devil's advocate, I'll say this:  Colllins is unique; he was likely a starter in high school; he is only 20 and in the upper minors; he has a passable and developable third pitch; he is much more valuable throwing 200 innings a year than 70.  So I wonder if there are any coversations about stretching him out.
ramone - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 11:45 AM EDT (#217818) #

Not sure where to post this but bad news from Bastian:

"Marcum placed on 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation. Subsequent move not announced."


Kasi - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 12:01 PM EDT (#217820) #
Well at least it's around the all star break. We have what, 9 games left in the first half. He wouldn't pitch again to the 5th game anyway, so this loses him one start.

The question is who takes the spot, Scrabble or Tallet? Or maybe Mills? Dunno.

Anders - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 02:12 PM EDT (#217823) #

I have to say I think that the Jays have to be at or near the top of the majors in terms of developing pitchers right about now, and Dane Johnson's comments about change up's was instructive. Pretty much every Jays starter developed over the past 5 years throws four pitches - fastball, slider, change, curve (I believe Marcum and Litsch also throw sliders) - at least 10% of the time (very unusual) and right now Fangraphs pitch values have Marcum and Romero with 2 of the best changeups in baseball (Cecil's is also a plus). I don't think you can argue with recent results. Now if only they could develop a couple of power hitters...

scottt - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 03:26 PM EDT (#217824) #
Stretching Collins? Well, I think that because of his size, he's very likely to blow his arm if converted to a starter. Also, he relies on a fastball that's hard to pick up because of a deceptive delivery. That might not work for long as a starter. Besides, a light  out, late inning reliever is very valuable.

This should be the end of the Marcum trade rumours and explains his last inning. I would not be surprised if he's out for more than 15 days.

TamRa - Friday, July 02 2010 @ 11:39 PM EDT (#217837) #
JP said they were just being cautious with Marcum, and the 15 days would be up right after the break, but they could wait all the way to the 20th without having to spot start after the break.

that said, if it is still unclear whether or not Litsch is going to hold onto his spot (assuming Zep does alright) it might be "convenient" if they let him linger just to get a bigger sample size on Jesse and Zep.

92-93 - Saturday, July 03 2010 @ 01:16 PM EDT (#217859) #

JP is still tapped into the Jays FO?

I doubt Marcum's injury is very serious and I believe the messages we're getting. Sounds like the Jays looked at the schedule and saw an opportunity to give Marcum 3 weeks of rest, and the decision was pretty easy considering he's fresh off TJ and didn't pitch much last year and Rzepczynski has been pitching well over his last few starts in Vegas. Let's just hope his elbow doesn't really hurt and the Jays are just hiding him on the DL with a "fake" injury.

An Interview with Dane Johnson - June 2010 | 19 comments | Create New Account
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