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Rick Adair is the pitching coach for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. When some Bauxites visited the Cats in Erie recently we talked with Rick about The Blue Jays organization, Leo Mazzone, and some of the Blue Jay prospects.

Rick Adair has been a pitching coach for almost twenty years. Rick was drafted as a pitcher by the Mariners out of Western Carolina University. Following a seven year minor league career, he joined the Cleveland Indians in 1986 as pitching coach in the Appalachian league. Adair quickly rose to the job of Indians roving minor league pitching instructor. In 1992 and 1993, Adair was the pitching coach for the Indians major league club under manager Mike Hargrove. His second year with the Indians was a tough one for a pitching coach, the Indians used eighteen different starting pitchers. Only one pitcher made more than sixteen starts, Jose Mesa with 33.

In 1995, Adair joined the Tigers organization, and after a couple of years in the minor league system was the pitching coach for the Tigers from 1997 to 1999, working with Buddy Bell and Lance Parrish. From 2000 to 2003, Adair worked as the minor league pitching coordinator for the Braves. Adair believes in the "Mazzone way" and feels the Blue Jays are following a similar system.

"Leo’s probably one of the most underrated pitching coaches there is in the game," Adair says of Mazzone. "He gets a lot of publicity, because he’s had a lot of success in Atlanta, pitching-wise, but Leo has a very sound philosophy, something he believes in, something that I try to teach. It is really based on use of your fastball and command of your fastball. Command the down-and-away strike, and using your changeup to complement it. Leo's system is very good. Obviously he’s had a lot of talent to work with, but the Atlanta program is one of the outstanding ones, as good as there is in baseball".

One feature of the Braves system is getting the pitchers to throw more than other teams do. Adair notes Braves pitchers throw just about every day, on flat ground or on the mound, and Adair has implemented the same system at New Hampshire to try to get guys on the mound as much as possible. Adair believes that if the pitchers can maintain their feel, when they go into a game they feel comfortable with what they’re doing. If they can repeat that enough and they go about it the right way, they are going to have success.

Dane Johnson is the Jays minor league roving pitching instructor. Johnson was signed by Tim Wilken back in 1984 and appeared in ten games for the Jays in 1996. Johnson and Dale Scott, the Blue Jays Farm Director, are responsible for the Jays minor league pitching system. Adair endorses the Jays system.

"I think the Blue Jays have pretty much the same philosophy (as the Braves). It may be a little bit different in some areas, but it’s basically the same philosophy in all of baseball. We have a some freedom to do what we want to do, within the guidelines of our program. The program here is very solid, very sound, and with the talent we have, we’re going to be fine".

Each night, Adair and Mike Basso prepare reports that inform Scott and Johnson about everything that happens in the games, the players pre-game preparation, and any changes that were made.

Adair gushes when talking about Brandon League.

"He’s been outstanding. Everybody knows that Brandon has a tremendous fastball; he’s in the 94 to 98 range. He’s getting command of that fastball — he throws a two-seamer and a four-seamer, with good movement on his two-seamer. His slider’s come a long way, and he’s got a tremendous changeup that he hasn’t used that much yet. His times to the plate and his game awareness are improving, so there’s a lot of things that Brandon League does well, and if he continues on this pace, he’s got a chance to be a very successful major league pitcher in a short period of time".

Adair also addressed what League had to do differently now that he is in the bullpen.

"When Brandon was starting, he was using three or four pitches, and you still want to develop those pitches, but right now, he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher, and hopefully we’ll continue to develop that changeup as a third pitch. In the big leagues, I don’t care how hard you throw, you have to have at least one off-speed pitch to be successful, and hopefully two, to get lefthanders out".

In the game the night before, League had put two men on with no one out. He battled back to escape without conceding a run. In the game, League dropped his arm angle on a few pitches, a point that Adair noted.

"He got real low a couple of times last night with his delivery, and that’s something we’re really focusing on — making sure he stays in the three-quarter arm slot. He was in a tough situation last night, after the broken-bat double and the fielder’s choice, and with first-and-third, nobody out he did just a tremendous job. When you see that kind of stuff along with that kind of focus and that kind of concentration — the kid does not get rattled — those are the signs you’re looking for that make you feel good about his chances".

Adam Peterson had struggled the night before our interview. Adair felt it was another learning point:

"Last night was the first time that he has not pitched in a save situation; he came in when we were down 2-0 because he hadn’t pitched for three days and we needed to make sure he got into the game. His intensity level wasn’t quite what it should be, for whatever reason, and he’s more effective the more often he pitches. He was between 90 and 94 last night, averaged 92, and there have been a lot of games when he’s been more 94 to 96. That’s what we’re talking about — last night, he just didn’t have the same intensity he normally has, and that translated to his speed".

Adair believes Peterson will help the big club soon.

"Adam throws fastball, slider, changeup, in that order. He’s another guy who’s come a long way in his command of that fastball; you may not have seen it last night, but he’ll continue to improve, and he’s got a very good chance of helping the major league club".

Adair also gets to work with Dustin McGowan, who, he says, "is coming along; he had a rough outing last time, struggled a little bit with his command, but his first two outings were outstanding. He’s a four-pitch pitcher with a real high ceiling — it’s limitless what this guy could do. He’s making a lot of progress, he’s a great young man; we expect big things from him".

In addition to working with the top prospects, Adair is trying to get other guys back to top prospect status. Adair is working with Cam Reimers to change his delivery.

"Cam is going through a major delivery change, in terms of lengthening his stride, trying to get more power from a taller position, working downhill more. He’s been going through this for the last three or four weeks, since spring training, and he still doesn’t quite have it — he kind of goes in and out of it, so we’ll probably see some inconsistency from him, maybe for the next month. He’s made a real strong effort to try and improve his delivery, to get better angles and more leverage out of what he does. He’s a guy 6’4” or 6’5” who has a tendency to pitch like a guy who’s 5’11” so that’s what we’ll be working on".

Adair has also been impressed by Kevin Frederick. "When you look at his age, what he’s done in the past, his stuff, and what he’s been doing for the last month, to me this guy is very close to being a major league pitcher. His command’s gotten better, he’s a three-pitch pitcher, his intensity is there every day, he’s gotten better at holding runners, his delivery’s improved, and I think he’s ready to help the major league club".

In spring training Adair saw a little of David Bush, Francisco Rosario and Josh Banks. He liked what he saw, but notes you can never have too much pitching. In his first year with the Jays system, Adair has been impressed with the arms in the system and the organizational people. He is confident the Jays are headed for better times.
An Interview with Rick Adair | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Dean - Thursday, May 06 2004 @ 12:48 PM EDT (#19793) #
I've said it before, why isn't League starting? Put him in the rotation & make him throw that change-up. Great interview.
Mike Green - Thursday, May 06 2004 @ 01:35 PM EDT (#19794) #
Seconded, great interview. I'm impressed with Adair. I hope someone gets the same opportunity for an interview with Brad Arnsberg.
_goatboy - Thursday, May 06 2004 @ 06:26 PM EDT (#19795) #
I agree with Dean and Mike great interview very insightful.

Also I thought the reason League was moved to the pen was becuse his secondary pitches were poor and needed work. Based on what Adair said in the interview these pitches are now much improved so why not put League back into the rotation and see what he can do.
_Simon - Friday, May 07 2004 @ 02:24 AM EDT (#19796) #
Battersbox continues to amaze. Hats off guys.

I agree with the sentiment on League. Maybe extend his outings from the bullpen to 3 or 4 innings. Ease him into starting.
Thomas - Friday, May 07 2004 @ 12:46 PM EDT (#19797) #
Great interview. Kudos to the coaches for being up-front and to Batters Box for getting the interview.
Coach - Friday, May 07 2004 @ 04:53 PM EDT (#19798) #
Gerry deserves all the credit for this one. Adair acknowledged his question about League's arm slot as "very observant," and didn't talk down to us.

As you can tell by the picture, it was a cold, wet Sunday morning, and the players and coaches were trying to get a lot of work done before the inevitable rainout and bus trip. All the more reason we're grateful for the time they took to chat with us.
_WillRain - Saturday, May 08 2004 @ 12:44 AM EDT (#19799) #
League is the great mystery in our system to me. Everyone who works with him raves about him and yet his results are just so-so....Why?

Likewise the whole reliever/starter thing. Working on pitches is one thing but JP seemed to imply it was more than, honestly, I can't remember a grade A pitching prospect that - in the middle of his learning curve - was tossed into middle relief.
It's certainly an unorthodox stratagy.
_goatboy - Saturday, May 08 2004 @ 11:35 AM EDT (#19800) #
Re: his results are just so-so....Why?

Baseball is a strange sport, certainly when you compare it to other sports, football hockey etc. With these other sports you general know with in a year if you have a major league talent. With baseball it all about projecting what the player should be able to do, but his
projection is not for next year but rather 3 or 4 years down the road.
Look at Alexis Rios for example, in his first 3 years of pro ball he batted .269, .267, and .263 with a grand total of 3 home runs total for those 3 years. It was only in his 4 year in Dunedin that Rios start to fulfill some of projections that people said he was capible of and become the player we expect to play right field for the next 10 year for the jays

So reguarding League, I personally think his results are better than so so, but I also know that just becuase projecting great things for League, and a 98 mph fastball with do that for you, not everyone who is project to be great will be great.

I equate watching prospects to riding a rollercoaster, their up and their down their all around and they drag you along for the ride, it great, one of things I love most about baseball.
_Lisa - Friday, June 11 2004 @ 03:08 PM EDT (#19801) #
It is so great to see Rick Adair with the Jays organization. He was a tremendous asset in Detroit and I'm glad to see that his expertise is now with our team.
An Interview with Rick Adair | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.