Marty Pevey has been in professional baseball since 1982 when Marty was selected by the Twins in the 19th round of the 1982 draft. Marty's only big league time was spent with the Expos in 1989. Marty also spent two years playing for the Syracuse Skychiefs where he is now the manager. Marty has been a manager in the Blue Jays minor league system since 1996 and, in that time, has managed Blue Jay teams in Rookie ball, A ball, AA and now AAA. Marty also spent 1999 as the bullpen coach for the Blue Jays under Jim Fregosi. When Robert and I were in Buffalo we talked Skychiefs with Marty Pevey who kept us on our toes through our chat.
We asked Marty if it has been a tough year? Last year Pevey managed New Haven who had one of the best records in baseball. This year Syracuse are last in the north division of the International league.
Yes, it is a totally different team this year, mostly different players. It has been tough for Toronto too and that has a direct effect back on AAA. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure that out. You are not doing your job if it is not a direct effect. It has not been a physical grind it has been a mental grind. You want to win every game, you come to the park, put on your uniform, prepare as well as you can and you play the game. Sometimes I have been accused of working the guys too hard. At Syracuse we are out there at three o'clock every day, working, hitting, taking ground balls. Maybe we do too much, it is a fine line, is it too much or not enough, but yeah it has been tough.
Pevey managed Alexis Rios in New Haven last year and again in Syracuse this year until Rios's promotion. When Rios was in AAA, and when he first started playing for the Jays, he had a tendency to hit the ball on the ground. We asked Marty about the differences he saw in Rios from 2003 to 2004. Marty asked us where Rios was hitting the ball in Toronto. We replied "up the middle". Marty said that was great, "a base hit to center every time", so we had to modify our comment to say more so to the shortstop. Marty talked about his view of hitting.
You have to learn to hit before you hit for power. Young guys need to learn to hit. To learn to hit you have to hit the ball the other way. Last year he (Rios) hit the ball so hard on the ground to the opposite field, it was incredible, line drives and hard ground balls. He hit some ropes to right centre. He hit the ball hard. What he has done this year is roll-over (his wrists) to short and to third. To be a good hitter you have to learn to hit the ball the other way.
The day we were in Syracuse David Bush was to make his first start for the Blue Jays. we asked about Bush's reputation for pounding the zone, throwing too many strikes, and if he thought Bush would get hit hard in the big leagues. Marty asked us what was the problem with a pitcher who threw strikes? He was looking for a few more of those pitchers. After busting our chops Marty went on to say he was happy to have him pound the zone but suggested if he can pound the zone, can he not also pound the ball just off the zone? At AAA Marty said he was not worried about him throwing strikes. Bush's problem is the 0-2 pitches or the 1-2 pitches getting too much of the plate, but as Marty says how can it be a negative to throw strikes, he just needs to zone up better. Bush is way too intelligent not to adjust.
Kevin Frederick has made a lot of progress this year, earning a promotion to AAA in mid season. Marty also managed Kevin in New Haven last year. Kevin has really focused on pitching, learning how to pitch. Last year it seemed like the hitters got a good look at him, even at 93, 94 mph the hitters were getting good hacks at him. This year they don't seem to be seeing him as well. The old saying is the hitters let you know, and this year the hitters are not letting him know.
We asked how Russ Adams was doing? Marty had another question for us. How many guys can you name that can make a living hitting the ball in the air to the opposite field? Robert and I came up empty. Russ cannot be flying the ball to the centre and left field. If you hit it to the opposite field it has to be on the ground. You cannot make a living in the air there unless you are hitting it over the fence, like Mike Piazza or Shawn Green. We asked about Russ's defence and his arm strength. On defence we just want him to make the routine play, that is where he needs to improve. You don't have to make the fantastic play, just make the routine play. It is not footwork it is a lack of concentration. As for his arm you can make your arm stronger with long toss and cuff weights. As Marty says you can tell them what to do but the players have to do it. The coaches make sure the players do the basic work, groundballs, back handed plays, etc., but if Russ wants to make his arm stronger he has to take the initiative to do it himself.
Marty also talked about how Gabe Gross has been swinging the bat well and Marty was hopeful he would be back soon, for Gabe's sake, you hate to see anyone get injured. Marty showed us his own "zipper" inside his elbow, a souvenir of his playing days.
Chris Baker has been an enigma this year. He has pitched some of Syracuse's best starts and some of the worst. Marty talked about confidence. It is all between your ears. It is all confidence. These guys (in AAA) can do it as good as big leaguers they are not consistent.
We had to leave Marty to juggle his lineup as one of his players could not play. The game that night was forgettable, Chris Baker pitched badly enough to get sent back to AA. But since that game the Chiefs are 7-3, maybe a touch of good luck from Da Box?