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Dane Johnson, the ex-Blue Jay pitcher, is now the minor league roving pitching instructor for the Jays. Johnson was originally drafted by the Jays in 1984, and made it to the major leagues ten years later. Johnson was visiting Buffalo last week and took a few minutes to talk with Batter's Box about some of the organizationís pitching prospects.

On Zach Jackson: Zach held his team in the game last night which is real important, Buffalo didnít get many good swings off him until he went back out for the sixth inning. He fell behind in the count last night, he threw 55% strikes, and was 9 for 23 in first pitch strikes so he needs to get ahead more, be around the plate more, and put the ball in play earlier in the count. If he can get those things in place he can get through seven or eight innings, rather than be pulled in the sixth. He needs to work on his change-up, he tends to push it a little bit and it gets off to his arm side, but he has the basis of a good one, he has thrown it better in his side work, he needs to throw it in games and get confidence in it so he can use it more. Zachís eager, heís willing to learn and he has a good head on his shoulders, he makes adjustments well, I donít see things as being too rough for him.

On David Purcey: David is an aggressive kid, he gets over-zealous sometimes about doing things, he needs to be able to relax and go out there repeat his delivery and throw strikes. He does throw a lot of pitches and he needs to cut those down, he does pull a lot of his pitches down to his glove side, he needs to stay on-line better. There are some mechanical things we need to do, and we will in instructional league, not major changes, just a little refinement of his command in the zone. The objective for David in instructional league is to stay on line, deliver the ball in a better alley, and repeat his delivery. David has a great arm and his ball has a lot of life in the zone, the kid wears size 18 shoes and has hands as big as bears, he could probably play tight end if he wasnít playing baseball, he is a good athlete.

On Josh Banks and Shaun Marcum maybe heading for the bullpen: I think those guys have a chance to be starters. I donít like to limit those guys, by saying they will be in the bullpen, too early. Those decisions will come down the line, let them pitch 150 innings in AAA, learn how to refine their stuff, work with the pitching coach and then decide. If after all that they end up in the bullpen then so be it. I like all my guys and think they all can start.

On Casey Janssen: Janssen has five pitches he can throw for strikes, he has confidence in them all and can get you out with any one of them. He has a good head on his shoulders, not only that but he can defend the running game very well, and he does a lot of intangibles that you look for on the mound and he can make the leap quickly.

On Francisco Rosario: It comes down to consistency, Rosario has to be able to dominate the zone with his fastball and slider in the relief role, day in and day out, coming in prepared, knowing what he wants to do, and having the confidence to do it time after time. He has put 100% effort into everything he does and he needs the fire to say "I am the best guy on the mound today", and go after the hitters. His stuff is there, he is quick as a cat, very athletic.

On the mental part of pitching: Sometimes we have to sit them down and talk to them. We have baseball 101ís during spring training and we talk to them during the season, we plant a seed in their head, but we canít do everything for them. The mental side has been a part of baseball for a hundred years, itís kept a lot of guys from making it in the big leagues. Everybody has to deal with self-doubt, confidence, some more than others. Some guys can go out and execute the game plan, look at Halladay, heís a machine. Not everyone can do that, it depends on whatís inside.

On Chi-Hung Cheng: Cheng has a very good curveball, he wonít blow anyone away with his fastball, outstanding change-up, which he just started to throw in the last few years. The kids just turned 20 this year and coming into a new culture can be tough, but he is smart and he has picked up English quickly. Itís a different game over there (Taiwan), they are more conservative, and we have talked to Cheng about it, over here we are more aggressive.

On Robert Ray: Robert has a good athletic body, good make-up. With first year guys we have to teach them our philosophy. In college they donít use change-ups so much, mainly fastballs and sliders and breaking balls. Here with the wooden bat we get them to focus on fastballs and change-ups and he has taken to it and I like what I see from him.

On Eric Fowler: Eric has a very good breaking ball and has some late life in the zone with his fastball. He needs to work on command of the zone but his stuff is above average.

On Davis Romero: Davis made some adjustments after a rough first half, gave up a lot of hits. He didnít perform like we hoped (in the first half), we made some mechanical adjustments, dropped his arm slot and he has become a whole new guy, Rick Langford has done a great job with him. When he understands his game and what he has to do, be around the plate, pitch to his game and stay within himself, change speeds, understand his game more, then he really does well.

Our thanks go to Dane Johnson for giving us his insight into some of the Blue Jays fine pitching prospects.

Catching Up with Dane Johnson | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 11:08 AM EDT (#127023) #
Purcey wears size 18 shoes? Wow. Thanks, Gerry.
Magpie - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 11:38 AM EDT (#127025) #
we get them to focus on fastballs and change-ups

Music to my ears.

Size 18? That's what, just five sizes smaller than Shaq?

The nickname is almost too obvious, Bauxites. But resistance is futile.


R Billie - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#127032) #
The changeup is such an important pitch for young pitchers. It's hard to learn because it requires a special touch to be able to throw it with fastball arm speed with good command but young guys that can learn it and master it have such a leg up on other pitchers. They have another weapon before they even get to their breaking ball.

I also agree with keeping Banks and Marcum as starters until they really prove otherwise. If they go to the pen in the majors it will more likely be because of depth issues.
Some call me Tim - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 02:38 PM EDT (#127033) #
Great interview. Thanks, Gerry. I could be wrong, but I thought Cheng was from Taiwan, not Korea. Is my memory slipping?
Lugnut Fan - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 03:00 PM EDT (#127034) #
He is from Taiwan...Probably just a typo. It was interesting in that when I asked Cheng the differences between playing in Asia and here, he said the same thing. That the game was more aggressive here.
Lugnut Fan - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#127040) #
Also, there will be some changes in the Lansing rotation. Wideman made his last start for Lansing on Sunday as he is going to pitch over in Holland for Team Canada. I heard also that Keng and Cheng are leaving the Lugnuts early to pitch in this same tournament that will start this weekend. All three of these guys were scheduled to start this coming weekend, so there should be some changes coming (unless they decide to urn short in the pen which I hope isn't the case.)
Gerry - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 03:36 PM EDT (#127042) #
That was my mistake on Taiwan, thanks for the catch and I fixed it. Johnson said that Cheng and Keng would be going to the tournament so Lansing will be short. The Jays probably don't want to promote from Auburn or demote from Dunedin due to playoffs, so it could be all hands on deck for a few days. Alternately, the Jays could send the last man in the bullpen down or up, to cover for a few days and then recall them for the playoffs.
Lugnut Fan - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#127046) #
Thanks Gerry,

It actually makes sense to keep the Auburn guys and the Dunedin guys put for the playoff push, but I know Pulaski's season has concluded. I was hoping they may send a guy or two to Lansing. Kind of like they did with Qunitana.
Gerry - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 04:01 PM EDT (#127047) #
I believe today is Pulaski's last game so the cavalry might arrive tomorrow.
Jordan - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 04:39 PM EDT (#127050) #
Interesting observations on Cheng. A lack of aggressiveness on the mound would certainly help explain his command issues -- it may be that he's just poking around the strike zone and nibbling, seeing if the hitters will bite, rather than going after them and setting the tone and pace of the at-bat. A left-hander with a very good curveball and an outstanding changeup is a very intriguing commodity.
Jordan - Tuesday, August 30 2005 @ 04:42 PM EDT (#127051) #
Janssen has five pitches he can throw for strikes, he has confidence in them all and can get you out with any one of them.

That's one hell of a compliment.

Catching Up with Dane Johnson | 11 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.