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Last week in Buffalo I had a chance to sit down with Syracuse pitching coach Rick LangfordLangford has been a coach in the Jays system for eleven years and coached some of these AAA pitchers when they were in Dunedin.  Langford himself pitched in the majors for eleven years and was on the famous Billy Martin managed Oakland A's in the early eighties.  In 1980 Langford pitched 22 complete games in a row, on his way to finish that year with 28 complete games in 33 starts, and 290 innings pitched.

Francisco Rosario pitched against Buffalo on Thursday and did not pitch well.  I asked Langford what he thought of Rosario?

He wasn't sharp today.  He came out of spring training pitching well and his first three starts have been very good and I was pleased.  But today his velocity was down and he wasn't as sharp as he has been.  But I like him, he has a nice power arm, he is a quiet competitive guy, he is a very good athlete, so we are happy he is in the rotation and I think he will improve as we go and he has a nice major league package, but not today.

I wondered if Rosario's future was in the bullpen?

He throws three pitches, fastball, slider, we worked on a split finger fastball in the spring.  His last two starts his split has been up to 90 mph with late hard sink, but not today.  I like him in the starting rotation but he has to learn to put guys away earlier, these are the reasons these guys are here.  He has things to work on but I like his arm.

David Purcey might be Langford's biggest challenge on the roster, a very good pitcher with control issues.

He is a big strong left handed pitcher, fastball, developing a cutter, good change-up, nice curveball.  He is working on his command, we are not teaching any new pitches, he has the kind of stuff that just beats people when he is in the strike zone with it.  He has a lot of late life on his pitches so as he becomes more comfortable and confident, he will do well.  I saw signs of that in his last start (April 25), the first inning was 28 pitches but we spoke with him and told him to relax, don't worry about results, go at 90% or 95%, don't max out.  Suddenly the ball got in there and his confidence started to grow.  We had a nice conversation about that and I am hoping he is one of those guys where things happen for him quickly.

What about the command issues?

We are just trying to get him to be smoother, relax, not so jerky.  But he is a real hard worker, asks good questions, wants to learn, he is going to be fine.

Ty Taubenheim is new to the organization, what are Langford's impressions?

He throws a fastball, sinker, slider, change, he is a command guy.  He is a big intimidating character on the mound, not afraid to pitch inside.  I saw him pitch against us last year in the FSL.  He is pretty polished, knows his game, just needs command, and pitching to situations and being consistent.

Josh Banks is similar to Taubenheim, a control pitcher.

Josh is another command guy, we are working on a harder slider, a put-away breaking ball.  When he elevates the fastball it is hittable and straight, we are trying to create a little bit of tail by finishing better.  What I like about him is that he is a real good competitor, he figures out a way and stays to battle.

Dustin McGowan pitched Thursday before being called up to Toronto and he gave up a run on three hits.

Dustin was opening up and everything (all his pitches) was up.  He is coming off three good outings and his stuff is great.  He just needs innings and to get consistent.

What does he think of Brandon League?

He needs that higher arm slot so the ball sinks for him, it has been sinking good for him this year.  He has a power arm with a power sinker.  He just needs confidence and it needs to be down and consistent with it.  We are not working on any new pitches, he just needs to be consistent with his command.

Ryan Houston has pitched well in his brief time in AAA.  Houston is a hard thrower.

We are working on getting him over the top to get a good tilt on his fastball, more of a downward plane.  He needs a more consistent breaking ball, sometimes it stays up, again it's just a matter of consistency.

Last year Langford coached Davis Romero in Dunedin.

At the start of last year he was an over the top lefty who threw 90-92 but it was very straight, and the command wasn't good enough and the hitters saw it too good.  So we dropped his arm to a three quarter slot, and we have backed him off (dropped his speed).  Now we want him to sink the ball, and he has an excellent change-up that he can throw back to back and we taught him the soft breaking ball, but he can now add on to his fastball (add back the speed).  So he can throw 86-87 with sink, then dial it up to 92 when he wants.  Now he understands himself and is getting the experience to trust that.  I like him.

Kyle Yates has the reputation of having a great curveball.

He has a very nice curveball, tight rotation, looks like a fastball coming out of his hand. He throws the curve, a fastball, and a change-up.  He did a nice job for us in the FSL last year.  I haven't kept track of him this year.

Kurt Isenberg

Kurt is a converter outfielder.  He has late life on his fastball and a good change-up, he is working on a better breaking ball, a hard one and a soft one.

Danny Hill

Sinker, slider, split.  It's a command issue with him, he needs to understand that a ground ball on the first two pitches is better than a strikeout.  These are the things a young pitcher has to go through.

Batters Box would like to thank Rick Langford for taking the time to answer our questions.

An Interview With Rick Langford | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
earlweaverfan - Tuesday, May 02 2006 @ 03:17 PM EDT (#146195) #
Gerry, that was excellent; very informative - any insight into Marcum?  I feel bad for him that he came up for a cup of coffee, flamed out, and then is back down again.  (Of course, not as brief a stay as Tallet this time - one pitch, then back to the minors!  Life can be brutal, sometimes.)  Also, I am curious about Gronkiewicz and Vermilyea.  Should I draw any conclusions from their absence on the list of profiles?

Gerry - Tuesday, May 02 2006 @ 07:23 PM EDT (#146216) #

I didn't ask about Marcum, Vermilyea or Gronkiewicz so there is no implication there, I was more interested in guys we don't see a lot of.  Marcum and Vermilyea, and Banks and Taubenheim, all belong to the "command" family of pitchers.  The word "command" is another way of saying that they don't blow anyone away and rely on hitting their spots to succeed.  Command pitchers are very difficult to predict, they will be successful if they hit their spots and vice-versa.  For all these guys think of the career path of Josh Towers or David Bush, some days they are great, others not so much.  The other thing about control pitchers is that it often takes them a while to learn pinpoint control. 

Every time a guy like Marcum gets some time in the major leagues it is a learning experience and he hopefully takes that back to AAA and builds on it, so I don't feel bad for him, at this time.   Vermilyea is a sinker/slider pitcher and he is successful when he keeps his pitches low and not when they are up.  Gronkiewicz is a curveball pitcher, he throws a couple of them and he is around 5"10", maybe.  All of these guys could be successful in the bigs, or they might never master enough control to be successful.   Some might hang around the minor leagues until they are 30, like Pete Walker or Aaron Small.  But it is fun to see if they can make it and we wish them all the best in their quest.

Mike Green - Tuesday, May 02 2006 @ 08:56 PM EDT (#146223) #
Everyone has a different perspective about "command" pitchers.  There have been any number of great pitchers who have been unable to throw 94 mph. 

Marcum has a fine slider and a good change.  Like Bush, he's had more than his share of Ks in the high minors. Towers did not strike out batters at the rate that Bush and Marcum did, even in the minors.  The organization has invested a number of high draft choices in command pitchers in recent years, but it seems that with the new pitching coach, a premium has now been placed on "stuff".  Hence, the drafting of Purcey and the acquisition of A.J. Burnett.

There is no one single way to build a pitching staff.

Dean - Tuesday, May 02 2006 @ 11:15 PM EDT (#146233) #

Mike, I don't think the new pitching coach is dictating the direction this organization is taking in regards to the type of pitchers that are being acquired. I think an organization needs a mix of both power and command type pitchers. The Jays have many more command guys than power ones.

I find it ironic that JP drafts command guys yet the two highest paid arms on the team are power guys, throw in Ryan and the top three fall into this category.

For those who think a premium fastball is overated, please go to the Zaun, Dec 2005, interview on the Jays' site where he discussed the signing of AJ.

I also think that younger power guys having success in the low minors are worth more as trade bait than command college guys having success at the same level.

It took two command guys, both essentially 2nd round picks, and a fourth outfielder to land Overbay.

Jonny German - Wednesday, May 03 2006 @ 01:48 PM EDT (#146256) #

It took two command guys, both essentially 2nd round picks, and a fourth outfielder to land Overbay.

Uh-huh. So what are you saying? The Jays should have picked power arms instead of Bush and Jackson? And those power arms would have fetched more than Overbay? Or, It wouldn't have taken both of them to acquire Overbay?

Craig B - Wednesday, May 03 2006 @ 02:44 PM EDT (#146260) #

For those who think a premium fastball is overated, please go to the Zaun, Dec 2005, interview on the Jays' site where he discussed the signing of AJ.

It's not a question of being overrated... it's a question of what a pitcher needs or doesn't need to succeed.  As a very astute Hardball Times reader reminded me recently, "The Hall of Fame is full of guys who didn't throw 95".  A premium fastball is a wonderful tool, but it's one tool.

The converse to your statement (which I think is mostly right... there's no substitute for great gas) would be that if you think an incredible fastball is a magic bullet, remember this guy or think about this guy.

Craig B - Wednesday, May 03 2006 @ 02:50 PM EDT (#146262) #
The next drafted power pitchers after Bush and Jackson were Jon Lester and Justin Orenduff, respectively, a couple of good picks as these things go.  Lester was a HS guy and the next college power pitcher after him was Jesse Crain, also a nice pick!
Mike Green - Wednesday, May 03 2006 @ 04:47 PM EDT (#146269) #

Why is that a good fastball always sounds slightly off-colour, "great gas", "the high hard one"?

The Jay farm system includes Rosario, League and McGowan, and included Perkins until recently, in addtion to the numerous "command" pitchers.  Balance is a good thing, and it seemed to me that the farm system had it.  There is no guarantee with any type of pitcher- you need your Dave Stiebs and your Jimmy Keys. 

My original point was that there is no evidence that pitchers with great gas are any more consistent in their 20s than "command" pitchers.  There is evidence that pitchers with good strikeout rates last longer than those without them, but great gas and better strikeout rates do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. 

An Interview With Rick Langford | 12 comments | Create New Account
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