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Dane Johnson is the roving minor league pitching instructor for the Blue Jays.  Johnson spent a long time in the minor leagues before making the major leagues at age 31.  Johnson spent some time with the Blue Jays in 1996.  Johnson has been a coach in the Jays system and since 2004 has been the roving pitching instructor.  In that position Johnson shuttles between all the minor league teams working with the pitchers and supporting each teams pitching coach.  Batters Box caught up with Johnson last week in Syracuse where he took time to talk about some of the lesser known pitching prospects.


Jesse Litsch

Jesse has done a nice job for us.  He has natural movement on his ball which sets him apart.  His four seamer has a natural cut to it and it takes the sting out of the bat to lefties and righties.   He can throw a decent change-up that acts the same way, a curve and a slider too.  He is a bulldog on the mound, challenges guys, he is aggressive and pitches inside.  He has learned a lot this year, he knows how to go about his business. He is still only 21 years old.  He threw a lot of innings last season so we had to watch him a little bit and we thought the off-season rest would benefit him.  This year he has his second breath.  He has a decent change-up right now , needs to work on his off-speed pitches, but his stuff will take him a long way.  He has enough mound presence and poise to go a long way and I think the greater competition at AA will help push him a little.

Ricky Romero

We tinkered a little bit with his delivery, we dropped his hands down which leaves him more in control, he stays back better.  He executes more pitches right now rather than trying to power his way through the lineup.  He has an outstanding change-up, he still has a ways to go to make quality pitches rather than power it past people, that's his natural instinct.  He is about 91-93 with his fastball, his secondary pitches are getting real sharp, he has a real sharp curveball that is an out curveball and his change-up is coming along real well.  He still has the slider he threw in college but he only throws it 3 to 4 times a game.

Orlando Trias

Sinker/slider pitcher, he pounds the zone, pitches in when he has to.  He gives up his hits but he has the ability to get the ball in play on the ground to get his double plays.  He reminds me of Javy Vazquez, he doesn't throw that hard, he won't blow anyone away, but he has a lot of movement and changes speeds and then expands the zone with his slider.

Eric Fowler

He has some natural cut to his fastball as it is when he throws it to the glove side and he has very good movement on his two seamer.  He won't blow you away, he is around 86-89, he is sneaky quick, the ball gets on you quick.  His change-up has come along well. He has an average curveball that is his out pitch.  He needs to sharpen the intangibles of the game, holding runners, fielding his position, game awareness, pitch sequences, etc.  

Billy Carnline

Fastball, slider guy, throws reasonably hard, came in with a curve ball.  He came in last year and rushed his delivery and pitched up in the zone too much.  We beat him up a little last season in the instructional league and he has worked his tail off to get to where he is.  Tom Signore worked with him to get him to stay back and drive the ball down to the bottom of the zone.  His slider has become sharper and tighter and he knows his change-up and he battles out there.

Russell Savickas

Russell was in extended spring training for about four years as a high school guy and he finally turned the corner.  He is another sinker/slider guy with an occasional curveball.  His change-up has become his second best pitch and he gets a lot of outs with it.  He has the ability to change speeds and upset the hitters timing.  He is an 88-90 guy and has good sink with his two seamer, will give up his hits but gets his share of double plays.

Kristian Bell

He was a thirteenth round draft pick and was a project.  Good stuff, very good movement on his two seamer.  He has worked hard to tighten his delivery, his stuff is the better for it.  He has a great breaking ball, curve ball and slider combination, his change-up is coming along and he has a 91-93 fastball.

Shane Benson

Shane has always been around the plate with his stuff, not going to blow you away, he is a 86-88 guy and changes speeds, uses his change-up very effictively.   He throws strikes and he changes speeds, gets ahead in counts, is able to locate down and away to lefties and righties, and he has come a long way.  He is agressive and battles his butt off out there.

Kyle Yates

Kyle went down (to Dunedin) because wasn't throwing strikes with his fastball.  He deserved his promotion to start the season, but he wasn't throwing his fastball for strikes, he was behind in the count and elevated his pitches.  He went down to Dunedin, fixed it, and now he is back and doing well.

David Purcey

David had an outstanding spring training and we thought he was ready for AAA, which he was.   He started hitting his pitch counts in the third and fourth inning.  All the stuff is there he needs to work on his delivery and command, he should be back here soon.

Batters Box thanks Dane for his insight into these pitchers.  If I were to paraphrase I would say Litsch sounds like Janssen, good stuff with movement; Romero sounds like he has to learn to be a pitcher not a thrower; and Eric Fowler needs time to get more into the game.

An Interview with Dane Johnson | 1 comments | Create New Account
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rtcaino - Thursday, July 06 2006 @ 10:09 AM EDT (#150284) #

Great work Gerry. I really enjoy all you and the MLU guys do around here. It is much appreciated by the BBox community.

Interesting to hear Romero described as a thrower not a pitcher.  I had the opposite impression of him: that he was more polished as a “pitcher”.

Regarding Purcey, hopefully he can bounce back and regain his spring training form. There is the danger that this year may affect him the same way that last year affected Brandon League. Of course League was younger and having trouble adjusting to a higher level. (A similar affect may be taking place with Casey Janssen. A little bit more time at a lower level to solidify one’s progress seems to be beneficial.)

It appears to me that the Blue Jays organizational strategy is a bit conflicting. On one hand they talk about waiting for prospects to force their hand, and on the other they want to promote aggressively. I’ve heard JP express both view points at different times. Perhaps I’m reading too much into that.

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