Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
Gary Cathcart won the Bobby Mattick award in 2007 based on managing the Lansing Lugnuts to a franchise-record 78 wins.  This year things haven't been going as well for Cathcart in New Hampshire, the Fisher Cats are last in the Northern Division.  As I entered the coaches room in Erie last week I said to Cathcart that I assumed 2008 wasn't living up to his expectations.  Cathcart replied that my comment was the understatement of the year, as he went on to add that the team pitching and defence have been very disappointing this season.  Cathcart then answered some questions for Batters Box.

BB:  Travis Snider was struggling in the early part of the season.  I saw him play in Dunedin and he was trying to pull everything.  Even though he was struggling in Dunedin he received a promotion to New Hampshire, was that because Snider had worked with you last year?

GC:  No, he was scheduled to come here in spring training but he hurt his elbow in the spring.  He didn't throw for almost two months, it was his left elbow, his back elbow in his swing.  He would be the first to tell you that he got into a few bad habits in the spring and then maybe in Dunedin, favouring the elbow a little bit.  He has gotten healthier, he was still feeling it a little when he got here, but he has progressed.  He struggled when he first got here trying to do what you saw him do down there, but as he has got healthier and got into a daily program in the cage, he has been a lot more consistent and his production in May was quite a bit different from when he first got here.  He is almost back to where he was last year, and where he wants to be, and where he needs to start from to develop from here.  He still has a lot of things to work on, he knows that, and know that he is healthy you will see him swinging the way he should.

BB:  There is a big difference between the pitching in Lansing, where Travis was last year, and here in AA.  Is he seeing a lot of different sequences because his strikeouts are quite high?

GC:  Most of those strikeouts came in the first 30 games he was here.  He struck out maybe two times a game for his first month.  I didn't worry about it, guys were asking me, I said there's nothing wrong with Travis, he is just not healthy right now and he is not swinging the way he can but he is back to where he was.  It is the biggest jump you are going to make to AA wherever you come from, his is an even bigger jump coming up two levels, which Scott Campbell has done too this year.  This is where they all come home to roost as they say, if you make it here and be consistent here you can play in the major leagues.  This is where a lot of careers are made or broken.

BB:  So is his elbow better or almost better?

GC:  He is back just about 100%, he has been playing defence for a couple of weeks, he is doing his throwing program and is fine, hasn't had any setbacks.  I will probably DH him once a week until the all-star break to give him one or two days a week away from a lot of throwing just to make sure.  But he hasn't had any problems and I don't think it will be an issue the rest of the season.

BB:  Scott Campbell has been a great story, I heard JP talking about him this week and he said defence is what is holding him back from AAA at this point.  Is that what you see?

GC:  Yeah, his defence is a work in process, he didn't play a lot of baseball growing up in New Zealand and in college baseball a lot of programs don't spend a lot of time on defence, it's offense, offense, offense, and with the aluminum bat they don't spend a lot of time on defence.  He works hard at it, he is not a natural defensive player, he has to really work at it to make sure all his mechanics are right.  But he knows that and he works as hard as anyone on defence.  If he can get to be just an average defender, with his offense as good as it is, he should be fine.

BB:  It seems like every night you look at the boxscore he has two hits?

GC:  He is just a professional hitter.  We asked to bring him up here this year because there wasn't really a guy at second base scheduled to come here.  I had him last year and we spoke with Dick Scott and we said let's try him up here and see what happens.  He showed me last year in Lansing that he was a professional hitter, even in low A, and he has just progressed.  He has no fear, he doesn't concern himself with who is on the mound, he concerns himself with his approach, we will not waver from his approach, it is the same every night.  He waits for his pitch, he sees a lot of pitches and he is just a professional hitter, that's the best way I can describe him for a guy who hasn't played a lot and he has definitely put himself on the radar.

BB:  Brian Jeroloman last year had the reputation of a singles hitter who walks a lot and plays good defence?  This year he is showing a little more power.  Is that what you have seen?

GC:  Kenny Joyce, our hitting coach, and I have talked to Brian a lot about how he has a tremendous command of the strike zone, his walk rate and on-base percentage are very good, but what we trying to do now is get him in those 2-0 and 3-1 counts to be a little more aggressive.  That's probably what you are seeing, a little more production doubles-wise and home run-wise, so I think it's a mind-set that he has now that when he is ahead in the count he doesn't have to sit and take a pitch, he can go ahead and drive the ball, especially with men on base.

BB:  What about defensively, anything he is working on?

GC:  He continues to need to work on calling a game, it gets tougher as you get higher and hitters get better.  The disadvantage we have, compared to the major leagues, is our lack of information on hitters.  We have some on the teams we play in our division but we are in the middle of playing the western division now so we are just going on feel and what the pitchers have that night.  But he is as good a catch and throw guy there is, he is consistently 1.85 or 1.9 to second base which is well above average.  He is a tremendous student of the game, really works at it and is really in tune with what is going on with him and his pitchers.  He continues to progress like we hoped he would.

BB:  Ryan Patterson has returned to AA this year and his goal this season was to be more consistent.  Since you got past the first month it looks like he has been more consistent.

GC:  He understands more clearly now, than he has in the past, that is the only thing holding him back.  He is part of that because he gets a little hard on himself if he goes a game or two without a hit or making solid contact.  He needs to keep grinding away and working on his approach and not be all over the place mentally like he has been in the past.  He has done a lot better like you said, the numbers are better, the approach has been better, he is valuing the strike zone better than he has in the past.  He is a little bit quieter at the plate now too.

BB:  Does he still have that unusual swing?

GC:  Yes, that's in his DNA, that's just something he feels he needs to load up.  If we can get a little more in his lower half than his upper half then he can be a little more effective.  He can afford a little more movement if his lower half is doing most of the work.  He is working on it and his production numbers are good.  The one thing holding him back is to avoid those long droughts, being real hot and real cold.

BB:  I saw Ricky Romero pitch last year and I thought he had good pitches but with the results he is getting this year it seems like he doesn't know where the ball is going when it leaves his hand.

GC:  Command is the issue.  The four or five walks a game, a couple of nights ago against Akron was a good example, he had good stuff that night but he walked five guys and they got two or three bloop hits off him which wouldn't have hurt him but he had already put guys on with the walks so now they are scoring two or three runs they shouldn't really have had.  We are frustrated and I am sure Ricky is as frustrated as anybody.  His stuff is good enough, it's that same issue he has had since he has been with us, commanding it and being able to stay ahead of the hitters, and throw his pitch, not just have to throw something in a hitters count.  He competes his butt off, he really does, he works hard and wants it as much as anybody.  We will just keep sending him out there and hopefully it will click.

BB:  Brandon Magee, like Romero, also seems to be battling command issues.

GC:  You know in his first eight or ten starts I don't think we averaged more than two runs a game for him.  That combined with him having one inning each start, it's uncanny, he has one bad, four or five run, inning and then he is up to 100 pitches and it doesn't feel like we have been in the game.  He has pitched better his last two or three starts, trying to get his arm slot back to get some sink back on the ball.  He had a little step back his last start but it's time for him to do it, he needs to do it now, we drafted him as a little bit of an older guy, he is 25 now.  He had a good second half last year in Dunedin but he didn't pick up where he left off last year and he is back behind the eight ball again at 0-8, and I think he was 0-7 last year.  That's tough for him mentally but that's where he is at and he needs to pick it up and improve.

Batters Box thanks Gary Cathcart for taking the time to answer our questions.

An Interview with Gary Cathcart | 0 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
An Interview with Gary Cathcart | 0 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.