Clayton McCullough is back for his second year as manager of the Lansing Lugnuts. Recently in Lansing he answered some questions about the 2009 Lugnuts.
BB: You have a lot of young guys here again in 2009 as you did in 2008. Is 2009 in that respect the same as 2008?
CM: Well there are a lot of similarities. A lot of the things that happen early its a result of them getting their feet wet and getting used to the level of play, the speed of the game, the weather, and moving away from home. But after 25 games they get used to the travel their routines and understanding what this job requires. Certinly a lot of similarities, but some kids catch on quickly whereas other kids take longer and you wait and hope to see improvement as time goes on.
BB: One difference from last year is the end of the game, last season you had Tim Collins, Cody Crowell and Edgar Estanga, this season you have a few late losses. How hard is it to keep the guys confidence up with those tough losses?
CM: We have had to persevere a little bit, we have had some tough losses and some games where we have played well enough to win and for a variety of reasons just didn't get it done while last year we stole some wins where we didn;t play that great or swing the bats well enough. But last year or this year the guys on the mound have to get used to pitching at this level and this year our guys have been much better lately so we hope that continues and we start to play better as a team and become more consistent.
BB: You are a former catcher and you are rotating two guys through catcher, Jon Talley and AJ Jimenez. Can you give me a scouting report on each of them?
CM: We'll start with Jimenez a kid who has a chance to be a terrific defender. He can throw well, he has gotten better at receiving and blocking. His game calling has improved as he has felt more comfortable back there. Early on it's tough you are asking those guys to call a game and take charge and in fairness to them they probably weren't ready for that yet. It's a lot on their plate but now that both of them feel more comfortable that they can play here they can take a little more charge. Jimenez has been terrific behind the plate the last few weeks, he handles the bat pretty well, he makes good contact, he can move it around, he is an athletic kid. Talley has a chance to be a nice hitter, a big left handed guy who can hit for power. He hasn't shown that here but he still has that, in baseball terms he is still young. Defensively he knew and we all knew that it would be a work-in-process throughout the year. He didn't catch much last year and he is learning on the fly back there in some intense games but he has gotten better in a lot of aspects of his game from the start of the season until now. A lot of that is his comfort and feeling like I can do this, I trust myself a little more. Throwing is something he knows he needs to improve on but he has a big body, a nice target to throw to, for him it's more believing he can catch.
BB: As well as rotating catchers you are rotating at third base. That must be tough on guys who are trying to get their at-bats and improve?
CM: You have a lot of guys here who need at-bats and I try and use the DH spot to get them at-bats. Balbino got off to a slow start, but that's OK, he is a young guy and the anxiety of coming up here. But now he has really been swinging the bat well the last three and a half weeks. Now we see the bat we knew he had start to come through a little bit. Sobolewski is an older guy who played against better competition in college and you would expect him to make a better transition than some of the young guys and he has made a nice transition. But you do try and get everyone their at-bats and it can be tough to sit for three or four days and then go in and play so I am trying to limit some of that and make sure everybody is getting a chance to play.
BB: You have a young shortstop and you had another young one last season, how would you compare Pastornicky and Jackson?
CM: Pastornicky has been tremendous so far, he really has taken some nice strides, he has a nice short compavt swing. Jackson you love his body and his athleticism, right now Jackson probably drives the ball a little bit better . They are kind of different, Pastornicky can really run, he can do damage on the bases. Pastornicky is athletic too but they are a little different in how they look but he has been playing solid at shortstop for a guy who has been playing everyday there for now a month. They both have great baseball instincts, from baseball families and those guys get better in a hurry.
BB: Markus Brisker is an athletic guy trying to get used to playing every day as was Eric Eiland last year, how is he doing?
CM: Markus has a tremendous body, he can run, he can throw, he has the ability and the skills to play all three outfield positions. His at-bats have been better but this is a big adjustment for him seeing where he has come from. But for Markus a lot of this is coming here to see what this is, and it has been great for him even though his numbers don't reflect his ability and the kind of player he is going to be down the road. When you come here you try and build on some at-bats, if you make a mistake in the outfield you learn from it, take from what you learn and get better.
BB: Kenny Wilson looks to have made some strides here in May, what is the difference?
CM: I think it is confidence, Kenny is a confident kid but they are not sure how it's going to be when they come here. They have an idea but until you get here and get thrown in the fire against kids who might be three or four years older than you with more baseball experience you realize hey it is pretty tough. I think when Kenny stopped focusing on trying to get hits and worrying about his batting average his at-bats got better, his contact got better, and his results got better. He is a dynamic little player, he can really run, he can change some games with his speed on the bases, he is a strong kid, I think he has three home runs or so but not that he is going to be a power hitter but he does have some strength in the bat. His defense was really getting a lot better, he was taking more control in center field and learning what it takes to be a top flight defender. It's unfortunate that Kenny was banged up a little bit and it had been nagging him for a few weeks but we got to the point where we had to shut him down and get him healthy, we have a lot of season left.
Batters Box thanks Clayton McCullough for his time and wishes the Lugnuts all the best for the rest of the season. Remember "Go Nuts".