Doug Davis has joined us several times here on Da Box. We checked in with him last Thursday as he was trying to sort out all his short season rosters.
BB: Dwight Smith had a good start in New Hampshire but his numbers have dipped. What is going on with him?
DD: He did start well but then the league tends to catch up to guys with hot starts and the league has caught up with him, and AA is a tough league. Hitters see more hard throwers and generally better pitchers and he has to grind through it. But I think he has held his own really well and in my opinion he is having a solid year. He hasn't faltered, he is just holding steady.
BB: You just promoted Matt Boyd to AAA, what is the difference you see in him, this year versus last year?
DD: For me it's fastball command and the crispness of his slider. He has really worked on that slider, it has become a dominant pitch for him and even from the beginning of the season until now, his fastball command has gotten better. He has become progressively better the more he has thrown this year and he dominated the Eastern League. He has weapons, he has multiple weapons, his fastball is one, his slider is another and he has a very good change-up.
BB: Matt Smoral has moved from extended to Dunedin as a reliever, what's the plan for him?
DD: The plan for Matt Smoral is to find a way to pitch. We wanted to get him away from extended spring, away from complex baseball, get him under the lights and even though he hasn't had a lot of success, get him into a normal baseball routine, something different than what he has been used to in the past. He has had some decent outings in Dunedin, he has had some tough outings, and I would expect that but its more important to give him the ball as often as we can, in more than one inning stints, and let him figure it out.
BB: With the short season leagues starting up are you going to leave him there or move him down?
DD: We are not moving him down.
BB: Jairo Labourt pitched today, does he just have to tighten his command to move ahead?
DD: Absolutely, Jairo has pitched well but his walk numbers are not where we want or where he would want. It's part of the process for him he is a very young pitcher, he throws hard and sometimes his command is very good and he is very effective and sometimes it isn't and he puts too many men on base and then the one hit he does give up costs him runs. That's it, command that fastball, work ahead of hitters, and get to his secondary pitches. But everything for me is ahead of schedule, we kind of jumped him a level and he has held his own and hopefully will take off in the second half.
BB: Alberto Tirado had a rough start to last year and you moved him to the bullpen. He has pitched out of the bullpen for Dunedin, are you going to leave him there or move him back to start?
DD: No, we like where he is at right now. This is the first time he has had a lot of success, made the all-star team, he has had a lot of success. His command has been great, he has stayed under control, locating his fastball well. He has a power slider that has been devastating for him so we just want to keep giving him the ball is the same role out of the pen. We have stretched him out at times, he has pitched three innings so it's not out of the question that he could be back in the rotation but it's certainly not going to be anytime soon. We like him where he is at, he has been successful there and we would like to keep it that way.
BB: Moving down to Lansing, Richard Urena is having a good year and seems to be developing well, I assume that's what you see too.
DD: I think Richard has had much better than a good year, his year has been tremendous. There are not a lot of 19 year olds in the Midwest League that have 11 home runs and 50 RBI's. He is a big contributor on that team towards their playoff drive. He weathered the weather in the first part of the year like every latin player has to, a lot of the time it's an alarming change from what they are used to. He handled himself well early and then once things warmed up he got hot and has pretty much stayed that way. he has played well defensively and we will keep running him out there to do his thing because he is a very good player.
BB: Anthony Alford came into the year with very little experience, are you seeing week to week improvement in him?
DD: We just wanted to get him out playing in an everyday role. He did really well early, and then he realised how difficult the grind is playing on an everyday basis, and he saw things fall off a little but now he has gotten back to where he really understands what he is doing, he is playing center field really well, learning the position. And he is swinging the bat, his on base percentage has been terrific, his walk to strikeout ratio has been great, he takes pitches, he works the count and he scores runs. Everything we hoped for he has been able to do this year.
BB: DJ Davis is getting better results this year, is that due to better pitch recognition and experience?
DD: I think its comfort level, being in the league for a second year now. He is a lot more confident player this year. His walk to strikeout ratio is better, his on base percentage is better, he has cut down on his strikeouts. He is on a team where they are all playing well, they are winning and that helps his competitiveness where now there is something to play for. I think that has helped his confidence, he feels better about himself, about his abilities.
BB: Chase De Jong struggled a bit last season and word was his fastball was too straight. What have you seen in him this year?
DD: He has worked with the pitching coaches to tweak his delivery a little bit, and he commanded the ball very well, his breaking ball is sharp, he has a good mix of pitches and he knows how to pitch, he is a smart kid. The big thing with Chase is he is very competitive and he has had a big first half there.
BB: Jesus Tinoco came into the league with a reputation as a ground ball pitcher but he seems to more of a power pitcher with more strikeouts and fewer ground balls. What have you seen in him?
DD: Tinoco is a power guy, his fastball sits at 95-96, he comes after hitters with a hard, riding fastball. For Jesus, Lansing was a bit of a jump for him too because he is a young kid, he has handled himself very well there. They tried to get him going down here in extended while the weather was cool up there but once he got there he has done well. He is kind of like Labourt, he is working on his fastball command like a lot of young pitchers do. When he goes out there and has good command of his fastball he is very effective and when its off he gives up some runs. But he has had a terrific first half as well.
BB: Jumping back to Dunedin there was talk that Mitch Nay was changing his approach to be more aggressive. Do you think that is working for him?
DD: I think so, I think John Tamargo (the hitting coach) has done a really good job with Mitch, they are working one on one daily. I think he is hearing one voice and they are focused on what they trying to address, somewhat it is his approach, somewhat it is his setup so he visually sees the ball better. Mitch has tremendous power, sometimes he gets to it, sometimes he doesn't get there but we have seen progression this year. Right now I think he is swinging the bat real well. That team was a young group of hitters and I think they were all getting their feet well at that level but now I think they are all more confident, they finished the first half strong and I think the second half will be better including Mitch.
BB: Would you include Lugo in that group who also had a slow first half?
DD: Oh yeah, we knew going in that was what was probably going to happen, I think its going the way we expected it to, I think they all had to feel their way through the first half and we expect the second half to be much better.
BB: Finally checking in on some of the injured players, is Max Pentecost ready to be on a roster yet?
DD: Max is ready to swing the bat, we are close to getting him on a roster but not quite yet. He is still in the infancy stages of throwing, hopefully that will move forward fairly quickly. Hopefully by July we can get him on a roster where he can at least DH. The catching part will take a little longer but the at-bats should come when we get to July.
BB: How about Ryan Borucki?
DD: Ryan by mid-July I would say, we don't want to rush him. What he done surgically wan't too severe but we don't want to rush Ryan. If we get him going by mid-July through the end of the season I think we will be pretty pleased with that. We want to take it step by step and not have any setbacks, it's been great so far.
BB: Tom Robson?
DD: Robson is getting close too, I would say in the early part of July we should be able to get him on a roster.
BB: Patrick Murphy, is he still around?
DD: Yes he is around but I don't think you will get much out of him this year. It's a process, he is still a young kid and we are trying to handle him with kid gloves, not force the issue so when he does come back he is 100%.
BB: I saw Jacob Anderson played in extended, is he going to be on a roster?
DD: Jake will be on a roster somewhere, I am not sure exactly where that will be as of today. He has been playing in games but he has had a few nagging injuries that have kept him from going at 100% but hoefully by the time the short season leagues start up he will be ready to go.
Batters Box thanks Doug Davis for his time.