Notable Quotables: A speedster on playing slow
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Corpus Christi’s George Springer on jumping from Class A Advanced to Double-A last year:
“The game is a lot cleaner and smoother because the talent level is obviously better. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just one of those things where the experience of the players and their talent — the game speeds up and you have to learn how to slow it down.
“You slow it down and don’t try to do too much. You just have to get your pitch to hit. The [pitchers] in this league are good. If they make a mistake and I don’t hit it, the count swings in their favor. As a hitter, that’s not a spot where you want to be.
“I think it’s a thing that comes from experience. You have to understand who you are as a player. Understand how other teams will attack you and play you. You have to know the strike zone as a hitter and know what it is you’re trying to do. All that has to be made up before you step into the box.
“You focus in on getting a good pitch to hit, and that helps you slow the game down. It’s just one of those things where, with experience, things will slow down. You go out and attempt to slow it down by just slowing it down, strange as that sounds.”
Springer on learning to steal bases in pro ball:
“There’s stuff that happens out there you notice. Guys might do a certain thing if they’re going home or if they’re coming over, but a lot of times you just have to be smart about the count and the situation and how they’re going to attack the hitter. It’s one of those things where you have to pick and choose your time to run, and don’t hesitate if you do.”
Savannah manager Luis Rojas on Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki:
“I didn’t get to see him play last year. As time goes along, and he transitions into pro ball and everything, it’s all about how you take it mentally. Coming from college like he was, right now, he just needs to be more comfortable. He’s been with the organization for almost a year now. His abilities are coming out naturally because he’s more comfortable right now. He’s a good hitter, and his leadership is outstanding. He’s a natural leader, and you need that behind the plate as a catcher. He runs the pitchers really well. Everybody listens when he talks. He’s pretty mature for the level he’s playing right now. I think you’re looking at a future star. He’s showing that right now on a daily basis.”
Rojas on Plawecki dealing with Savannah’s Latin American pitchers:
“The Latin pitchers that are here, they were all with Kevin in Brooklyn last year. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and he knows the actions on their pitches. He can rank their pitches, and knows them well and knows how to communicate with them. It’s just easy for him. There haven’t been any issues with that. He handles it really well. It’s helped that he was with them last year, and in the future with new guys, he won’t have any issues. He finds a way to communicate. He’s even picking up some Spanish.
“It’s extremely important. He’s going to have to catch pitchers from Latin American countries, from Venezuela and Puerto Rico and so on. That skill is really a plus for him. It’s good that he has it in his repertoire.”
Plawecki on dealing with Latin American pitchers:
“Last year, the whole rotation in Brooklyn was Latin. I took some Spanish in high school, but I’m by no means fluent. I know a little here and there to get me by and communicate with those guys in certain situations. It’s important for me to build a relationship with them and it’s important for them to feel comfortable with me back there.
“I can bounce ideas off them and feel comfortable talking to them about what I see. There’s no reason to treat them differently than other guys just because I can have English conversations with some guys.”
Plawecki on the development of his swing:
“I’m just making sure my hands are on time and I’m in synch with my lower half. When I get in trouble is when I start lunging. I need to let the ball travel, let it come to me. I get too overanxious. I’m trying to limit that. It’ll happen. That’s baseball. It’s just important for me to let the ball travel and keep a consistent swing and consistent approach and get consistent results. That’s what I think is improving. I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and let the rest take care of itself.”
Corpus Christi’s Asher Wojciechowski on piggybacking into a no-hitter in progress:
“That’s never happened to me. I’ve never come into a perfect game. That was a new experience there. David [Martinez] did a great job and worked really fast, and before I knew it, I was in the game. I knew the situation and just wanted to continue what was going on but not think about it too much. It was definitely a new experience coming into a perfect game.”
Wojciechowski on what’s led to his 18 scoreless innings to begin the year:
“I think so far this year I’ve been able to throw quality strikes and attack the zone and work quickly and mostly just throw quality strikes and not make too many mistakes. That’s been the key so far to this early start. Things are working out.
Wojciechowski on what he considers “quality strikes”:
“That means just staying at the bottom of the zone, staying out of the middle part of the plate and mixing my pitches well. Staying out of the middle of the plate and up in the zone. I’m elevating when I need to, but I’m mostly just staying down and staying on the corners and also pitching to contact. Quality strikes are down in the zone, so I’m working fast and getting ahead of hitters.”
Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker on right-hander Heri Quevedo, who’s making his stateside debut at 22:
“This is his first year from what I know. I haven’t seen any stats on the guy, but seeing what he has, his stuff is very impressive. It’s his first year of pro ball, and for his first real taste of pro action, it’s a good sign.
“I saw him a few times in Spring Training. I actually don’t know how he got over here, but his stuff is good enough to play at this level. He’s been piggybacking for us, and this was his third piggyback. His stuff is good and his arm is really live. He has a smooth, easy arm action, and the fastball really jumps out of his hand and he has a really good slider that jumps out of his hand.
“He’s throwing 92-96, and can play at 94-95, with easy arm action. The ball just gets on hitters really quick. He’s real smooth, and the ball just takes off late in the zone.
“I am surprised by his polish. A couple of times in his last couple outings, he’s tried to nibble or do too much and walked batters. This outing, he got back to letting his stuff play in the strike zone. This outing, I think, opened his eyes that he’s good enough to pitch here, pitch up in the zone. His first couple outings, like anybody here, he didn’t know what to expect and he worked around the strike zone too much and put himself in bad situations. He trusted his stuff and was poised today.”
Tacoma catcher Mike Zunino on calling games in Triple-A:
“You have to know what they want to throw in certain counts. I have to stay one pitch ahead. I’m just talking with the pitchers, laying out what we want to do. You build a foundation in the gameplan so we know what we want to do and how we want to do it.
“You realize what guys do in certain counts. You have guys who do a lot of hitting in certain counts, because that’s what guys like to do. They have their tendencies and their go-tos. You learn with each pitcher, and that takes time. It’s a process. Once the season gets going, that’s when you get in a groove with the pitchers. You figure out what guys can throw what pitch in any count and you build from there. You go out and gameplan and use the scouting report on hitters.”