Notable Quotables: Springer’s stock soaring for ‘Stros
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. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Corpus Christi manager Keith Bodie on Astros prospect and MiLB home run leader George Springer (Springer, Santana slug off the Hook):
“He does a lot of good things. He came up here last year at the end of the season in August and he was not able to do those things. He’s made adjustments at this level to have success, and he needs to continue to make certain adjustments at the plate for the way people pitch him.
“There are certain locations where people will throw to him, and he has trouble getting to those points, but he’s made adjustments to hit some pitches he’s been getting after they got him out a certain way. He can come back and make those adjustments. You mature as you go through it, and it’s a slow process at times, but he’s doing a good job of doing it.
“All the good players that, you hope when they get to the big leagues, like with [Mike] Trout or other special players when they’re in Double-A at this point in their life, he’s a special player. When you’re watching somebody who possesses those attributes and skills, namely the speed and the power, the sky is the limit for players like that, plus he plays a premium position.
“He has the opportunity to show you those skills not only on base, but he covers so much ground in center field and he can throw. He’s an exciting player — he has a chance to be a perennial All-Star. The sky’s the limit.”
Bodie on the way 20-year-old Domingo Santana has handled Double-A:
“He’s 20 and in Double-A, but his talent is appropriate for this level right now. I don’t think that he’s too young for the level. His skills play at this level. He’s also learning to make adjustments, and with his age, it’s more about getting him his experience. Skill and talent will play no matter where you’re at. There are some young players in the Major Leagues right now that people think are young, but their skills and talent can play, and he’s typical of that type of player.
“He makes things look easy in the outfield. He has a great throwing arm. He has plus speed, and it doesn’t always look like he’s going anywhere, but he covers a lot of ground. He has tremendous bat potential. He has power, and he makes hard, solid contact. He needs to learn to command the strike zone, and he will eventually, but right now he’s just inexperienced.
“Those things come with playing and experience. He’s going to be another plus player. It’s an exciting thing to look in the crystal ball for the Houston Astros right now and see the guys on the horizon.”
Portland’s Nick Natoli after ending a hectic travel day with a five-hit game (Sea Dogs’ Natoli delivers in a pinch):
“Being a utility guy, I’m kind of used to it. I did a little of it last year. Today was a little different. I woke up at 4 a.m. for a flight from Virginia to Detroit, and I had a two-hour layover there. I’ve been up for quite a while today. Days like these, you just glide through them. I figured I’d be playing. That’s usually how it goes. You have to have fun with it. I got up and it was a long day, long process.
“Last night, I was in bed around 12:30. We were supposed to play in Frederick this weekend, so I was going to go home to see my family and my girlfriend. I was laying in bed at 12:30 last night, and I got a call saying I needed to be in the airport, or at the clubhouse at four, to the airport by five. We were at home in Virginia, and I was going to travel the next morning. I had to catch a 6 a.m. flight. At the time, it was kind of frustrating.
“It’s nice moving up and playing at Double-A and helping out, but at 12:30, when you’re sleeping or ready to go to bed and about to go see family…”
The Cubs’ Kyler Burke on transitioning from the outfield to starting pitching (Cubs’ Burke continues conversion):
“It was a big transition going from the outfield. It’s almost a completely different lifestyle, especially as a starting pitcher. I went from starting 130 games to starting 20 something. The biggest adjustment is just the mentality of being a pitcher. It’s a little bit of a different routine. I think I’m kind of starting to figure all that out. I’m trying to go out and work hard every day.
“It was definitely a tough decision. We kind of talked about it mutually. It wasn’t something where they said, ‘You need to be a pitcher now.’ It was a mutual thing, and it was definitely tough because I’d worked hard for 4 ½ years to try to be a hitter. I think it was a good move, and I think things are going in the right direction.
“I think it was a little bit of both. The upside, I think, just baseball in general, there are fewer left-handed pitchers. It’s a commodity in any organization. That was a big part of it right there. It was kind of a timing thing where we had a bunch of outfield guys in the system and everything that went into the decision of doing the conversion.”
Atlanta’s Alex Wood on pushing teammate J.R. Graham to adopt the spike curveball (Wood produces “best start I’ve had”):
“J.R. and I talk every day about different kinds of stuff. His fastball, he can run it up there a little higher than I will, but we’re kind of the same pitcher except that he’s right-handed and I’m left-handed. He kind of has the same deal as I have had up until this year where he’s trying to figure out that breaking pitch he can throw all the time for a strike, and not just as a put-away pitch. I was able to pick up my spike curve from Jonny [Venters] and Craig [Kimbrel], and I had kind of been hinting at him, ‘Try it out, see how you like it.’
“Really, when you throw it, the grip itself helps you get on top of the ball without really trying to. For hard throwers like him and me, it helps us both out. He kind of started messing with it, and then his last start, it was probably the best his curve or slider — I’m not sure what he calls it — but it was the best it’s been. It was a good step in the right direction for him, and I know he’s itching to get back out there and throw it some more.”
Wood on trying not to think about when/if he’s promoted:
They haven’t said anything to me. It’s my first full year, and probably the hardest thing is just telling myself to take it a day at a time and trust in the Braves. I try to tell myself — and I write it down after most of my starts — just take it a day at a time and keep throwing well. Whatever happens, happens. Whenever that day comes to go to Gwinnett or to Atlanta, that’ll be the right time for me. I’m trying to get better and learn every start out. That’s my goal right now for sure.