Notable Quotables: On Baez’s bopping in Daytona
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.
Daytona manager Dave Keller on Chicago prospect Javier Baez (Baez goes 5-for-6, drives in six runs):
“Power has never been an issue with this guy. He has plenty of power and plenty of bat speed, and he’s been patient and he’s been getting good pitches to hit. That’s a beautiful thing when you get up there and you have your balance and you swing at good pitches.
“That gives him a chance to get his ability out there. He hasn’t been chasing pitches out of the strike zone and he’s been keeping himself under control. He’s taking nice, tension-free swings. When that happens, the ball jumps off his bat.”
Keller on Baez’s swing, which features a high leg kick and a violent load:
“I don’t know who says it’s unconventional. Everybody has a leg kick except for people who don’t stride. It’s just a matter of how high. He picks his leg up a little higher than some guys, and he does that for timing. You just have to realize as a hitter how to get ready on time and how to keep your balance and how to slow everything down. Then the timing issue doesn’t become a problem.
Keller on Baez’s pitch recognition:
“I think that’s constant, no matter where you’re playing. You have to have pitch recognition, and that goes back with talking about with the leg kick. It’s slowing down so your eyes can focus on the ball easier and your head isn’t moving everywhere and your eyes aren’t changing levels. With that not going on, it creates more of a tension-free, relaxed swing.”
Boston prospect Garin Cecchini on learning how to be a patient hitter (De La Cruz leads Salem in sweep):
“I just think it’s trusting what God’s given me in my ability to hit and trusting myself to work deep in counts and wait for the pitch that I think I can put my best swing on.
“That’s all I’m doing. If I don’t think I can put a good swing on it, then I’m not going to swing at it until I get two strikes on me, and then I might open up a little bit, but not too much. If I don’t think I can get a really good swing where I can drive the ball, I’m not going to swing at it.
“I think you learn and, you know, I’m still learning what pitches I feel like I can hit with backspin into the game. It just takes time. That’s a key here in the Minor Leagues. Time is on your side.
“Just trying to get a good pitch and drive it takes time and a lot of effort to kind of master your swing and your approach in the cage. It comes back to what the Red Sox have done working with my mental approach and working on my swing.”
Twins prospect D.J. Baxendale on adjustments he made at the University of Arkansas in 2012 that have helped him succeed as a pro (Baxendale gets first Double-A win):
“The biggest adjustment in college was the arm angle. My arm angle started to drift downward, and I was using two arm angles — one for my fastball, the other for my off-speed pitches. That was the reason for those struggles, and they picked up on it quickly in the SEC and made me pay for it.
“Our pitching coach Dave Jorn and I worked in college to get that arm angle consistent, and that’s what has kept working for me since. I was able to stay that way throughout the end of my college career and carry that into my professional career.”
Arizona prospect Chris Owings on his time in MLB Spring Training (Owings extends hit streak to 22 games):
“I worked on my hitting a little, just with those guys, seeing their routines. I hit with [Paul] Goldschmidt one time. He talked me through his routine a little bit, about how when things aren’t working out, there’s no reason to not keep doing what you’re doing. Stick with it and things will turn around.”
Colorado prospect Daniel Winkler on the keys to his 2013 success (Winkler spins another gem for Modesto):
“In the past, I really haven’t been walking a lot of guys. My walk rate was probably about the same, but I was picking [or nibbling] a lot more. I was giving hitters more credit than they deserved, and this is a great league with good hitters, but I want them to beat me.
“I don’t want to get them in fastball counts where they know a 2-0 fastball is coming. I want them to not know what’s coming, whether it’s a fastball or a sinker or a slider. In the past, I’ve been in 2-0 counts and throwing fastballs and stuff like that.
“Last year was a tough year for me. It was my first full pro season, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I think that’s why I was picking. At the end of the season last year, we had a good run, and I just wanted to feel like I was contributing more.
“I worked more on just throwing first-pitch strikes and taking one pitch at a time. I took that into Spring Training and I talked to our pitching coach Dave Burba, and he noticed I was picking a lot in Spring Training, too. He’s given me the confidence to attack hitters and let them beat me.
“It’s more of a mental thing, man. Mechanics-wise, I feel like I’m pretty decent. There are little things now and then I have to change. The last couple starts, I was rushing and my arm was dragging a little. Today, I felt like I was real balanced. That’s what pitching is. It’s 90 percent mental.”