Notable Quotables: Getting Gary on board
By Jake Seiner
Fresno manager Bob Mariano on Gary Brown’s recent acceptance of his need to make adjustments (Coachable Brown breaks out for Fresno)
“It started in Salt Lake City. Our hitting coach, Russ Morman, was working with him a lot, and Shane Turner, our field coordinator, came in. Gary’s been real reluctant to really make adjustments. Some guys just take some time and are a little stubborn. He really started opening up and asking questions to Shane and us about what he needed to do. We looked at some video of him in San Jose, and he was taller in his setup back then, and that allowed him to stay above the ball in his setup and stay through the zone.
“He’s been asking more questions and been more receptive to some teaching that Russ was trying to get through to him, and Shane Turner was trying to get through to him, and he just started catching on fire. He’s barreling up the ball. He’s had three good games now where he’s really swinging the bat. Tonight, he had probably the best game he’s had all year.
“He was a little wider in his setup and was really rushing out there with his mechanics on the front side and was constantly working underneath the baseball. He had a long swing and he was in and out of the zone real quick. Now, he’s taller, and he’s working high to low, keeping the barrel above his hands. He’s more short to long, staying inside the ball and barreling up. He’s catching fire and putting together some good at-bats, and that’s something we’ve been waiting for for a long time.
“Sometimes, guys might have success for their whole lives, whether it’s in college or a lower level. He had success in San Jose, but as he started moving up — in Triple-A, it’s a whole different animal. Pitchers are throwing to different sides of the plate and they can add and subtract real well.
“Sometimes guys take time to make adjustments and are more open to it. Gary, he was kind of — he wasn’t real receptive earlier. Sometimes failure is your best teacher as a coach. You let guys fail, and they have to take a couple of steps back before they can take steps forward. That’s what was going on, and now, he’s swinging the bat well. It’s a good thing, because we have a lot of games left. We’re only midway through the season.”
San Francisco prospect Gary Brown on battling through his struggles this season (Brown rights the ship with four hits):
“It’s hard because in this game, you can do everything right and fail. Earlier this year, I wasn’t doing much right, but, even when I was doing things right, I was still failing. It’s good to have a night like this.
“It’s definitely been building. I haven’t stopped working since the season started. I just haven’t seen the results. I finally got some balls to fall today. I found a couple holes in the infield, and sometimes, that’s just what it takes.”
Springfield pitching coach Randy Niemann on Cardinals’ prospect Seth Blair pitching in Double-A (Cards’ Blair outduels Drillers’ Oswalt):
“When he started the year, he was probably a level above where he should’ve been in the sense that he didn’t pitch a lot last year. He had a very good Spring Training and we took a chance on taking him up here. He’s had some growing pains, but he’s done a great job of making adjustments to his delivery and basically getting comfortable at this level.
“We knew coming in that he had all the ability to be able to pitch at this level. He just didn’t have the experience. Now, he’s gaining the experience, and he understands himself and his delivery better and he’s making better pitches.
“I think in Spring Training, we realized that not only did he have the ability to be at this level, but he had exhibited the mental capacity to handle it. You knew going in that it wouldn’t be easy. There were some rough spots. With every outing, even if the results weren’t showing up, he was improving and mentally, he was staying strong, and it’s a credit to him that he was able to do that.
“He didn’t let the results overwhelm him. He understands the process and he kept working hard at that. Now, we’re starting to see the results of that work. We’re very pleased and proud of the work he’s put in.
He had a delivery where he actually stepped back and then had a big leg turn, more of a leg swing than a turn. What it was doing was affecting his posture through his delivery. Sometimes, he would maintain it, and sometimes, he would get out of it. It was making him very inconsistent. He calmed that down a little.
“He still goes over his head and makes a turn, but he’s picking that leg up and doing a little side step rather than stepping back and swinging his leg around and getting his posture off line. He worked hard on that. Also, out of the stretch, he had a little higher of a leg kick, so we cut that down. That’s helped improve his command, also. It’s that old saying, ‘Keep it simple.’ By simplifying those things, he’s helped his delivery and his command. The stuff is definitely there — it’s just about being able to keep it in the strike zone.
He’s got an overpowering curveball, but the issue with it — it’s kind of a spike curve, and the issue is commanding it. He’s starting to improve that a lot. We’ve kind of adjusted his grip and gotten him to where he can throw a slower curve and a harder one. He’s ended up with two curveballs, and he’s improved his command with both. With the changeup, again, it’s a plus pitch for him, but he has a tendency to fly open and lower his arm angle. When he’s able to maintain that same angle as his fastball, that’ll affect that pitch.
“Those are the little things guys with experience are able to understand and do. He’s doing it and experiencing it and fixing it with each outing and side session and bullpen he throws. Those are the kinds of things — other than results — those are the things we noticed him improving on and getting better. Now, it’s showing up in games.”
Washington prospect Robbie Ray on the adjustments that have led to his resurgence with Potomac (Ray continues to rebound for Nats):
“It was a mechanical thing. I had kind of tightened up my windup a little. I have a little turn now, and I raised my arm slot. I’m more of a high three-quarters now than a low three-quarters.
“That was actually last season, in the last game of the year last year, Chris Michalak, my pitching coach, we were working on stuff in the ‘pen before my next start. He said, ‘Let’s try this,’ and it felt good. I took it into the offseason, and it seemed to be working, and I stuck with it.
“It’s allowing me to keep my body going straight toward the hitter, toward the plate. Last year, I was flying open and leaving everything arm side. When I get that turn, I stay closed and I’m moving toward the plate, and that allows me to keep the ball in the zone.
“From last year, I thought I could just come out and throw stuff and it’d be good. I didn’t know how to pitch to hitters. This year, I have more knowledge of what to throw in what counts, where as last year, I was trying to blow it by guys. I’m being a little more selective about my pitches.
Oakland prospect Max Muncy on rediscovering success after a hot start and a long slump (Muncy’s three shots lead homer barrage):
“It wasn’t really an adjustment to my swing. It was more to my mental approach. I started off the season really hot, and I think I let that get to my head a little and got away from my approach. My approach is to be a linedrive hitter. The home runs will just come when I get a little underneath the ball and get it into the air.
“I started struggling when I started trying to put the ball in the air instead of sticking to line drives. The last couple weeks, I’ve been trying to get back to that, and I think I’ve done a good job of that. Tonight, I just happened to get underneath it.”
Muncy on what’s gone into him already tripling his homer output from last season:
“I’m getting a little more backspin on the ball. Last year, I had a lot of doubles, and I can honestly say a lot of those were balls with topspin. I’d topspin balls down the right-field line over the first baseman’s head, and even the ones I’d hit into right-center field, I’d be getting some topspin on them. This year, I’m putting more backspin on it.
“It’s just about staying through the ball a little more and not getting to the point of contact and coming out early. I had been doing that my whole life, and that’s really what creates the backspin. I really worked in the offseason to stay on the inside part of the ball and get backspin.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on importance of winning in Minor Leagues (Miracle clinch first-half division title):
“I was lucky enough to play with the same group of guys all the way up with Dave Ortiz and A.J. Pierzynski and Torii Hunter and the list goes on — Corey Koskie. We were all together from, ever since we all signed, we played together and won at every level. I think that was a big reason why we turned the franchise around, is we believed in each other.
“We won at every level, and we took our lumps and got our butts kicked every night the first couple years in the big leagues, but that group understood about taking those lumps, and we thought once we got established, things wouldn’t be any different. With the guys we already had out there, the Eddie Guardados and the LaTroy Hawkins and Brad Radkes — our group believed we could win.
“That’s something the Twins always believed in in the development stage. It’s not about developing individual talents. It’s about developing winning players. Winning players find a way to stick around in the big leagues.”