The Official Site of the Delmarva Shorebirds' Fan Club
Kenny Steenstra, Jeff Fiorentino, Jeff Duncan, Jay Shiner
Steve ďDocĒ Watson, David Stockstill, Brandon Snyder, Brandon Erbe
March 15, 2006: Kenny Steenstra returns for his second year as Pitching Coach for the Shorebirds. When this interview was conducted it was very early in spring training.
Doc Shorebird: Kenny, have you had a chance to work with any of the pitchers that might start the season in Delmarva this year?
Coach Steenstra: Itís still pretty early. Iíve seen some of the guys who I think may be coming to Delmarva, but itís too early to speculate on whoís coming for sure and who might have a shot. Weíre going to short through guys and see what theyíre doing this spring. We have a lot of good young arms. Iím seeing a lot of guys for the first time as well as some I saw in the Fall Instructional League. Iím sure well get a few of those guys. What Iíve seen so far is very impressive.
Doc Shorebird: From what I can see from the guys that have been ďpenciled in,Ē Delmarva is getting a few guys who can throw in the low- and mid-90s. It looks as if the Shorebirds will bring a lot of heat to the plate.
Coach Steenstra: It all depends on who ends up coming with us. It looks as if we may have some guys who have tremendous ability. We drafted very well last year, we got a lot of good young pitching in the draft and we had done pretty well in the draft the year before. It seems as if a few of those guys have good arms too. If some of those guys end up coming with us, we definitely can have some heat coming in. It will just be a test to see if we can teach them how to pitch.
Doc Shorebird: Brandon Erbe has been projected starting with the Shorebirds. What have you seen from Erbe?
Coach Steenstra: I saw him pitch here in the Instructional League, but I havenít seen him pitch here this spring yet on the side. Heís always been in a different group than mine. But what I saw in the Instructional League I have been very impressed. Heís got a very live arm. Heís got a few things that need to be smoothed out a little bit and thatís already being addressed here. He has tremendous ability, but heís very young yet. I think he only turned 18 this winter. If he does come to us, heís going to be a guy weíre going to have to handle him with care. Weíre going to have to be careful with him.
Doc Shorebird: You mentioned you were already addressing smoothing out a few things in Erbeís delivery. Is that a reflection of Coach Leo Mazzoneís philosophy in addressing these imperfections earlier?
Coach Steenstra: Actually we talked about this already during the Instructional League. Part of the reason we bring guys to the Instructional League, especially guys who have recently been drafted is to work on things we think need worked on during the off-season if they are going to progress through their career. These are things that have been addressed by Doc Watson. Itís a case of Doc Watson saying these are the things that need to be done with a pitcher and we are all in agreement with them and as pitching coaches, weíll work on them with the pitcher. This is my second year as pitching coach with the Orioles Minor League, so itís hard to say what has changed much and what hasnít. I donít know if this is necessarily a new way of thinking as much as just trying to make sure guys are doing things the right way from the beginning. Part of the problem sometimes is letting guys pitch themselves into trouble and now you got a confidence issue with them. If you let them pitch their own way and then they lose four or five games in a row then you have to fight that battle too. Not only do you have a physical side to straighten out, but also the mental side. Itís a proactive way of going after these pitchers to make sure weíre getting them in the right direction right from the beginning.
Doc Shorebird: Will you be implementing changes in the way pitchers work out between starts?
Coach Steenstra: Yes. Weíve talked about that in the meetings and well get more details about that as we get closer to the season. I believe guys will be throwing twice in between starts, but weíll really cut down on the amount of pitches they will be throwing. Weíll have them up on the mound more so that the mound is not so foreign to them. Sometimes when you only throw once in between starts, thereís a tendency to feel as if it has been four or five days, even though itís only been two or three days. Weíll try to eliminate that a little bit. Thatíll put some pressure on us. We have to make sure were doing quality work without abusing these guys, but at the same time making sure we are implementing this program and getting in what they need to get in.
Doc Shorebird: Letís get back to Brandon Erbe. What pitches does he throw?
Coach Steenstra: Well I tell you what I can remember from last fall. His fast ball is obviously his best pitch. Heís got pretty good movement on it with a little bit of sink. His delivery is a little funky, so he gets up on guys a little bit. Part of the question on that is will smoothing him out take away some of that hiding the ball, but we feel it will help him out in the long run. If I remember right, heís got a hard curve ball, I could be wrong, and then a straight change-up that he was starting to work on a little bit in the Instructional League.
Doc Shorebird: Thanks Kenny. I canít wait to see him pitch.
Jeff Fiorentino was the Orioleís third round draft pick in 2004. He was sent to Delmarva and I had the privilege of doing his first interview as a professional. We had a very long chat about hitting especially bat selection and swing. He came in at 6í1Ē and about 180 pounds. He throws right and bats left. He can catch as well as play outfield, but his arm is better suited for the field than catcher. He deceivingly looks slender as his leg muscles develop more on the sinewy side than the bulky side. Itís genetic. I said deceivingly as his wrists are really strong and he has a quick bat. He will hit a lot of home runs. AT Delmarva in 2004, Jeff hit .302 in 49 games with 10 home runs in 179 at bats.
Doc Shorebird: Gee, Jeff, if it seems like just yesterday when we did our first interview, itís because itís only been 21 months. You went from low ďAĒ in September 2004 to the majors in May 2005, just eight months later and it was less than a year since you turned pro. You told me in 2004 that you wanted to move up as fast as you could, but I think last March you would have been satisfied having a good year in Frederick and moving up to Bowie before the end of the year.
It was May when they called you up to Baltimore, right?
Jeff Fiorentino: Yes, the middle of May. I had about a month at the beginning of the season to get ready.
Doc Shorebird: It is very unusual to jump from high-ďAĒ to the big leagues. What kind of an experience was it?
Jeff Fiorentino: It was awesome. This is what I was working for. Thatís what every single guy out here is working to go up there and play at that level. The time up there for me was a great experience.
Doc Shorebird: How long were you with Baltimore?
Jeff Fiorentino: About four weeks. I got to play in 13 games.
Doc Shorebird: If I remember correctly, you had about 44 at bats with eleven hits including two doubles and a home run producing five runs batted in. I was in Tokyo and saw where you were batting above .400 for a couple of games. Was the time with Baltimore long enough to learn anything or was it too short and hectic?
Jeff Fiorentino: No, no, no. It was plenty of time. I had a great learning experience. I played with a bunch of veterans so I learned a lot from those guys to bring back with me down to the minors to work on and do what whatever I can to help the guys on my team get up there themselves by sharing what I learned up there. And, now I know what it takes to get back there.
Doc Shorebird: How did the veterans treat you as a rookie?
Jeff Fiorentino: They were great. They looked after me. Of course, they like to play a few good-natured jokes on rookies, but they really didnít have time to have too much fun as we were in a serious battle for stay in first place and we were focused on baseball. When there was a little time to mess around with me they did, but for the most part it was to go out there and play baseball and stay in first place.
Doc Shorebird: When you returned to Frederick, your timing was off for a while. Some suggested that that being sent back down to the minors upset you and thatís why your swing was off. Knowing you, I donít think that was the case.
Jeff Fiorentino: Youíre absolutely right, that wasnít the case at all. Of course, itís disappointing to leave the big leagues where youíre working to stay, but I knew going up it was temporary due to Sammy Sosaís injury. I certainly wasnít dejected or upset. It just turned out that when I got back to Frederick, I fell into one of those slumps that batter seem to fall into for no reason at all and we have to work out of it. It just took me a little bit of time to get out of it. There was no adjusting. I came back to the same good group of guys, the same manager and coaches, and the same everything. I hit a little slump and it took me some time to get out of it. I recovered and I had a good end of the season.
Doc Shorebird: Even though you were away for the four weeks in the big leagues, you still got in over 100 games at Frederick with 22 home runs in a little over 400 at bats and hit about 290. So you had a slump. Now I remember what you told me at Delmarva that when you would get in a slump, you would just have to work on the mechanics of your swing. I guess it sometimes takes longer than others.
Jeff Fiorentino: Oh yeah. Every slump is going to be different. Sometimes you can slump for a couple of games and get out of it. This one just happened to take me a little longer. I just wasnít performing at the level that I normally do. I wasnít necessarily absolutely horrendous, but I wasnít playing real well. It took me a little time to correct the little bits and pieces, but I got out of it.
Doc Shorebird: Iíll say you did. You hit 12 home runs during the last month to help Frederick nail the pennant.
Jeff Fiorentino: That was probably the best baseball that Iíve played. It put the cap on a good season for me. I had a lot of fun last year.
Doc Shorebird: You played in the big leagues, won a championship ring with Frederick and got invited to spring training with the majors this year. How was Ft. Lauderdale?
Jeff Fiorentino: It was good. It was good to see those guys again. I didnít get a September call up, but thatís all right. I got to play with those guys again for about a month. That was fun and I hope to be back with them again soon.
Doc Shorebird: Was there anything special that you worked on over in the majorsí camp?
Jeff Fiorentino: No. Just doing the same things. I just wanted to go out and work hard and show the coaches and managers over there that Iím ready to play. I did what I had to do and now I have my time over here to freshen up for the season and Iíll be ready to go whenever they call for me.
Doc Shorebird: Will you be working on anything special over here?
Jeff Fiorentino: No. Just playing my game. Just spraying the ball wherever itís pitched. Iím working on bunting a little more and adding a little more speed to my game. Just getting myself ready for whenever they call for me.
Doc Shorebird: It looks as if you put on a couple of pounds.
Jeff Fiorentino: Not quite as much as I wanted to. Iíve matured a little bit physically and Iíve bulked up a little bit. That was one of my intentions this off-season. As you know, it takes quite a bit of work for me to put on muscle. I didnít take a day off. When I got home, I went right to the weight room and I went every day I could.
Doc Shorebird: Did the Orioles give you a weight work-out program or did you hire a personal trainer?
Jeff Fiorentino: They gave me a program, but I did some extra. With my genetics, I need to do a little more to gain, so I did quite a bit extra to gain even more muscle.
Doc Shorebird: Has it made any difference in your playing?
Jeff Fiorentino: Nothing to talk about. I didnít put on 30 pounds or anything like that, so I didnít expect to see much difference. I am stronger in every part of my body, but it hasnít seemed to affect my swing.
Doc Shorebird: Do you expect to start in Bowie this year?
Jeff Fiorentino: Yes, thatís what theyíve told me.
Doc Shorebird: Well, you know if you went up from Frederick, you can certainly go up from Bowie.
Jeff Fiorentino: Iím going to be ready. If they call on me, Iím going to make sure to be playing the ball that itís going to take to succeed at the major league level.
March 27, 2006: Jake Duncan was the Oriolesí 10th round draft pick in 2003 in his ďsophomore yearĒ at Texas Christian University. He was a medical redshirt so he was in his junior year of classes. At the time of this interview, Jake had just reported late to spring training after an injury that occurred during the off-season.
Doc Shorebird: Howís it feel to get back playing again?
Jake Duncan: It feels great to be back on the field. It feels great just to be down here. I really wasnít sure I would make it back after the blood clot. They told me I would be out for six months.
Doc Shorebird: When did the blood clot happen?
Jake Duncan: In the middle of January on a long car trip from the east coast to Colorado. I had the clot removed with a device called an angiojet in late January. They went in behind my knee. The first time they tried to remove it, they were unsuccessful. They tried it again after a couple of days. They put a filter in before they tried the procedures to catch any clot fragments that might flow to my heart or lung which could be fatal. The affair was pretty rough on my system and I lost about ten pounds in the hospital.
Doc Shorebird: So, it looked like it might be July or August before you would be back to normal.
Jake Duncan: Yes. To me, I came back slowly, but it was ahead of their projection. About three weeks ago I got to get off the blood thinner Coumadin and switch to an aspirin or two a day to reduce any tendency for clotting. The filter was taken out only two weeks ago. So far, so good.
Doc Shorebird: Have you regained the lost weight? You nailed one yesterday pretty hard.
Jake Duncan: Iím still down, but my strength is coming back slowly. I thought it would come back quickly Ė it went away so quick. In the next couple or weeks or month or so, it should be back. I feel good on the field, but I need to get my rhythm back.
Doc Shorebird: Is this going to keep you here for a while longer?
Jake Duncan: Thatís an interesting question. I hope not. Iíll know in four or five days. Theyíve told me Iím going to Frederick, but they didnít say when. If I stay behind, then Iíll try to get a little stronger and a little better and get ready for whenever they do let me go north. But, itís all in the Lordís hands.
Doc Shorebird: You were drafted in 2003 and sent to Aberdeen. When did you first know you were good enough to be a professional baseball player?
Jake Duncan: When I got drafted. I had a handful of scouts come up and talk with me in my last year, but I wasnít sure how serious they were. They would give me their card and ask me things like when I would consider signing and I would say ďAnytime! I would just love an opportunity to play.Ē
I was having good years playing the corner fields in college, but I never looked at myself as playing better than anyone else. The Lord has given me the ability to play, but I wasnít sure how far that would take me. Of course, itís every kids dream to play professional baseball and Heís given me the opportunity right now so Iím just trying to make the most of it and see where it takes me.
Doc Shorebird: Yes, you had good years in college. You were given a medical redshirt at UT so you were able to play the 2002 season at TCU. As a freshman, you were third on the team with a .310 average and led the team with a .587 slugging percentage.
You came to Delmarva in 2004. You had made a lot of fans at Aberdeen, especially a few Hangouters such as Ironusher. So when you came to Delmarva your reputation preceded you as being ďone of the nicest players around.Ē You had a few rough bumps on the way through high school and Texas before switching to TCU. Did you always have this ďnice guyĒ personality or did that develop after you got on top of your life?
Jake Duncan: I was spiritually reborn in my freshman year at college, but I think I always tried to be a nice person. I was given a wake up call and everything was put into focus.
Doc Shorebird: At Delmarva, you hit .296 and was among the team leaders in just about every offensive category. After the season, you received the Orioles Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award in a pre-game ceremony at Camden Yard.
Back in January during spring training in Florida, you had organized several teammates to go with you to the local Salvation Army homeless shelter to serve meals. You spoke at libraries for a summer reading program and at churches, hospitals, schools and nursing homes. How was last year at Frederick?
Jake Duncan: Last year I got more at bats in and really enjoyed the year. I was surrounded with good people and coaches.
Doc Shorebird: Your role in ďAthletes in ChristĒ makes you a spiritual leader to many of the players. Do you feel that this helps them contend with the rigors of competing on the field and being so far from home for so long?
Jake Duncan: Yes. I feel that Iíve been given a cure I didnít deserve and I want to share this cure. I try to do my best to help others at every opportunity I get. I canít help it.
Strength and Conditioning
It is my personal opinion that Jay Shiner has much to do with improving our minor league health status. Jay Shiner has something to do with the success of most every player. I could have said Jay has ďvery muchĒ to do with the success of most every player, but Jay is too modest to be comfortable with me saying that. Why do I care what Jay would think? Well, maybe the fact that I know Jay was a professional kick-boxer with a 23 and 2 record and it has been 48 years since Iíve been in a boxing ring has something to do with it. Just kidding.
I think part of the reason the players respect Jay and eagerly follow his training is because they sense the respect that the coaches and organization has for Jay. The same is true for Jayís staff. They know he is well-schooled and a successful former professional athlete himself.
Over the years, it seems that whenever I have visited the Twin Lakes Complex at Sarasota that the Orioles use for their minor league training, if a player is here, so is Jay Shiner. I was here in early February when a few players were here rehabbing and getting in shape for spring training. So was Jay Shiner. He was working the infielders by rolling balls to them in quick succession to their left and then their right, increasing the angle each time. Then he would set out several cones in a row and have the players race to the first, bend over and touch the ground race back to the starting line, then race to the next furtherest cone and repeat this procedure throughout all the cones. Meanwhile, Jay would be timing them. The guys are always beat after this little drill. But that is only the outside and visible part. Jay also works with them in the clubhouse with apparatus and weights. During spring training, he is almost in perpetual motion, leading the conditioning drills and jogging back and forth to check with his staff at various training and conditioning stations. Someone seems to need him everywhere. He will be here in the summer to help with injury rehabs. He will be here in the fall during instructional league.
Catching up with Jay long enough to do a short interview is like trying to nail jelly to a wall. At camp, Jay is least busy during the games. I cornered Jay in the weight room where he was working with a single player.
Doc Shorebird: Jay, why did you choose conditioning baseball players as your profession?
Jay Shiner: Well, I was kind of led to it, rather than choosing it. Iíve been on this field for I used to work at University Sports Medicine in Rochester New York when the Orioles had their triple-A farm team there. I was the program director of our sports performance services there for quite some time. We managed a variety of programs at high schools, colleges, and professional sports teams in the Rochester area.
It all started in 2000 when one of our physicians got a phone call from the Orioles inquiring about our services and whether someone would be available to work at-home games and select road-games as well. Our doctors were the team doctors. So rather than my staff doing it, I would just leave and go over and stretch the team when they were home. I would also meet the guys at the gym and manage their weight training. That turned into a full-time job. Following that season, they asked if I would be available to work a full season, and that was a tough decision to make then as I would have to take a huge pay cut. But, I realized that I would love the opportunity and I enjoy working with these guys and this game. It just evolved.
I stayed in triple-A for awhile and was promoted to the Orioles Minor League Strength and Conditioning Coordinator three years ago.
Doc Shorebird: And, it may not be a coincidence that our injury record started improving three years ago. You said you enjoy the game, but your sport was kick-boxing.
Jay Shiner: I started when I was eight years old as a boxer. My Dad took me to the gym to learn self-defense. I was in the ring at 11 years of age and concurrently started learning Karate. I turned pro as a kick-boxer at 19.
Doc Shorebird: What was your record?
Jay Shiner: 23 and 2.
Doc Shorebird: Did you also play baseball?
Jay Shiner: I also grew up playing baseball because thatís what my Dad did. He was a great athlete when he was younger. He had a football scholarship to Penn State back in the late fifties. He also played baseball and track and field. He also served our Country in the Army. He made sure that we were well-rounded. I played basketball, football and baseball. I loved baseball most of the team sports, but I love contact sports more. When I started fighting more and more, I couldnít be in the heavy contact sports as much, so I played more baseball. I played Little League, Babe Ruth, travel leagues and High School baseball. I was a catcher. I really enjoyed playing baseball, but I was not that good.
Doc Shorebird: You work the players hard, but they seem to be eager to follow your directions. That is a sign of respect.
Jay Shiner: The younger players nowadays have to be better athletes to advance and to win and they realize it. The players are more educated in this respect than they were just five or six years ago. They know what they need for their bodies. They come to the field now respecting strength and conditioning and they respect our staff. I think our staff is outstanding, both the athletic trainers and strength coaches. It used to be that our staff consisted largely of interns and the players treated them like interns. Now we have a full-time staff who are certified in both athletic training and strength & conditioning; and are full-time staff under contract. The players really listen to these guys and are interested in our program.
Doc Shorebird: At one time, baseball players were told not to lift weights as it would make them muscle bound. Now baseball players not only lift weights, but many major leaguers have their own trainers or attend baseball conditioning clinics in the off-season. It is an important part of your program. You even have pitchers lifting weights immediately after their turn on the mound.
Jay Shiner: We have different programs for different positions. We treat our infielders different than our outfielders and our starters different than our relievers. Our catchers are an island in themselves. Weíre very sensitive about roles and we try to make players understand that we are that way too. We donít cluster them all as ďbaseball playersĒ and give them a ďbaseball program.Ē Itís got to be by position.
Doc Shorebird: Has our new major league Pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, talked to you about his ď747Ē conditioning program for pitchers or changes yet?
Jay Shiner: Not directly. He would speak with Tim Bishop, our major league strength coach. I did get to know Leo when I was in the major league camp for three weeks. Obviously, he knows what he is doing and his record speaks for itself. I know there were changes in the big league camp and they are being well received. Leo isnít a big advocate of high-volume running for the pitchers. I think the pitchers like that and are responding well to it and they are not out of shape at all.
Doc Shorebird: How do you help maintain a playerís conditioning as the season goes along?
Jay Shiner: Without getting technical, let me just say that we have it down to a science. We have ways to manage the season well and make adjustments. It is a controlled system. Our trainers and strength coaches know the program and the program, while structured well, allows flexibility for adjustments based on the demands of the season. They can solve most problems through communication with their coaches and manager they are able to make those adjustments. Those systems are in place. I coordinate the program and if they need assistance they can call me. These adjustments arenít made by the seat of their pants. There are indeed systems.
These systems are position specific and condition specific as far as double headers, getaway days, show and go, etc. Our guys make adjustments according to the conditions and situations they are dealing with regarding travel etc.
I get reports from our staff and I make a report that goes to our head trainer in the big leagues, Richie Bancells, Tim Bishop, our Major League Strength Coach, as well as our front office staff. Please note that Richie takes a personal interest in our department and is responsible for the success of our program. He and I get together at the end of each month during the season and his feedback has contributed to many adjustments we have made in the past few years. I work about 40 games in the big leagues and at the end of each month, I go to Camden Yards and Richie and I sit down and go through the report. What we do is pretty scientific. Everything is accounted for. Itís structured accountability with checks and balances.
Doc Shorebird: Doc Watson gave you a compliment when I interviewed him the other day. He felt that the reduction in pitchersí injuries was in part due to your program. Even I have noticed what the injury rate was before you became Strength and Conditioning Coordinator. This is your third year.
Jay Shiner: We implemented a new system and as our pitchers moved into the system and became accustomed to it, I think their conditioning improved each year as well. I donít want to curse myself now. Weíll see how this season goes, but I do know according to stats and by feedback from the trainers and Doc Watson, that our pitchers felt really strong at the end of the season and were throwing strong and consistent, and according to our records, our injuries were fewer. I canít attribute that to strength and conditioning but it clearly is from the whole training department. Clearly, the improvement is from our medical coordinator, the athletic trainers and us. Itís how we work cohesively. Itís the whole program! Itís definitely not just strength and conditioning.
Doc Shorebird: Well, thatís a good thought to end on. Thanks, Jay.
Steve ďDocĒ Watson
Oriolesí Minor League Pitching Coordinator
Doc Shorebird: Doc, will you be making any changes about how you prepare the pitchers this year?
Doc Watson: Yes, there will be a few changes, but I donít how we can improve on last year. We had a lot of pitchers who had exceptional years. Leo Mazzone is really big on getting pitchers fundamentally sound in their deliveries, and there will be some things that we will address earlier in guys careers as far as their deliveries. In the past, we may have put off a few things until they got to higher baseball, but weíre going to start right from the git-go in hammering guys about some of the things in their deliveries that we know will have to be corrected at some point. Weíre just not going to take as long to do it In the past, we would give them that first year to get their feet wet and let them perform. Instead, now weíll just start attacking things more in their first year where in the past we waited for a year or two before we made some fundamental changes.
Doc Shorebird: Will there be any changes in regards to workouts between appearances?
Doc Watson: We will stay with a five-man rotation as we always have, but what weíre going to do for the starting pitchers Ė and weíve done it before on individual basis Ė is work them more frequently but briefer between starts. In the past for the most part, weíve had one sideline practice in between starts. Now weíre going to implement two-sideline practices between starts regimen for the five starters. Weíll cut down the time for each session and regulate the effort. Instead of them playing long-toss for 15 minutes as they have in the past, weíll cut that down on their throwing days and get them on the mound, let them see the glove and work on the strike zone. Where in the past itís been an individual thing, it will be more ďblanketĒ for all the starters now.
Doc Shorebird: Will there be any differences in drills and exercises?
Doc Watson: No. Last year I thought Jay Shiner did a great job with all the pitchers. Knock on wood, we were very fortunate that our guys stayed healthy throughout the year and the guys advanced. So, weíre going to stay with our program this year and hopefully weíll have the same success from a health standpoint.
Doc Shorebird: We all know about the promising pitchers we have moving up and the good draft. Are there any pitchers that are new or we have picked up that are under the radar that we may have signed from other countries or who have just not been widely noticed otherwise?
Doc Watson: Well, we have a lot of good arms in camp. A guy that sticks out and is really exceptional in camp Ė and we have a lot of top-tier arms right now Ė is Brandon Erbe. He finished up in Aberdeen last year. Brandon has a tremendous arm. He is a huge asset. It was a great draft last year. Reid Hamblet is a control guy who shows a good feel for the strike zone and a lot of life in his pitches. Brad Bergesen is another guy who really came on. David Hernandez is another pitcher to keep your eye on. Aberdeen had a lot of good, really impressive young arms go through there last year who hopefully will be in Delmarva and possibly Frederick this year and continue to make progress. It was really exciting to see the draft picks we got last year come into Aberdeen and the way that they pitched. Unfortunately, their won-lost record didnít indicate anything near the ability those young men have.
Doc Shorebird: When you designate a pitcher as either a starter or a reliever in the minors, are you projecting that this is going to be their future role or are you just trying to get as many innings in for each pitcher as you can?
Doc Watson: In their first year, we pretty much stick with what they were previously. This is because itís tough to change someone in the middle of the season. Weíll evaluate them during the season and when they come into the instructional league for the first time, the staff will sit down and plan for the following year. We discuss what role they will fit in best and at what level they will best fit in. A lot of times a guy will stay in the same role until they show us their abilities dictate that they do something else as far as their role in our organization is.
Doc Shorebird: As examples, Rommie Lewis and David Haehnel were outstanding closers for Delmarva and both were changed to starters. What dictates this change?
Doc Watson: My philosophy is that you want your best arms in the starting rotation if they can handle the number of innings. At Frederick last year, our five starters went inning for inning with the major league team until the first week of September. We threw a lot of innings last year. Thatís something we have to set down and evaluate as to whether the young man is physically capable of handling that kind of work load.
With David Haehnel we see a guy who has two quality pitches and we think he has the ability to add a third. Being very durable and left handed, we think his best value to the organization is to give him an opportunity to start and see how successful he can be.
Oriolesí Director of Minor League Operations
Friday, March 31, 2006: After the games on Friday, I sat down with Dave Stockstill, the Director of Minor League Operations for the Orioles, to chat about this yearís spring training and the roosters to start the year.
Doc Shorebird: With 48 hours left, if you had to describe this yearís spring training in one word, what would that word be?
Dave Stockstill: Fantastic!
Doc Shorebird: I had already written that down before I asked the question. Now, just why was it fantastic?
Dave Stockstill: Because the staff has worked very hard in getting ready for it. We put together some pretty good ball clubs. We signed some key free-agents. We have a better mix of character of players on the teams than ever before. We have much better athletes. And with the preparation during spring training, everything is coming together fantastically.
Doc Shorebird: When you chatted with Tony earlier in spring training, you mentioned a few surprises. Have there been additional surprises?
Dave Stockstill: Yes, there continues to be pleasant developments. I donít know if I would call them ďsurprises,Ē but for example, Brian Bass continues to impress with the effort heís made with his hitting. Another is Brian Bock. He went over to the big league camp and impressed a lot of people. Heís come a long way since he came up to Delmarva as a back-up catcher. Heís been a very, very pleasant surprise. Weíre very happy with him.
Brandon Erbe is no real surprise, but his such rapid development is a pleasant surprise. We are very pleased with him. This guy is special. Heís far, far ahead of what anybody could expect.
Doc Shorebird: And, he just turned 18 on Christmas.
Dave Stockstill: For 18 years old he is outstanding. Another pleasant surprise is Radhames Liz who has come in much advanced over what he was last year. Much advanced!
Doc Shorebird: Well, I guess that seals it that heís not coming back to Delmarva.
Dave Stockstill: Itís not definite yet, but that a very good chance. With the work heís done this winter, heís showing thatís where he needs to be.
Doc Shorebird: How old is Liz now?
Dave Stockstill: 22. Another pleasant surprise is that Ryan Finan has shown that he can play well at third base and hit well. His bat is very good. Last year, there was still some carry over from his leg infection the year before which slowed him down a lot and he missed several months. I donít think we saw the real Ryan Finan last year. His bat is quicker and he looks much better than he ever has before. Weíre real happy with Ryan.
Doc Shorebird: Howís the Jason Fransz transition to first going?
Dave Stockstill: Heís looking real good. Heís doing a good job. Heís moving the bat good and heís moving good at first. Weíre real pleased with that.
Doc Shorebird: Well, theyíre all good ďsurprises.Ē Any unpleasant surprises?
Dave Stockstill: I donít know of any bad surprises, but we have had some bad luck. Danny Figueroa has pulled an oblique muscle.
Doc Shorebird: Darn! When did that happen?
Dave Stockstill: That happened about three days ago.
Doc Shorebird: Then thatís why he was sitting with the pitchers without a jersey. How long will he be out?
Dave Stockstill: Thereís a good chance Danny could lose a considerable amount of time. He canít swing a bat. So instead of starting in centerfield in Delmarva on opening day, itís going to be a while. Thatís probably the most disappointing thing that happened in camp.
Doc Shorebird: You brought in several free-agents. Any keepers?
Dave Stockstill: Some are definitely keepers. Guys like Leo Daigle, Noah Hall, Tony Alvarez, Brian Bowles, Andy Tracy will make a definite impact. Some we wonít keep. There are a few that didnít make it. I didnít sign a large group of guys just to sort through, I signed specific people for specific reasons.
Doc Shorebird: Where did Andy Tracy come from?
Dave Stockstill: The Cleveland organization. I tried to get Andy as a free agent, but he chose Cleveland over us. Cleveland then made a big league move and he became available, so we made a player-to-be-named-later trade and got Andy. Heíll be a great help to us in Ottawa. Heís going to provide a lot of runs.
Doc Shorebird: He fields well too.
Dave Stockstill: A guy who is going to make a big difference in Bowie is Brook Badeaux. We had to do something when we lost Nate Spears. We needed someone who could handle the infield.
Doc Shorebird: He can turn the double play.
Dave Stockstill: He can turn the double play and heís a very good leader on the field. Another guy who weíve been real impressed with so far is Reyner Bautista.
Doc Shorebird: Youíve only had him for about a week.
Dave Stockstill: Iíve always liked him. Heís beat us a few times with his bat and he always played good shortstop. Because of some technical difficulties with his visa, he ended up getting his release in Washington. Just as soon as we knew about it, a few minutes later we contacted him and signed him. We were very happy to get him.
Doc Shorebird: Although a couple of the team websites have ďOfficial 2006 RostersĒ posted, I understand that there are still a couple of guys on the bubble at each level.
Dave Stockstill: There are still four or five guys we donít know where they are going yet. Itís still too early to say anything is official about any of the rosters. Those rosters were sent up as potential or tentative rosters to help in planning. There still are some adjustments to be made to the ball clubs. We still have 48 hours to sort through a few options, and heck, even when the season starts, there may still be changes for various reasons. We still have guys to come down from the big league camp and that can change things at several levels. We canít by any means say they are finalized rosters. Rosters are never ďfinal,Ē but I definitely anticipate more movement. What the clubs were sent was a generalized idea of how the clubs may look, but they are not rosters. These are working groups and there may be changes.
We released four guys yesterday. We released Domingo Costa who was a free-agent we were looking at. Winer Mendez, who has been with us for a few years, but his arm didnít progress. We also released Andrew Moffitt, I wish he had come along the way we thought he was going to.
Doc Shorebird: OK, so it may not be known for sure who the five starting pitchers will be for Delmarva. Can you give me six or so from which the five starters may be selected?
Dave Stockstill: Well, weíre looking to have six starting pitchers at Delmarva, not five. We will probably rotate them in piggy-back style. They will probably include Brandon Erbe, Reid Hamblet, David Hernandez, Chorye Spoone, Daniel Lonsberry and Brad Bergesen. De Nabal would be included if he hadnít broke his hand. I would say he is definitely a month or more away. It will be their first year at Delmarva for all of them and they all have great arms. They can throw hard and they have good breaking balls. Because of that, we are probably looking at a six-man rotation instead of five.
Doc Shorebird: Iím sure getting the message that Liz is probably heading for Frederick. Howís the six-man rotation going to work?
Dave Stockstill: We may piggy-back pitchers. Say Brandon Erbe might piggy-back with Daniel Lonsberry. Erbe could go four innings and be followed by Lonsberry for four, as an example. And, you could flip-flop them every other game.
Doc Shorebird: In that way, they all fee like starters instead of one a starter and the other a reliever.
Dave Stockstill: Weíre still looking at that. Itís not definite.
Doc Shorebird: Speaking of relievers, who will close for Delmarva?
Dave Stockstill: Were looking at Jim Hoey. He is outstanding and may become a great closer in the future. He has a good fast ball and an outstanding breaking ball.
Doc Shorebird: Where did Hoey come from?
Dave Stockstill: From Aberdeen. He came to Aberdeen after having Tommy John surgery. The first time he pitched in Aberdeen, he threw at 97. Then he got sore and had to miss two weeks. But, by the end of the year he was really throwing well.
Doc Shorebird: Since Danny Figueroa will miss the start of the season, who will you send up as the fourth outfielder?
Dave Stockstill: Right now, it looks like it may be Lorenzo Scott in Dannyís place. If nothing changes. Now we did sign a guy and I donít know how we are going to use him yet, you know him, Pete Maestrales.
Doc Shorebird: No kidding! You know, I saw a new guy from a distance on Wednesday and reported it as ďIt looks like another new player. On his back it looks like ďMast lesĒ There is space for ďRaĒ as in ďMaestralesĒ like we had Pete Maestrales last year, but this is not Pete.Ē So I was wrong. It is Pete. From the distance and his back, it didnít look like Pete. You know how we loved his Hustle at Delmarva> A good ole University of Delaware guy.
Dave Stockstill: Heís still missing the ďraĒ on his jersey today. I donít know why.
Doc Shorebird: Heís a second baseman.
Dave Stockstill: Heís a second baseman and he plays the field. He played left field today.
Doc Shorebird: You sent him to Delmarva last year when we had an opening. You had him on Ottawaís roster until you found an opening for him. His hustle and hitting soon made him a fan favorite. Then we lost him in a trade at the major league level.
Dave Stockstill: Then San Diego drafted him in a rule five draft and they just released him. As soon as they released him, he called me and we signed him. But, I donít know where weíre going to use him yet.
Doc Shorebird: Heíll work his way on to some team.
Dave Stockstill: We need that kind of player. Itís good when you can get a guy like that back.
Doc Shorebird: Howís the rest of Delmarva looking?
Dave Stockstill: Brandon Snyderís arm is coming along real good. Kyle Dahlberg is really coming along as a catcher too. His hitting is getting much better. Youíre going to really like that combination Ė Snyder and Dahlberg. Snyder is going to catch as much as he can which might only be three days a week to start with, but heís only going to catch and DH. Thatís his position. And, I think youíll be real happy with what you see with Dahlberg.Mark Fleisher will be your first baseman. This guy is really impressive.
Doc Shorebird: Yeah, they call him ďBig Country.Ē
Dave Stockstill: Then youíll have Stuart Musslewhite at shortstop most of the time and Rafael Rodriquez will help the team as a utility player. As I said weíre happy that Ryan Finan is doing so well at third, and youíll have Rob Marconi at third as well. So you should have some pretty good hitters there.
Doc Shorebird: At the Bluefield level, I have been impressed with Joey Howell. Heís very strong.
Dave Stockstill: Heís been injured all the time since we signed him out of high school. Heís a five-tool player. He can run, he has power, a good arm. This is the first time we got to see much of him.
Doc Shorebird: Have you found a spot for Jonathan Tucker yet?
Dave Stockstill: Not yet, but heís looking good. He can play.
Doc Shorebird: I was impressed with his hustle and he seems to hit hard for a little guy.
Dave Stockstill: Heís impressed everybody this spring training. But, heíll start the season here and play every day, and weíll take it from there. Other first year players who are impressing the coaches are Richard DíOleo and Pedro Silveren, so theyíre going to Bluefield.
Doc Shorebird: Well, I hate to leave paradise, but I canít wait to see the season. Thanks for really improving our minor league system and producing future Orioles.
March 22, 2006: Brandon Snyder could have a lot of weight on his shoulders, but he seems to be enjoying every minute of camp. Sometimes I see players getting a little down on themselves in the middle of the season and I tell them to try to enjoy every day as these are the memories you will have for the rest of your life that most guys only dream of. I donít think Iíll ever see Brandon not enjoying baseball. He is one of the last two or three to leave the field and he is still hustling and smiling. Mrs. Snyder, you raised a good kid. He is polite and sociable and have a wonderful attitude.
Doc Shorebird: How is you first camp going? Having fun?
Brandon Snyder: Well, I got down here about January 15th. I had a little arm trouble last year and itís all back to normal now thanks to a good throwing program they gave me. With the help of all the trainers and all the coaches the arm is well. Iím working my way into some games and Iím excited to get going.
Doc Shorebird: I was watching you and Tom Arko work with Coach Andy Etchebarren the other day. Your arm looked pretty strong.
Brandon Snyder: Tommy and I are on throwing programs, but Iím starting to wean myself off of it now and get into games now. But, every couple of games I get a day off from throwing. Today I just have to throw easily to a few bases just to keep my arm lose and keep going.
Doc Shorebird: Last year you got to play some at third base. Are you going to play third some this year?
Brandon Snyder: Iím not sure. Right now Iím concentrating on catching. Hopefully, if I can do that well enough, I wonít have to go to third. But, that is always something else I can do.
Doc Shorebird: Youíd much rather catch?
Brandon Snyder: Definitely!
Doc Shorebird: You were our No. 1 draft pick and signed fairly quickly. Did you have a pre-draft agreement with the Orioles?
Brandon Snyder: I had had a couple of meetings with the area scout, but to be honest, it was actually a surprise to me. Up until the draft I saw him at the games, had my meetings, but never really had that much contact. We never really talked about the draft that much. I was happy to go with the Orioles and be so close to home.
Doc Shorebird: How old were you when you realized that you might play professional baseball?
Brandon Snyder: I would say I was probably in the eighth grade. I played American Legion Ball and at the time, only sophomores, juniors and seniors played Legion ball and I was still in the eighth grade and I played. I started and I did well. I started playing on the travel teams and I began to realize that maybe I could take this a little further. Then things all fell into place.
Doc Shorebird: Were you bigger than the other guys your age?
Brandon Snyder: Yeah, I was early on Iíve been about the same size now for awhile, but when I was younger, I was bigger than other guys my age. I had a lot of power and I hit a lot of home runs when I was younger.
Doc Shorebird: Did you notice a lot of scouts starting to hang around?
Brandon Snyder: Going into my freshman year I played on a travel team and saw a lot of scouts. After that, they started following me more. In my junior year there seemed to be more and then in my senior year there were about 30 scouts at every game. It was a lot of fun.
Doc Shorebird: Did they make you nervous?
Brandon Snyder: They did at first, but Iíve always played well under pressure and they kind of helped me get more focused for the games.
Doc Shorebird: Does all of the attention your getting now and with all of the pressure of being a No. 1 draft pick does this intimidate you or do you enjoy it?
Brandon Snyder: I enjoy it. All the minor things that I get to do like sign autographs or have interviews, thatís all good stuff and I take it in stride. To be honest, I am no different than anybody else in the clubhouse. Everybody is trying to make a team and thatís the same thing that Iím doing. What it all comes down to is that weíre all just ball players trying to make teams. How much attention you get really doesnít matter. I really havenít proven myself enough yet and I have a lot more to do.
Doc Shorebird: At the beginning of the year you were ďpenciled inĒ to start at Delmarva. Is that what they are telling you at this time?
Brandon Snyder: As of now, everything is still up in the air with spring training as you know anything can happen. Right now I hope to go to Delmarva and if I can stay healthy the rest of spring training I hope to have a spot there and thatís where I want to be. I want to be a level up from last year and get to play a year at Delmarva.
Doc Shorebird: Is there anything that youíre especially working on this year?
Brandon Snyder: I just need to get some experience behind the plate and put into practice what my coaches are teaching me. Itís only my second year and I have to work on my receiving, throwing and blocking and fundamental things like that. I take a lot of pride in what I do and I hope I get better as the season goes along. Hopefully, one day I will be the catcher for Baltimore.
March 24, 2006: Brandon Erbe was our 3rd-round draft choice last June and he just turned 18 on Christmas day. He went to McDonough School High School in Baltimore, MD.
Doc Shorebird: This is your first spring training camp as you were just drafted last year. How did your half-season go last year?
Brandon Erbe: Last year, my season at Bluefield and Aberdeen went better than I could have ever hoped for. I was just out of high school and didnít really know what to expect. I expected a challenge when I got to Bluefield and I got one. I trusted my stuff, basically I worked my fastball throughout the season and had a good year.
Doc Shorebird: What type of fastball do you throw? 2-seamer? 4-seamer?
Brandon Erbe: I have a 2-seamer, but I donít throw it very much. I basically stick with my 4-seam fastball. Thatís what got me here so thatís what Iím sticking with.
Doc Shorebird: How fast do you throw that sucker?
Brandon Erbe: Generally, I throw in the mid-nineties, but I reach 97 and 98.
Doc Shorebird: You hide the ball well with your motion.
Brandon Erbe: My motion is pretty original. Iíve never had formal pitching instruction until I got here. I do some things that arenít normal. So Iím working to change some stuff and I think itís working out. Right now, I still have a little funny hop and I might hide the ball a little bit. Itís worked out up to this point.
Doc Shorebird: What do you throw for a breaking ball?
Brandon Erbe: I throw a slider.
Doc Shorebird: You were penciled in for Delmarva before spring training started. Is that still the plan?
Brandon Erbe: We havenít really discussed that. I just want to catch on with a full-season team and get some innings in.
Doc Shorebird: Thanks for bringing us up to date with your young career.