In this edition of Week in Review, we take a look the surprising bat who shouldered the load in…
Q&A with Pitching Coach Hector Berrios
Hector Berrios: The first thing is that we've been having trouble early in the counts and we've been nibbling too much on the corners instead of going after guys early in at-bats. We just haven't been aggressive which is why we lead the league in walks so one of the big adjustments we've made is to just let the catcher sit down the middle and let the fastballs do what they do so our guys can get ahead 0-1, 0-2 instead of falling behind early. I think we've been good at putting hitters away so now we need to combine those two elements to get hitters more in a defensive mode and put them away. That's basically the model, work ahead and put the hitters away.
Inside Pitch: Brad Holt has been very dynamic so far and his numbers tell the story. What do you like about his game? How is he generating so much power and how are his secondary pitches coming along?
Hector Berrios: What he does is get great leverage and terrific extension on his fastball. It seems like his 94-95 MPH fastball, where he sits, is coming in at 97-98 MPH because he gets on the hitter and the hitter sees his fastball so late. It's funny because he came to us as a fastball pitcher and it wasn't until [his last start] that guys were catching up to his fastball and he was pitching more like a breaking ball specialist. He's got a very, very good curveball—what we call a plus curveball—and he brings it around 78-81 MPH which is very hard for a curveball. Lastly we are mixing in his changeup which he's getting a better feel for, but since he gets to blow hitters away in this league, it's been hard for him to know when to incorporate it. So now we're getting that in his repertoire so we can enhance what he has now and accelerate his path to the big leagues.
Inside Pitch: Scott Shaw is also off to a very strong. He's a college veteran with a deep repertoire though his fastball sits 88-92 MPH. How important is control for him because of his velocity and how good is the depth of his repertoire?
Hector Berrios: He really does a good job of locating. He works in and out, he can throw his slider and curveball for strikes while mixing in his changeup. That's four pitches that he throws for strikes. He's always in an attack mode, he knows how to get ahead and expand the strike zone. Again, he didn't have the success we thought he would have had, but when he got here he was a totally different pitcher than we what we saw in college. He's very mature, meticulous and he really is set in his routine. He doesn't mess with it and that's the type of pitcher he is when he's in games. Everything he works on transfers into the game.
Inside Pitch: Jenry Mejia looks to have a powerful fastball and a big curveball when he does mix it in. Can you break him down?
Hector Berrios: He really had a tough couple outings when he first got here because he took his third best pitch which was his curveball and he tried to make that his second best pitch for whatever reason. So we went to work on what got him here and that was returning him to his best combination which is his fastball/changeup and then his curveball. Ever since he's done that, he's pitched lights out and now he's really using his curveball to expand the strike zone because he doesn't really have the command that he has with his changeup. When the hitters see that changeup they speed up their bats which has allowed him to get a lot of strikeouts.
Inside Pitch: Jeff Kaplan is another college experienced pitcher who has a lot of movement on his fastball. His changeup has been important for him, how has that pitch come along with the rest of his secondary pitches?
Hector Berrios: He's been another kid who's done a good job to start, but the thing that has showed up during his last couple of starts is a loss of command. That command is what got him here. He's got two pitches, his fastball and slider, which he throws with good command but he needs to enhance the amount, or the volume, of his changeup so he can be more balanced in his repertoire. He's a seasoned guy, you know Cal-State Fullerton, so we know that he can come here and do a good job.
Inside Pitch: Stephen Clyne is a guy who you had last year. He was up in St. Lucie earlier this year before running into problems. What do you think have been some of his flaws this year? What do you think he needs to do to work out of some of those problems?
Hector Berrios: We've gone right to work on him. Last year, we worked on staying back because he's a guy who really yanks the front side. His lower half on his front side opens up prematurely which causes him to be a little uncoordinated because he tries to do everything strong with his front side. We want him to rely more on his backside and stay strong, finishing his pitches. The important thing with him is to slow the game down because he has a tendency to work faster than the tempo of the game which comes back to hurt him. Even though he's closing games for us, we want him to stay within himself and be a pitcher and not a thrower. When he starts to elevate pitches, his sinker begins to flatten out and he's just back to being a mediocre pitcher. When he stays down, his sinker gets tremendous bite and he really becomes a very effective pitcher.
Inside Pitch: Pedro P. Martinez has been one of the more consistent starters for your club. What are some strengths and weaknesses of his game?
Hector Berrios: He's a kid that was with us in Extended Spring Training and the thing that has worked with him is working with a routine, a routine that he's done a good job of maintaining. He's executing well in his bullpens and that has really taken him to the next level. He really separated himself from the other Extended pitchers and that really allowed him to be one of the top arms coming out of camp and on our roster here. Now that he understands the importance of his routine, and all the things that he does in that routine that he'll experience at some point in the game, he knows how important it is to prepare. His preparation has got him to the level that he has in games.
Inside Pitch: Brandon Moore has endured a number of tough outings to start the season, but he has a good combination of secondary pitches with a lively fastball. What are some of the early struggles with him? What can he look forward to working on the rest of the summer?
Hector Berrios: He gave up a number of big home runs early on and since then he's had a bit of a problem with leaving balls up in the zone. I think he just hasn't been as aggressive as he'd like to be and because of that he's been tentative and not showing the talent we believe is there. We want to get him back to being his aggressive self so he can get back to attack hitters with the late sink on his fastball and good breaking ball. In order to be successful, he has to get ahead so he can take advantage of his aggressiveness and the quality of his pitches. Right now, his main problem is getting ahead of hitters.
Inside Pitch: Jimmy Johnson has been one of the more reliable relievers this year. What have been the keys to his early success?
Hector Berrios: Jimmy is another guy who had tremendous success attacking the strike zone before he became a little tentative so we're trying to work him out of that. He was nibbling too much on the corners and then before he realized he'd find himself behind in the count and he would give into hitters. Ever since he decided to attack hitters again with quality pitches in the strike zone, he's got back to where he was at the beginning of the season when he was terrific coming out of the bullpen.
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