Gil Patterson Discusses A's MiLB Pitchers

What has been the key to Godfrey's turnaround?

Oakland A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson is a traveling man, visiting all of the A's minor league affiliates throughout the season. During his most recent trip to Midland, Texas, we caught-up with Patterson and discussed a number of A's minor league hurlers, including Anthony Capra, Ian Krol, Graham Godfrey, Omar Duran, Brett Hunter and more...

On Anthony Capra and the recent work he did in Arizona:

I think a combination of him and [A's minor league rehab coordinator] Garvin Alston working together – and I threw a few things in there. Garvin did a nice job with him. One thing we did is have him take his hands above his head with his wind-up. Tried to create a little more rhythm for him.

The other thing was that we looked a little bit at C.C. Sabathia's balance over the rubber. In general, though, the biggest thing that Garvin worked with him on was getting his arm going a little bit quicker out of the glove instead of separating late. We've improved his breaking ball a little bit. Kind of gave him the Ian Krol/Gio Gonzalez curveball grip and he seems to have liked it.

He had one really good outing in Arizona and we had to send him to Triple-A and it was a good outing [for the River Cats], good enough anyway.

OC: Capra, Krol and Gonzalez are all sort of similar heights. Is that grip something that tends to work well with shorter lefties, for lack of a better word?

You are talking about two guys – one for sure in Gio who has one of the best curveballs in all of baseball. The way they grip it and throw it, it's not the way you'd normally teach. It's almost like do you remember when Brandon McCarthy came in this spring and he showed me a grip with his cutter and I never knew to throw a cutter that way? It just added to the repertoire. It's the same thing with them. That's a grip that in general, for all of the years that I've been doing this, I've never seen it gripped that way. Now we have another way to teach it. With Cap, it seems like it's working.

On Ian Krol's suspension and whether he will be able to pitch again this year:

Quite honestly, that's more of a question for David [Forst] and Keith [Lieppman], but if I were to make a comment, I'd say we are, as an organization, equally – if not more so – concerned about him being a man off the field than a pitcher on the field. On the field right now, he is awfully, awfully good. I'm not going to say that we aren't concerned with what he does on the field, because I'd be lying, we are [concerned]. But gun to my head, if you'd ask ‘do you care more about him helping you win in the big leagues for a few years and then doing something awful off of the field?' I'd much rather have him be a man off the field than ever play for us [in the big leagues]. We do care about that. As far as when, I'm not sure if he is going to come to Instructional League or not. I certainly hope that he does. I think he can benefit from it.

On pitchers who have stood out from this year's draft class:

T.J. Walz [15th round], we moved up to Iowa [Burlington Bees] and also a guy named Blake Treinen [seventh round]. Those two young men throw the ball very, very well. The guys who have pitched the best in Vermont have been Tanner Peters [16th round], Nathan Kilcrease [30th round] – the little 5'6'' guy, he just wants the ball. He wants the ball. He's not afraid. And Brent Powers [18th round] has made nice strides. Kurt Wunderlich [20th round] started off a little shaky, but he has been throwing the ball well.

And a kid down in Arizona, Max Perlman [35th round], he takes a backseat to no one. Quite honestly, he could have been pitching in Vermont and held his own, but somebody has to pitch in Arizona and that's been his role.

OC: Is Treinen still throwing in the mid-90s with his fastball?

GP: Yes.

OC: Does he have another pitch that he throws particularly well?

GP: He throws a good breaking ball and his sinker is hard. Heavy and hard.

OC: Do you see him in a starting role next year?

GP: He'd better or they should fire me if he doesn't.

OC: And what about Walz?

GP: Same thing.

OC: What is Walz's biggest weapon?

GP: I don't know enough about college baseball to give you a real intelligent response, but sometimes when they are hitting with aluminum bats, guys are afraid to pitch to contact and are afraid to pitch in. Kilcrease, Powers, Peters, Walz, they are not afraid. They are not afraid to pitch in. They are not afraid to throw strikes.

Walz has a good fastball with some life to it. He can throw a breaking ball very well and he can spin a slider. He does the things you want a guy to do. If anything right now we would have to work with T.J.'s change-up.

On Tyler Vail, who moved from Low-A Burlington to short-season Vermont this year, and what he is working on:

Really just repeating his delivery. He'll throw you some sinkers as good as almost anybody in baseball. Then he'll come out of his delivery and miss poorly. At 19, what the heck should I expect? At the same time, his change-up is coming along. Along with repeating his delivery, the change-up is probably the biggest thing that he needs. Really before you can think about a breaking ball, you need fastball command and a consistent change-up. He's going in that direction and that's the priority. He definitely needs to throw a better breaking ball.

On Omar Duran, who has moved past the Arizona Rookie League for the first time this season, pitching briefly for High-A Stockton and now with short-season Vermont:

It was nice. We had a need in Stockton and it was almost like ‘let's challenge him some and see what happens.' Sometimes you don't know until you challenge someone, like we did with a few guys this year: [Gary] Daley went to Triple-A, Cap went to Triple-A and even A.J. Griffin. But Duran pitched well enough in Stockton that now he is in Vermont and throwing the ball well. It looks like up to this point that his fastball has had enough life to it that even if he didn't command it to, say, a Double-A level or a High-A standard, that the fastball had enough movement that the hitters couldn't do much with it.

I was on the phone with Keith one day and I said, ‘he just threw a slider that Babe Ruth couldn't hit.' And so Keith always reminds me of that. But then he'll throw four that Jim Smith, a little 12-year-old, could hit. [laughs] I just like seeing him pitch out of Arizona. Arizona has it's place and it's a good spot to develop people but it's good to have him out where he is now competing at the half-season level.

OC: Is he all-clear in terms of the health issues he had had?

GP: Yeah. We are not going to over-work him but he is good enough to where we can give him enough work but not over-work him.

On the rehabs for Tommy John surgery survivors Michael Ynoa, Julio Ramos and Pedro Figueroa, who have yet to pitch in games this season:

All I know is that Figgy has been throwing BP and Ramos and Ynoa are throwing bullpens. I don't believe they are throwing BP yet.

On Arnold Leon, another Tommy John survivor who was shut-down after two rehab outings with the AZL A's:

He threw the ball very well for a number of times and then seems to have had a mini-setback.

On the Midland pitching staff:

The nice thing here in Midland is Gary Daley. He has made big improvements. He was here last year and we brought him to Instructional League. He put together a string of games that were very good. Ethan Hollingsworth has also been very, very good. He had a little setback with a bad hip, but since then he has been just fine.

Shawn Haviland is just grinding it out. He pitched very well last year. He is still eating up innings this year, but if you look at his numbers, you aren't going to be really impressed. He has a high ERA and a lot more hits than innings pitched, but he's someone who you'd want in a foxhole with you. There is a lot to be said for that.

He's going through the same thing that Travis Banwart and Carlos Hernandez went through their first time [with Midland]. They weren't great, but when they came back the second time, they were much better. I expect the same thing from Shawn. If he had to repeat here at the start of next season, I don't think it would be a terrible idea. Obviously, we'll see how the last five or six games go, but he's made a lot of progress as well.

Really the bullpen has been solid. This team is fighting to get into the playoffs. Jared Lansford has done a nice job. Sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story. Trey Barham has done a nice job for them from the left-side. Jon Meloan has been a little sore lately. Polin Trinidad and Paul Smyth have struggled a little bit. It might be again, the first year in Double-A is a tough hurdle. This is a good league. Sometimes it does take that second go-around to get your feet on the ground and pitch the way that you are capable of.

On the improvements of Brett Hunter and Andrew Carignan:

Hunter and Carignan both have pitched well. Carignan went to Triple-A and is gaining progress with his arm strength and command. Brett is the same way. He'll throw to one hitter and you'll think he's Cy Young and the next hitter, he looks like Elmer Fudd. It still comes and goes for him. His delivery is still a little bit out of synch, but the other night sitting behind home-plate like I am now, he threw a three-pitch sequence: he threw a first pitch fastball and then a slider right at the guy that buckled his knees and then a fastball or slider that the guy had no chance with. Then the next hitter, he hangs two sliders and one was hit for a double. You and I know that that is going to happen, but I tell you what: for him and Carignan both to pitch all year without too many injuries and be able to answer the bell every time out, those are good things.

On the transition from Double-A to Triple-A for Carlos Hernandez:

He is handling it well. Carlos, from the starter's role has pitched well. You let them pitch as a starter and then when they don't pitch well, you move them to the bullpen. I still don't know if Carlos is going to be a big league bullpen guy or starter, but for now, I am very happy with what he has done.

On Graham Godfrey and the key to his breakthrough season:

The only change we made was arm angle. Emo [Scott Emerson, the Sacramento pitching coach] has done a nice job with him. Last year [Godfrey's] arm was really low. He even went to winter ball and pitched with a low arm. I mentioned to him this spring, ‘I think your stuff is just better with your arm raised.' At first, I don't think he bought into it but he tried it a few times and had some success. He throws harder and the angle to homeplate is better, and his breaking ball is better. Everything he does is just better from up there. Really, the proof is in what he's done.

For the most part, we have pretty good guys [in the organization]. So when guys work as hard as they do like the Godfreys, the Banwarts and the Hernandezs and the Hunters and Carignans with their injuries, and when those guys get to the big leagues, that's great. I certainly hope [Godfrey]'s going to have a lot more wins in the big leagues, but he'll always be able to bring the fact that he beat Tim Lincecum. He'll always have that for his whole life. That's kind of neat. I couldn't be happier for anybody.

On pitchers who stood out during Patterson's recent trip to the A's Dominican Academy:

There were a couple of them. A guy by the name of Jose Torres has looked good and we already brought over Gregory Paulino [to the Arizona Rookie League]. He's a right-hander who throws a good change-up. Torres throws a pretty good change-up. We are fastball command first and then change-up guys. That's our goal really everywhere, including in the Dominican. He throws a pretty good change-up right now and will continue to work on the breaking ball and fastball command when he gets [to the States].

On Andres Avila, who has a 4.31 ERA but a 58:14 K:BB ratio for the AZL A's:

Isn't that weird? He'll strike-out like 11 guys and give-up seven runs. But we like him. He's from Mexico. He repeats his delivery pretty well and he can spin a breaking ball. His fastball is pretty straight, so he does need to locate it, but that breaking ball is good enough to get those guys in Rookie Ball to swing and miss. He is around the plate. He doesn't walk guys. He's pitched well. I'm not 100 percent sure if he will pitch this winter in Mexico.

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