Chad Mottola on Snider, Sierra, Hechavarria

I spoke with Las Vegas 51s hitting coach Chad Mottola about Travis Snider, Moises Sierra and Adeiny Hechavarria.

— When I asked Mottola if he was surprised Snider was traded, he said “nothing surprises me in this game.” He spoke about a close relationship with Snider and admitted that the Pirates have an exciting crop of outfielders with rookie Starling Marte — who was considered Pittsburgh’s No. 3 prospect heading into this season by — Andrew McCutchen and, now, Snider.

Below is the transcript:

“I wish nothing but the best for Travis and continued success and hopefully we got something in return that will help us going forward.”

Have you talked to him since the trade? 

“Briefly. It’s always tough the first time you get traded. You develop so many relationships and bonds with players and coaches. He’s a special man off the field. The first time it happens you feel a little confused and nervous walking into a new clubhouse. Unfortunately, I can attest with as many clubhouses I’ve walked in — you get used to it. You realize there are no hard feelings and you just have to do your job. That’s the brief talk we had.”

What are some of the things you guys worked on this year and in what areas was he able to improve?

“He improved on the mental side much more this year. We worked on a lot of fundamentals last year and he got consistent with that. Now, when things break down, it doesn’t mean something is wrong. You can hit .300 but you still fail seven out of 10 times. So don’t be so anxious to change. Throughout the years, he went through so many changes. It was like ‘Hey, we are sticking to this plan and just because we fail a little doesn’t mean we are going to change all over again.’ And that’s what we worked on this year — more the mental side. That’s where he is at now and in life. At the time of the trade, he knew he couldn’t control it and he is going to keep doing what he’s doing.”

It had to be tough on him constantly going up and down over these past years, no?

“Without a doubt. He came in from Spring Training this year and you could just see the way he handled everything this year, that he never let it bother him. Day-in, day-out, he came and did his job. Other players in this game, the human side gets to you, and this year he didn’t let it affect him. It’s a test to him that he’s going to be in the middle of the pennant race now, and he can have a little fun with that.

“It’s one of those things. The Blue Jays move on and we will see what happens from there.”

Do you think Travis benefits from a change of scenery?

“I think it’s one of those things that only time will tell. He has been through the ups and downs in Toronto. This year, I think he came in with the mindset that he wanted to be with the Blue Jays and now he’s not. We’ll see, in time, how it shakes out. All the stuff he worked on is going to help him in life and in baseball.”

What do you see him becoming in a couple years?

“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to get caught up, as much as I love the guy, I don’t want to get caught up in the guy that is gone from here now. I have no idea what he is going to be. I know we worked so hard and did so many things and I wish him nothing but the best. But it’s one of those things. I hope he goes on to have a great career and I will continue to be in touch with him. But I don’t want to dwell on … it has already happened. It does no good for us, or the Blue Jays.”

What was the relationship you two were able to build on a personal level?

“You can’t help but get close to guys you’re around. You go through the grind yourself personally and then you see the guy doing the same thing. There is a lot of stuff that happens in life besides baseball. I just opened the door up, whether it is in the batting cage or in my office, for the guys to go ahead and speak and get those feelings out. The next thing you know, you are talking about things other than baseball. You develop friendships, become a mentor, if you want to call it that. And those are probably going to be carried on throughout life. Guys know you went through the experiences that they are going through, so they trust you in life and in baseball. And that is where it is at with him.”

What was Sierra doing in Vegas that helped him earn the promotion?

“He has shown great flashes of being that guy that they compared to — the Raul Mondesi, Nelson Cruz-type player. I think they wanted to see for themselves. It was an opportunity with all the moves made to look at the guy. I think he has to be a little more consistent in his approach but you know he will go down fighting. So you can live with the mistakes he will make at the big league level because they’re going to be aggressive mistakes. It was a good time for them to see what they have in him moving forward.”

Where does his arm and raw power stack up in the organization?

“His arm and Gose’s arm are the best in the organization. And his raw power is up there. Obviously there is Encarnacion and Bautista, but he’s close behind them as far as raw power. It’s just a matter of bringing it out more often and consistently.”

As someone who has worked closely with them, how happy are you to see these guys, one after another, get their first taste of the big leagues?

“It’s real satisfying. It makes your job exciting. With the time change in Vegas, you get to watch four or five innings of Blue Jays games of the guys you had, and then you sit there with all the other players that were just playing side-by-side with them — it kind of gets their attention knowing they are that close. We all kind of gather around the TV right after batting practice and watch all the guys. It makes it real easier to get their attention when they know they could go up any day.”

Do you think Hechavarria is ready?

“I think he’s ready. I think he’s ready to help them win day-in, day-out, whether it’s defensively or offensively. He comes ready to go every day. Sometimes, when we talk about the human side, when a guy is having success, they can slack off their work a little bit, but he hasn’t shown that at all. It’s August, and he is still grinding away and hasn’t skipped a beat.”

Where is he at with the bat?

“He has become more consistent. Sometimes he stays too far inside of the ball and gets under it. But he has taken a much more solid approach in using the whole field in driving the ball. Where, in years past, he has kind of wanted to serve the ball to right field, just to kind of survive. Now, he is starting to trust himself that he can drive the ball from gap to gap. He’s learning he can do this. He is getting a little bit more self-confident each day he steps to the plate.”

Chris Toman


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