Q+A with pitching coach Pete Walker
Here’s what pitching coach Pete Walker had to say during a scrum on Wednesday afternoon regarding several key members of his staff:
Why only one inning for Brandon Morrow when all of the others are going two innings during their first time out this spring?
“It’s what he did last year. We’re going to stick to what worked for him. He had a great spring last year, came along nicely. Gave him the necessary days off that he needed to keep him fresh and things worked very well so he’s going to stick to the plan.”
So it was more his own personal decision to go just one inning rather than the club’s?
“Obviously it worked last year and he wants to get off to the same start he did last year. It’s kind of a mutual decision.”
How is the workload determined for other pitchers?
“More or less it’s going to be a pitch count. It’s going to be 30 pitches and then all of those numbers to start off right now, we’ve discussed them, and obviously the pitches are the primary importance. If some of those starters are listed for two innings, they certainly aren’t going to throw two if it’s a long first inning.
“We have time, we’re getting them right, most of them are on their five-day rotation right out of the chute. The second outing will only be two innings as well. We have an extra four or five days in the spring so we’re going tomake sure these guys are where they need to be at the end of Spring Training to start the season, get the right number of innings and control their pitches throughout.”
On Casey Janssen’s progress from a shoulder injury…
“He’s coming along as expected. It’s a little slow, we’re still hopeful that he’s ready to start the season. If he’s not, we’ll go to Plan B but we’re prepared for that. Right now, he’s doing everything he needs to do to be ready for Opening Day and that’s his goal.”
Janssen’s plan for the next couple of weeks?
“He has a couple of more sides and then we’re going to get him into a couple of live BPs. But his schedule is subject to change at any time. We’re going to take it day-by-day, see how he’s feeling. Our goal is to just get him 100% whether it’s Opening Day or seven days after that. There’s going to be no rush to push him. Obviously, if he’s going to be the closer in Toronto we want him to be 100%.”
How much work does Janssen need to get in before the start of the season?
“I think with him, that’s a tough one because obviously our concerns are him being 100% so it’s impossible to put a number on it. We’d like to get him into games by the 13th or 14th of March. Realistically to get him to start the season, he needs to be able to go back-to-back days, he needs to be feeling great after those back-to-back days because when we bring him up to Toronto and he’s pitching in front of 50,000 people, the expectations are high, the team’s ready to go.
“He wants to be 100%, we don’t want to put him in the situation where it’s a struggle for the first week or two. We certainly wouldn’t do that. I think it’s not really a number of innings, it’s just after that back-to-back outing, if he’s feeling great he’s ready to go.”
Lots of time remaining to work out the kinks…
“There’s plenty of time but certainly we’re not going to rush him right now. He’s coming along at the pace that the doctors recommended and we’re going to stick to it. If there are any setbacks, we’ll go to Plan B. Right now, he’s feeling good and he’s on schedule.”
Josh Johnson lost some velocity last year. Wasn’t entirely unexpected since he was coming off a shoulder injury the year before. Where do things stand now?
“I think he looks really strong. The conversations I’ve had with him, and some of the video I’ve seen of him in the past, he looks really good and he’s feeling really good. I’m very encouraged right out of the chute.
“He has turned into a pitcher. He knows how to pitch. He’s not as concerned with the velocity being in the mid-90s consistently. if he’s in the low 90s at times, he knows how to pitch. He keeps the ball down. He has incorporated that curveball now which is going to help a lot to keep the hitters off balance. But his location and fastball command is impeccable right now and it’s fun to watch.”
With the curveball in place he could become really dominant if the velocity returns…
“There’s no doubt about it. That’s what we’re hoping for. But what he did last year, if he can just carry that into this season, I know he’s really encouraged with the breaking ball. The fastball, if that velocity jumps a click, great. If it doesn’t, we still have a super pitcher.”
On Esmil Rogers…
“He has a tremendous arm. I’ve seen quite a few good arms here to be honest with you. There’s some power and some untapped power. But he’s a guy that came into his own a little bit in Cleveland, struggled a little bit in Colorado. You look at the numbers and you’re trying to figure it out, I don’t know what was going on there. It could have been the Colorado air. But in Cleveland it came together a little bit, used his slider a little bit more and he knows how to spin the baseball and has a power arm. He seems to be a very athletic kid, just learning and getting better.”
Who are the untapped power guys?
“(Jeremy) Jeffress is a guy, tremendous arm. And even some of the non-roster guys I’ve seen so far. Very deceptive deliveries and guys that can definitely help throughout the course of the season.”