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Q&A with Reading manager Dusty Wathan

April 1, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
*Here's the text form of the press conference with Reading Fightin Phils manager Dusty Wathan from Reading's media day activities on Tuesday afternoon*

Q: Talk about Dugan's development from this year to last year and what you saw in the spring?

A: Yeah, it was great. He's finally had a year where he was pretty much healthy for the entire season. He had a nice first half in Clearwater and I thought he came up here and did a fine job. I expect more of that this year. He's learned both outfield positions and can play both left and right and I think he's pretty comfortable in both. Situation where he's probably going to be more comfortable here because he was here last year. Anytime a guy can get up here for the second half or the end of the year and come into spring training the next year knowing if I go back to that level, I know where I'm going to live and that sort of thing. Sometimes we forget these guys are people, too and they're trying to figure out a lot of things. The more comfortable you can be in an environment, the better you can be.

Q: The power is starting to come around for Kelly, is that making him a more complete hitter?

A: I think so. Really power is one of the last things to come for guys. You can look at Darin Ruf who was an older guy when we got him. He hit something like 8 home runs his first year, next thing you know it's 15 or 16 and then he had the tremendous year here. We want these guys to be good hitters first and foremost. And then the power will come eventually. If you try to teach power early, you're going to lose a lot of things. Duggie is starting to come into his power and hopefully he can continue that this year.

Q: What about your starting rotation?

A: I like where we're at. Jesse obviously is ready to have a big year. Severino Gonzalez had an incredible year last year, starting in extended spring and all the way to being the minor league pitcher of the year. He's one of those guys that is cool, calm and collected and he's confident that he's going to be able to go out there and get outs consistently. He throws the ball over the plate a lot and trusts his stuff and his defense. You've got Perci (Garner) and (Luis) Paulino, two right-handers at the back end. Perci got up here and got his feet wet a little bit last year, and then Paulino was a nice surprise. He threw the ball very well in spring training, got the ball down and pounded the strike zone and got rewarded as our fifth starter. (Hoby) Milner, a left-handed guy from Texas, just keeps putting up good numbers wherever he goes to. Deserved a shot here, did everything he needed to do at Clearwater and it's nice to have two lefties in that rotation. He's a guy who flies a little bit under the radar. Not a real high pick, not very highly touted, but he's going to do the same thing, throw the ball over the plate and control the baseball game.

Q: Your rotation is pretty young, are you apprehensive about it?

A: No, I like it. I think the biggest thing we're talking to these guys about is throwing the ball over the plate. I think with us talking about that, we're going to be OK. Myself, I'd rather see guys give up hits than walking guys. I think any manager will tell you that. As a player you don't realize it, but if you look at a whole game or a whole season, if you end up being up there in walks, you're going to give up a ton of runs. If you end up being down in walks, not going to give up as many runs, even if the other club has a high batting average against you, you're still not going to give up as many runs because you're not giving up those free bases. You can't give those guys free opportunities to drive those guys in. These young guys, with Carlos Arroyo taking over as pitching coordinator, we really stressed (not giving up walks). We did some things in spring training as far as some ideas of how to get these guys to throw down, some visual things. We actually put a string up when they throw their bullpens in the bottom of the strikezone just to give them a visual. With the day and age it is now with the media, they're always looking at something, and this gave them something to look at. It seemed to work in spring training.

Q: How do you plan on splitting playing time for Joseph and Valle?

A: Tommy will pretty much be the everyday catcher. Sebastian will catch a couple times a week and we'll see how it goes. It's a demanding position. The catching position is one of those things that will work itself out. Tommy's going to get an opportunity. He missed a whole year last year, and some people are worried about that. But to me, he's still a very young catcher. He was in this league at 20 years old. Where he's at now, want to keep him healthy, get him on the field and see where he is at the end of the season.

Q: How was Tommy hitting the ball in spring training?

A: He was hitting it well. It's difficult for catchers in big league camp that's not a guy who is going to get much playing time. You might get one at-bat here in the seventh inning, then five days later you go in in the sixth inning and get two more at-bats and you get sent down to minor league camp with six at-bats over three weeks. We did what we could to get him as many at-bats as possible. I think he was in the 40s, or something like that. He started to swing the bat well over the last three or four days, timing was better. Hopefully he can take that into the season, but as a catcher it's always difficult to get those at-bats in spring training because it's such a demanding position that guys don't really catch nine innings out of the gate so we can try to work them into it. But we got him some DH at-bats, too. I think he was swinging the bat well at the end, so we'll see what happens when the bell rings.

Q: Is (Brody) Colvin's move to the bullpen permanent at this stage?

A: Right now, he's in the bullpen. All these guys have to prove that they're going to throw strikes, and honestly I don't think he threw enough strikes last year to merit being a starting pitcher. It doesn't mean it can't change. It doesn't mean that he can't go to the bullpen and start pounding the strikezone and we see the guy we saw a couple years ago and he goes back to the rotation. But right now he's a bullpen guy and he needs to prove to us that he can throw strikes. It's pretty much when you get to this level, the better you play, you're going to get to play more. The better you pitch, the more you're going to get to pitch. The better you play defensively and do the right things on the field, the more you'll get to play. That doesn't necessarily translate into numbers for me, it's how are we doing it. We're going to ask guys to hit and run more, so we might get less hits or we might get more hits, I don't know. But if he executes what we're asking him to do, then it's going to translate into playing time. Vice versa with pitching, if the guys throws strikes and keeps the ball down over the plate, he might give up more hits, but that's what we're looking for. We want them to learn to get outs with his fastball and he's one of the guys that needs to do that.

Q: Who closes from this group of guys?

A: Well Giles will be the closer for sure. If you have a guy who throw 100 miles per hour, he's going to be in the back end of the bullpen somewhere. That being said, most of these guys will be multiple inning guys, With Kenny we want to make sure he gets his multiple innings. There are going to be days where he's not available, but Justin Friend is here and he's had a lot of success in the past, so it's nice to have a guy like him here, so probably those two guys will be doing it.

Q: Is Severino Gonzalez's stuff good enough that he can still pound the zone like he does and get outs consistently?

A: I think it is. He's amazing because he's a guy who makes in-game adjustments as quick as any pitcher I've seen, especially at his age. For instance, the other day in spring training, he was working out of the windup and he wasn't doing very well, and he just changed on his own with nobody on base to the stretch because he felt more comfortable. He found himself out there and found his rhythm and then he went back to the windup. He can make the ball go both ways, up and down, change speeds, his changeup has come a long way. I think he can do it, and we're in a good situation because you can teach a guy to throw balls, it's more difficult to teach him to throw strikes. If he can throw it where he wants to throw it in the zone, we can teach him to throw it out of the zone a little bit. One thing that helped him is he went to winter ball in Venezuela, and that's about as big a stage as you can get outside of the Major Leagues. He was there, made a couple starts there. It was eye-opening for him and good for him.

 
 

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