2015 Albuquerque Isotopes
Earlier this week, I attended media day out at Isotopes park (AKA ‘The Lab’) and had an opportunity to talk to several players and coaches. I briefly talked to Catcher Ryan Casteel about playing at Isotopes park. Casteel was hugely impressed with how much nicer it was than Tulsa. We also asked him about the pitching clock. He doesn’t feel it will affect many except if the pitcher is the last out.
Chris Rusin, pitching prospect, also mentioned how well he likes the park but knows if he makes a mistake the ball will fly. He found out he had been picked up by the Rockies on his way to his buddies wedding. He worries about how his pitches can break but he can get a feel for it in the pen. He is going to do a simulated game on April 7th to see how his pitches are personally breaking in Albuquerque.
Rusin doesn’t feel like the pitch clock will affect him as he works quickly but he thinks it will actually rush the hitters and help him out faster. “I want to keep the tempo of the game fast.” Gray said, “The Catcher knows what kind of pitcher they are working with. They will tell you to pick it up or slow it down.” Gray told us why the clocks work to the pitchers advantage. “As a pitcher I am glad because I want to get in and get out, I want to keep the tempo of the game fast.”
Glenallen Hill is very soft spoken, as you will hear in the interview, and he is no nonsense. “It’s a blessing to be involved with these kids at this point in their career.” He takes being a manager very seriously. “I’ve been challenged by one of my players to get thrown out of a game.” “If that happens it won’t be much animation.” He has been thrown out once in a very animated way but it won’t happen again, Hill said. If he goes, it’s cause he said the wrong thing to the wrong ump on the wrong day. He also said he will never swear though so I don’t know what the magic phrase will be, if it happens. We asked him about what is important in coaching this players, “One thing I take from my playing days is, players can handle the truth. They may not always like it but they need to hear it.”
I asked him about a tweet from Buster Olney
“I had to let go of the player a long time ago so let me switch to my other ego.” Hill said, “I can still hit the ball over the fence.” He continued, “I still trust my instincts.” We asked him what is the biggest difference between playing and coaching “When I was a player I focused on myself.” Hill told us, “Being a manager, so much more goes into taking care of the team.”
I did have chance to visit with top pitching prospect Jon Gray. He isn’t afraid of the altitude but rather embraces it. “This is going to be the perfect test for us,” Gray said “If you can overcome pitching at Altitude then pitching at Coors won’t matter.” We also talked with him about the pitch clock. He doesn’t feel any need to fear it, in fact thinks it helps pitchers. “I think it (the pitch clock) does (help pitchers). I think it develops a rhythm.” He did not struggle at all with it on opening day.
One player many fans were excited to see on the Rockies spring training roster was Jon Lannan. Lannan was unable to make the big league club. When I asked him about not making the big league team, he said it wasn’t necessarily a worry. “I went in with full transparency with the pitching staff and front office.” I also talked to him about possibly moving to relief but he said he is focused on starting, which he will be doing April 10th. He isn’t concerned with a role with the Rockies or when it comes but when it does, He’ll be ready. “Right now I am starting. No one knows what the future holds, I went to the Dominican to regain my control but no one knows the future holds in this game.“ Lannan said, “I am ready whenever they need me, had it been opening day or later this season.”
Lannan was wearing his sunglasses from his Phillies days because they are also the Isotopes colors. I asked if pitching in other places, such as Philly has helped him to make it with the Rockies. He said the specific teams didn’t matter but the general experience is so invaluable. As one of the elder members of the Isotopes, I asked him if he finds himself a leader, which he does not. “The moment you make that your priority, it detracts you from what you have to do.” Lannan told me, “It’s better to lead by example and if someone has a question in BP about mechanics or why this does or does not work I am there if they need to talk.”
Listen to these interviews in their complete form below. I will be following the Isotopes in Albuquerque, live, at all home games. Follow me on twitter at Troybuquerque for live game coverage.