Sundays with Steve Buechele: May 6

Every Sunday Frisco broadcaster Alex Vispoli sits down with manager Steve Buechele to talk about important events that took place during the week. Learn about what Buechele said about the series against Midland and San Antonio, Mini-Me, and the athletic approach to pitching.

Vispoli: Steve, last night’s game was a little bit of a strange way that it turned there in the seventh inning but I think it says something about the way this team has just been able to pull out these one-run games, the blowouts, the close games. It’s just a team that can win in any sort of fashion.

Buechele: Well yeah it was a little unique last night. We gave them the go-ahead run on a wild pitch and they come right back and give us the tying run on a wild pitch and then we battle. We get a couple, you know, soft singles but that’s what we needed at the time and give the guys credit. They never hung their head or gave up last night and it was a well-pitched game on both sides and I think you’ll see that in the series. They’re a much-improved team over last year. They’ve got some pitching this year.

Vispoli: And this is a team that you’re going to be fighting with for first place during this first half it looks like. These two teams Frisco and Midland are the two that have sort of separated themselves here through the first 30 or so ball games. Does it set any sort of standard here, the way you move forward? Is this a tone-setting series moving forward?

Buechele: You know, I don’t know. I think the kids in the room, the players, they know where they stand. I think they keep an eye on it and so do we. I mean we look at it and I’m not really concerned at this point. The fact that we’re playing good baseball that, you know, we saw Jake Brigham battle against one of the best pitchers from Midland who’s one of the tops in the league and Briggie is one of the tops in the league too and he battled him pitch for pitch and you know our guys did what they had to do to win. It was certainly a nice sign to see that.

Vispoli: You look at the way the bullpen has pitched and they’ve been tremendous this season in maybe getting into situations but getting out of them, it seems, has really been the key for them. Joseph Ortiz last night five batters, five up, five down, a couple of strikeouts to get out of that eighth inning. It seems like Ortiz can come into a game at any spot whether it’s set-up or end of ballgame, he can pitch in those pressure spots and he does it with the unconventional stature that you don’t normally see of a baseball player.

Buechele: Yeah. You’re right. We call him Mini-Me. Mini has been very good and it certainly gives us another option for someone to close the game out after Yan. Jeff likes to rest the guys and I’m in full agreement with that too and you’ll see Yan go back-to-back days every now and then but he had a 28 pitch load the night before in San Antonio and an inning and a third I believe and, you know, warranted a day off yesterday so we knew we would close with Mini and he did a great job but give a lot of credit to the bullpen and the starters. I couldn’t be happier with the way our pitching has gone but like you said the bullpen has come into some pretty tough situations, worked their way out of it and they’ve also created some tough situations for themselves but had enough composure and poise to work themselves out of it as well.

Vispoli: With Ortiz, where does it seem like his 92 mile an hour fastball comes from a guy who does not have that standard frame that you look for in a pitcher but he throws pretty hard and for a left-hander?

Buechele: Yeah, well he’s got a good arm. I think sometimes you get the shorter stature pitchers that when they throw hard and the ball doesn’t have the tilt, sometimes it looks better than it really is when the ball’s up. I think what separates Mini or gives him a great chance to succeed is he has a very good slider that he can throw to lefties or righties and he’s shown a really good changeup which I haven’t seen, I didn’t see in spring training. It’s kind of popped up these last couple outings but it’s also very good so he has three good pitches.

Vispoli: Earlier this week you won three out of four in San Antonio. You were remarking to me a little bit that that had been a house of horrors over the last few seasons. I looked up the numbers, 5 and 15 over the last 20 ballgames. It’s big to go in there and get a couple of wins and there were all really hard-fought victories.

Buechele: Yeah and that’s how that field plays. The wind blows in scoring runs, comes at a premium there and they’ve had good teams the last couple of years. We’ve played good but found a way to kind of squander it or give up one or two late in the game. To leave there with three out of four was like I had told you a really good feeling. After winning two of them, you almost felt like shoot two of out four is going to be a nice road trip there but to come away with three was great.

Vispoli: Your starter in the series finale Barret Loux, you look at his numbers. Six starts and he’s the only pitcher in major or minor league baseball to get six wins out of his first six starts. He has joked that he has been the pitcher who’s thrown on the run-scoring day and he has had a lot of those games where the team has really inflated the run support numbers for him but to his credit he’s pitched well and he’s been able to, without having his lights-out stuff, be able to be effective and seemingly only give up one or two runs a ballgame.

Buechele: Yeah and we need to support them all that well but came through with some runs when we needed to in the last one but he is, he’s a guy that gosh dang it he throws strikes and he stays away from the middle of the plate and he’s very composed on the mound. He doesn’t seem to get flustered but I think what sets him aside is, you know, he keeps things off the middle. These young guys when you talk about command and you hear everybody talk about it, you know, that’s not putting the fastballs or hanging breaking balls over the middle of the plate. The ones he did, they hit for home runs but when he’s throwing good, he’s been really good.

Vispoli: That must something that you and Jeff really appreciate, a guy who’s around the plate but not leaving them right over the plate. He’s doing exactly what I’m sure a pitching coach would like.

Buechele: Yeah for sure. There’s no question about that. You know we have confidence in him as with the other guys as well but they’re going to go out there and suck up some innings for us and we’ve given them a little, light loads these last couple of outings. Briggie’s six last night, Loux I think was five the other day and Grimm was five the other day too because they have been going so many innings so we’ve decided to maybe give them one inning off shorter than we normally would with the off day coming up they should be ready to go and be even better.

Vispoli: This team that you’re facing here, Midland, leading minor league baseball in walks and I’m sure that’s not necessarily lost on you and the rest of the coaching staff. Does that change at all the way that you approach pitching to this squad? Does Jeff tell the pitchers anything in particular or is it just more going about playing your own game and trying to do what the game plan is anyway and throw strikes that aren’t hittable pitches?

Buechele: You know I think maybe they’ve changed as an organization, their approach of maybe taking a few more pitches but it certainly doesn’t affect our approach as pitchers. Mike Maddux stresses it and Jeff does here as we do at all the levels that strike one is the most important to get ahead of these guys and make them swing the bat. They walk a lot. They strike out as well so I think working ahead and getting favorable counts for the pitcher is huge and Briggie was great last night. I think he had two strikes on something like 18 out of 21 hitters that he had faced so you know I think getting ahead of these guys and then making them hit your pitch is key.

Vispoli: I’m interested in your take on that, not necessarily for what you think about what Oakland does with its approach but what you think about taking pitches at this level. I’ve heard two different ways of thinking. You take a lot of pitches. You put yourself in a position to get on base, the more saber metric way of looking at things and then there’s the thought well if you don’t swing at this early point in your development, you’re not going to learn how to swing enough when you get up to the big leagues. What is your thought on taking pitches and when do you get into more of the nuance of your at-bats versus discovering where you’re swing is?

Beuchele: Well I don’t know if I have the right answer or if I even have the answer at all for that one. To me, 0-0 count is a great count to hit, you know, and you don’t see very many guys taking advantage of that first pitch fastball. I think it becomes an individual thing as to how they develop. You can be an Ian Kinsler and take a lot of pitches or you can be a Josh Hamilton and go up there and swing at the first couple ones so I think it’s an individual thing and we obviously stress swinging at strikes and I think that’s the key to the whole thing. If you’re swinging at balls, you’re going to get yourself in trouble. If you’re ready to hit strikes, you’re going to be successful.

Vispoli: Well today’s ballgame you got Tim Murphy going. Last two starts, he’s looked like a completely different pitcher. He says he is taking a more athletic approach to pitching which I’m not quite sure what that means but you have to have liked what you’ve seen from Tim in the last two.

Buechele: Yeah, the athletic approach to pitching was a quote that came from Greg Maddux by the way and I don’t know what it means either other than it’s going out there and competing. I think that’s what Tim is saying and I think that’s what Greg means too is your going out there and just competing as an athlete and you’re right. His last two starts have been very good and it’s really nice for him to come back today and I expect he’ll do the same.

Vispoli: Well Steve, as always thanks a lot for the time and best of luck out there.

Buechele: Thanks.

Photo Credit: Alex Yocum-Beeman

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