Interview with Jeff Andrews

Pitching is a key ingredient to a team’s success. Alex Vispoli interviewed pitching coach Jeff Andrews on May 10 to talk about the early success of the RoughRiders pitching staff this season.

Vispoli: We join you from Whatburger Field with the pitching coach of the RoughRiders Jeff Andrews. Jeff, the first month of so of the season, the numbers would seem to indicate the pitching staff is doing a terrific job but I know you have a more critical eye as to what you’re looking for from these guys so give me an idea what you think of the first month, the way your pitchers have performed and what would you like to see more out of them?

Andrews: I think in the first month, like you said, performed. I think they’ve performed very well. As far as the results and their responsibility to the team and getting outs, not walking guys and doing that thing, I think they’ve done a nice job. Yeah, there are areas where you always want to get better and I think recognizing hitter’s swings and recognizing game situations and where we’re at in the game and who’s up and what part of the lineup is up. I think those are some of the things that these guys kind of need to get a grasp on as the season goes.

Vispoli: An example of that might be the other day where first two men are retired and number eight or nine batter is coming up and a walk to the number eight or nine batter starts to bring up the top of the order. Are those the sort of situations that you’re referring to?

Andrews: Yeah absolutely and knowing what part of the lineup is coming up next inning and pitching around a guy as opposed to, you know, pitching to a guy, understanding, you know, who has power on the other team, who doesn’t have power and all those little nuances that go on when you have to think and especially think on your feet while you’re playing the game. I think we can improve on that.

Vispoli: Now when we spoke to you last on the air, you talked about how you really haven’t worked with some of the guys that were on this team breaking camp, just the way spring training is. Now that you’ve had a month with these guys and maybe with some of the newer guys a little bit less than that, but now that you’re built up a certain amount of time, do you know how you can reach them because everyone’s a little bit different in terms of their personality, who responds to what or what is your method is terms of teaching and getting a guy’s attention when he’s out there on the mound?

Andrews: Well I think paying attention to him is the biggest key. If you can give him evidence and give him examples, for example when you pitched to the third guy last inning this is what happened or when you’re long-tossing this is what happened and you’re not bouncing back maybe because this is what happened or your breaking ball, you’re not being able to get it down and away because you’re over throwing it with two strikes. You’re too excited. Things that you just get while you’re watching the guys and be able to quote certain instances and be able to tell them this is what happened and this is the reason why and that kind of gets their attention. It kind of lets them know that you are watching and you are paying attention and you can bring up certain things and it’s always kind of a double-edged sword in the fact that, you know, you can kind of lead them down the path that you want them to go by giving them the examples that you want them to see and want them to feel.

Vispoli: Tonight’s starter Barret Loux is trying to make it seven wins in seven starts here to begin the season. On the whole, you look at his numbers 6-0, 2.20 ERA but some of his starts have been dramatically better than others. He’s gotten a good amount of run support in some of the outings that he has not been as sharp. What have you seen from Barret when things are going well and when things are not going well? What are the key differences between those two?

Andrews: Obviously when things are going well you’ll have a tendency to work quicker. You’ll have a tendency to take less time between pitches which results in good defense. He’s had great defense behind him, great run support and the relievers that have come in behind him have obviously held every lead that he’s left with. I think he understands that he can pitch better. I think he understands that he can execute better. I think he understands a lot of little, marginal things that he could probably do better. As far as when you get done with the game and just evaluate how he threw the ball and did he throw it where he wanted to and did he change speeds enough, you know, all those things that you’re looking at from a pitching standpoint rather than just the scoreboard, I think he realizes there’s room for improvement. He’s been fortunate to be where he’s at.

Vispoli: Justin Grimm, who also has six wins, obviously off to a tremendous start. It was fun watching him and Griffin go at it the other day, one versus two in ERA, but one thing that I know Justin is trying to work on a little bit is developing a two-seam fastball. Explain the thought process behind that and where he is in terms of his development.

Andrews: His pitch repertoire right now and his arsenal right now is kind of a group of fastball, changeup, curveball, that all kind of stays on the plate. We’re looking for something that can either run to the hands of the hitter or run off the end of the bat and we’re just kind of starting with the sinker to give him that option, to be able to take it to the end of the left-hander’s bat or run it in on a righty. He’s going to need it somewhere down the line and he’s going to need to add some other things as we go but he’s got such a wonderful base right now: the size, the arm strength, the delivery. He’s got such wonderful attributes that it’s fairly simple as far as adding something. You know that you kind of have an idea that it’s going to work before you even ask him to try something.

Vispoli: A few of the relief pitchers, I want to ask you about. Johan Yan, he’s got eight saves this season. He ran into a little bit of trouble in his last outing but Johan, again, he’s one of those pitchers where the numbers would indicate that he’s lights out but he’s gotten into a few situations this year that have been pretty sticky ones. You think back at San Antonio, loading up the bases in a two-run ballgame before eventually working out of it. For Johan, is it purely about making batters swing and miss at his stuff or at least develop little contact because he’s not a hard-throwing guy, a guy who really relies on movement, and it seems like if he is not at least displaying his pitches for strikes then batters are going to wait on him until he does throw something that’s a little bit more hittable.

Andrews: Yeah, that’s pretty good Alex. He’s going to be a guy, it’s just how serious and ready he is to pitch. If he’s ready to pitch and he’s ready to locate the ball, he’s going to have no problem. If he goes out there and he’s not fully locked in and he falls behind in counts and he walks guys and he’s not paying attention to what he’s doing, he’s going to struggle just like any other pitcher but you’re right, he has been what I call lucky in the last few outings and I hope that he takes that to heart and understands why it is and not the fact that he just looks at his numbers.

Vispoli: One pitcher who has not necessarily been lucky, he’s just been good ever since he gave up a home run in his first appearance with us is Chad Bell. I think he’s been terrific over multi-inning stints. He’s put up good numbers throughout his career. What have you seen in what Chad has shown in his first few appearances with Frisco?

Andrews: I think the thing that stands out with me with Chad is he’s been very aggressive with his fastball. That’s kind of the thing, through the grapevine and through the organization, he hasn’t been as aggressive as he needs to be and that’s always been the pushing point to him is to throw the ball over the plate earlier, throw it over the plate more often and he’s done that. He’s been very efficient and he’s throwing two innings in 23 pitches and striking out two or three guys so he’s been very efficient and he is being aggressive. He’s just going to see how he’s going to do when somebody bites back, when somebody, you know, starts to hit him, what’s he going to do. Those are all things that they’re here for, we’re here for in the minor leagues is to see how they react and then be able to use that as a teaching point.

Vispoli: You look at your experience and it doesn’t just include the minor leagues. You were up with Pittsburgh in the big leagues for a bit. I know from talking to the pitchers on the staff that they highly respect everything that you say. Talking to Trevor Hurley, he called you a genius with some of the things that you were telling him but do you think that you’ve just built up so much experience here over the last couple of decades, everywhere you have been, that that helps you connect with guys.

Andrews: I think in a sense yeah. I mean I’ve been doing it for a long time and it’s just like any other business, any other thing you do for a living, the amount of years that I’ve done this. You see you have a tendency to be able to put things into perspective quicker than you used to and put things in perspective as far as what these guys need to advance, what they need to do to become better pitchers, what they need to do to survive at whatever level they’re at talent-wise and those are nice words by Trevor but I don’t know if they’re completely accurate. Maybe old guy would be better than genius but it’s nice to hear that the guys will listen and that they want to get better.

Vispoli: Well as long as you’re at the top of the Texas League in ERA and runs allowed, maybe the tag can apply for you.

Andrews: Well they’re doing that. I mean they’re pitching out of jams and they’re doing a wonderful job of attacking hitters and pitching out of jams and doing all those things. They really are. Bue does a wonderful job of getting them in in the right spots and getting them innings against the right type of hitters that we think these guys can, you know, gain a little confidence and gain some success that’ll lead to, you know, better things down the road.

Vispoli: Jeff, a terrific first month for the pitching staff. Hopefully we see four more months just like the first. Thanks a lot for the time.

Andrews: My pleasure Alex.

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