First impressions: New RoughRiders manager Jason Wood
When I was out in Surprise this week I had the opportunity to interview the new manager of the Frisco RoughRiders, Jason Wood. Jason replaces four-year skipper Steve Buechele, who takes the reins for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock this season. Like Buechele, Wood is a California native and previously managed in High-A before coming to Frisco. He led the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to the playoffs in three straight seasons and figures to take over a talented roster in 2014. When I talked to him on Tuesday in Arizona, the minor leaguers were in the midst of playing intersquad games with mixed rosters. We talked about the plan for spring training and his excitement for getting to Frisco.
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Alex Vispoli: You guys just finished up an intersquad game. I bet it’s nice to just start playing real, or almost real, baseball here.
Jason Wood: It is, it absolutely is. It seems like these young guys have been out here for about two weeks now. To see some live pitching, to see some game action is something they’ve been chomping at the bit to do for the last two weeks. The last couple of days have been good. From what I’ve seen a lot of our hitters are starting to get on the fastball a little bit more and do some good things. And pitchers are making some good pitches when they need to. But all in all, it’s just nice to see everybody get in some game situations and we’re ready to get after it [when minor league games begin] on Thursday.
AV: And knock off a little bit of rust too. I’m sure that’s part of this process, getting back into game mode and seeing live pitches, seeing breaking balls and getting the timing down.
JW: Yeah, that’s what it is. You come out here and get you into spring training for the first couple weeks you’re just getting your hands working a little bit. Working in the cage, as far as hitters go and seeing some soft toss and seeing some pretty easy BP. But in game situations you start to amp it up a bit, get the blood flowing and guys are seeing some velocity. All in all, from what I’ve seen on the field, the timing has been pretty good. I’ve seen some guys that have been in Frisco in the past; Strausborger has been hitting the ball pretty hard. Jared Hoying has taken off where he left off in a sense, he’s hitting the ball hard. All in all, I think these guys have been putting in their work, the hard time and seeing them face some live pitching, they’re ready to go.
AV: What will be the next couple of phases these guys go through – the hitters and the pitchers – as you start getting into playing other organizations before breaking camp?
JW: Well, we’ll start to slow it down a little bit as far as our workload goes. We’ll come out, and our position players will run through a short team fundamental in the morning and then we’ll go into batting practice and then basically get ready for the game. The pitchers will still get on their scheduled routine as far as throwing every five days and relievers will probably throw every other day. Basically, we’ll just start to tone it down and get into game situations, game scenarios.
AV: The players are pretty mixed up at this point. Guys who were in A-ball last year are playing with guys who were in Triple-A last year. Are you looking forward to getting your own group of guys at some point here in camp, the guys that you’ll be bringing to Frisco?
JW: I do, I really do. Last year I was managing in Myrtle Beach and I was pretty fortunate to have my entire squad during the entire spring training, so that made it nice. It doesn’t look like it’s going to be like that this year with me managing the Triple-A team here in spring training. But hopefully with about a week to go in spring training we’ll have most of the group and we’ll get together as a unit and start to put in our defensive plays and get things going. I don’t see that right away but everybody’s getting their reps, everybody’s getting their swings and we’ll just see how this club turns out.
AV: Finally, since you were officially named manager of the RoughRiders, what have folks told you about what to expect when you come to Frisco and what are you looking forward to when you’re managing in the Texas League?
JW: First and foremost, I hear the fan base is outstanding and that will be a pleasure to deal with. The ballpark is second to none and the league itself is a pretty competitive league. I’m just excited to get ready for some Double-A baseball and be a part of that RoughRider organization and put some good talent on the field. I think that’s something that the Rangers do a very good job of. With each of our affiliates, we put talent out there. Our main focus is development but at the day’s end we want to win and we want to grind our wins, be a competitive team at the end and be a playoff contender.
AV: We’re just a few weeks away from opening day. We’re looking forward to seeing you and the rest of the guys back in the Metroplex. Thanks for the time.
JW: All right Alex. I appreciate it and thanks for having me.
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