I was waiting to interview players in Columbus on Thursday and was surprised to see Pirates assistant GM (and former farm director) Kyle Stark walk onto the field, so I scheduled an interview with him the following day. Here, Stark takes questions about the Indianapolis team we were both there to watch, as well as about many of the Pirates' top prospects from lower in the minors. Here's the transcript, lightly edited for length and clarity.
What is Tony Sanchez working on down here?
The first thing was being in the big leagues for an extended period of time, coming back, and getting adjusted back to, "This is where you're at." I think, defensively, Tony's obviously more than equipped to do it, it's getting back to having the routine of catching every day, and connecting with the staff, leading the staff, calling a good game, and continuing to work on throwing consistency [and] accuracy. And then I think offensively, [he] probably had developed some habits [related to staying in] survival mode. [He needed] to come back here and get back to the core foundation of letting the ball travel, trying to drive the ball to right-center field, and not trying to do too much.
Mel Rojas seems to have taken a nice step forward this year. What is he doing better?
Just the consistency of everything has gotten better. He's slowly but surely made some small adjustments each year, and he's one of those guys who just never had a big jump. Slowly but surely, he's made some strides, and in the last two years put together, some solid years, especially [with] his age and the level he's been at. I think, offensively, it's hard for switch hitters to develop consistency. It's hard for guys from one side of the plate, let alone both ...
Because they have two sets of mechanics?
Yeah. Well, it's two sets of mechanics, and it's half as many reps, or you've got to do twice as many reps to get the reps you need. And then, obviously, even if you get the physical reps, then you've got game reps, so you're not getting the maximum number of game reps from each of those sides. The consistency of his approach, the consistency of his mechanics, I think that's been the biggest separator for him.
With the outfield picture in Pittsburgh looking fairly set for the foreseeable future, where do you see him fitting in?
Obviously, you need four or five outfielders. You obviously need depth in an organization, as we see every year. Both of those are legitimate options. Not that we would ever look to move somebody or anything like that, but there comes situations ... As we try to lengthen this window we've got, there comes a point where we've got to make decisions on, "Okay, you trade an area of strength to complement an area of weakness." [That's] something that we could explore at some point if in meant we could advance our organization as a whole.
With the depth [issue] in mind, could you talk about the trade of Chris Dickerson to the Indians? Was that a way of opening up a spot for a player who seems like a big-league player?
Yeah, I think with Chris, it was a situation where Chris is 32 years old, had a great spring, put himself in a position to make our club, [and] obviously didn't. And with those types of guys, if those guys have the opportunity to go immediately to the big leagues with another club, and he's not in our short-term plans, we feel like we owe it to that guy to give him an opportunity.
There was no thought to promoting Dickerson yourself, then?
No. Ultimately, it was a situation where, short term, he wasn't a fit for us.
What are your thoughts on Andrew Lambo as he returns from injury? What does the future look like for him?
[We've] been encouraged that he's come back sooner than we thought he would. He's looked good offensively as well. I think he's a guy that gives us some versatility as far as an outfield option, a fourth outfielder, bench bat, potential first base option. We're going to continue to make sure he's got versatility at both spots for us. Short term, it's, can he provide some pop off the bench for us, and/or depth if something happens? Long term, can he give us some flexibility or versatility to do something creative? He very well may, depending on how he goes about things here.
Do you see Adrian Sampson as a potential promotion candidate [to Indianapolis]?
Adrian has done a lot of things really well and is a guy that we're going to try to figure out a way to get him up here. There's a couple things he's trying to nail down with his delivery right now -- just some small tweaks, adjustments, mainly attacking left-handed hitters. That, coupled with opportunity, will dictate when. He's a guy that we'd like to get some Triple-A innings before the end of the year.
You're using Joely Rodriguez in relief now?
A couple things. One is just mentality-wise, wanting him to get him to come in in shorter stints and get after it. We'll see if we got the uptick in stuff we saw late last year. And I think the second reason is just to try to simplify things for him. The pressures of trying to go through a lineup three times and attacking hitters and everything, the bullpen approach is just a simpler approach. Ideally, we'd like to get him back in the rotation. But short term, we feel like this is something that can free him up and get him going a little bit.
What has Tyler Glasnow improved on this year, and do you see him as a promotion candidate [to Altoona] as well?
He has improved significantly at his routine and being consistent in his routine, whether that be every five days, whether that be his bullpen routine, whether that be his pre-pitch routine, the consistency of his habits have led to increased consistency of performance. Which I think has led to repeating his delivery and throwing more consistent quality strikes, especially [in] the last month or so. We'd like to get him a taste of Double-A. It's not as critical for him, because the big thing for him is where he's at innings-wise. It's not like it's going to impact his start next year, or whatever else. But we would like to get him a taste of Double-A at some point.
The number of times -- from you and from players -- I've heard the word "consistency" ... Is a big part of getting through the minors just being able to do the same thing every time?
Yeah, on any given night, you see big-league ability on the field in the minor leagues. Any level. The difference is the consistency [with] which that plays out. Triple-A [to] Double-A, big difference in consistency. Huge jump from Triple-A to the big leagues. But even within the big leagues, we talk with our guys all the time about, "You want to be good, go do your job all the time. You want to be great, go be good all the time." Most people want to go try to be good or try to be great, and really it's the consistency of your habits [and] the consistency of your thought process. I think the minor leagues is all about figuring out what those are, what they need to be, and then being more consistent, no matter what kind of adversity.
Have you seen Austin Meadows since he came back from injury?
I have not seen Austin since he got activated, no. Reports have been very encouraging. He's obviously stepped in and swung the bat well.
What is Josh Bell doing differently this year?
Consistency (laughs). No, Josh, again coming back to the switch-hitter thing, it's real. It's hard for those guys. He's gotten more consistent between his left-handed [and] right-handed swings, so he goes to the plate more similarly. [And] his approach, he's slowed things down. He's not just coming up there swinging. He's got a more consistent plan. He's had a really good first three months of the season, and I'm looking forward to the challenges of Double-A for him.
How have your duties changed since you were promoted [from director of player development to assistant GM]?
I spend more time with the major-league team. And then the big thing is some of the minutiae, the day-to-day stuff within the minor leagues, Larry [Broadway] takes care of. As far as big picture, what are we doing, how are we doing it, that continues to be something I'm passionate about, something I'll continue to be involved with.
How many games or series a year do you see with each affiliate now?
I see each affiliate three times, five-game sets, so I'm going to see each of our clubs 15 games. Indy I'll see a fourth time. And then the big-league team, I'll try to see 10 to 15 games a month.
So pretty much every day, you're somewhere.