I met with the manager of the Altoona Curve, Tom Prince, following Sunday's game in New Hampshire. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
What do you think of the progress Josh Bell is making at first base?
He's doing a real good job and he continues to work over there. Consistency is the biggest thing, and he's been better than we thought he'd be to start the year. There's a lot of extra work that goes into it, like agility and things like that, and he really going after it pretty hard and he's holding up well.
Neal Huntington was asked about Bell's home run numbers today and expressed no concern. Is there any explanation for his power numbers? Is it a concern for you? Or, is this just the type of hitter he is going to be?
There's no concern. He gets the barrel to the ball. Homers will come in time as he matures. He's swinging the bat extremely well right now, at times. He comes in and out. He's switch hitter and does have the power. It's just matter of time.
Does Josh have the same swing both lefty and righty?
It's getting closer to the same. Yeah, I think there is a little difference, but I think they are getting closer to being similar. Him and [Curve hitting coach Kevin] Riggs are working on stuff like that and they'll continue to do so.
How is [Tyler] Glasnow's changeup developing?
He's fine. He was throwing the ball extremely well until the ankle injury. We'll just wait until he comes back and look at how he starts throwing the ball. It's just a matter of wait-and-see. But he was throwing the ball extremely well.
Does Tyler remind you of any pitcher you've played with or managed?
Not really. Not off the top of my head. Big lanky right-hander with that velocity and curveball and changeup -- it's pretty good.
Are you happy with Max Moroff's transition to second?
He's continued to do a real nice job. He's played very well at second. I think Gift [Ngoepe] has done an amazing job with him. They've worked very well together. Max's eyes were opened to the speed of the game with Gift. His ability to get some plays has really [encouraged and inspired] Max. It's really good to watch.
Max talked about his adjustment at the plate — he said he now ‘dances' with the pitcher. Is getting the timing down a fundamental adjustment that players finally 'get'?
No, I don't think so. I just think that is stuff that him and Riggs talk about. They consistently go into the cage and do different things. Whatever it is, it's continued to work. He swung the bat well tonight. Didn't get a lot to hits but swung the bat hard. He hits the ball hard everywhere.
Is Gift even more valuable because of the role he is playing a mentor to both Moroff and Bell?
I don't want him to be a mentor. I want him to be a leader and go out and play his game. And help in other ways. And, he's done that, he continues to do that. It's unbelievable the plays he's made for our pitching staff. He's done a tremendous job. And he's swung the bat extremely well, at times.
Is there a period of adjustment he is going to have to go through learning to hit the breaking ball now that he is only batting right-handed?
Yeah, he hadn't seen it for a while. But I think he's doing a really good job right now. Overall, the switch is good for him.
Does Keon Broxton need to limit the strikeouts and cover whatever hole there is in his swing to continue to move up?
No, I just think it is the freedom to swing right now. Yeah, but he's going to have to cut down the strikeouts eventually, there's no doubt about it. But right now, it's just giving him the freedom of swing and see what he can and can't hit and then make adjustments at the plate as he needs. I think he is starting to understand that. He had a nice sacrifice fly at the plate tonight with two strikes. So, there is some progress being made. It'll continue to be a work in progress. We'll continue to teach after the game. Let him play the game and enjoy it, teach after.
Does the organization want him to be top to the order guy who can work deep into counts and wear down pitchers?
They haven't really told me. They said they wanted to hit him high just to get as many at bats as he can.
Stetson [Allie] seemed satisfied with some of the contact he is making, even if the surface numbers don't look very good right now. Is he hitting into some hard-hit bad luck?
A little bit of both. He's got some strikeouts there, too. He just needs to continue to cut down on strikeouts and put the ball in play. The power numbers will show up overtime. It's a little bit too early to tell. All power hitters are going to strike out a few times. So it's that fine line of, "How much do you want?"
And you're happy with how he is adjusting to right field?
Yeah, he's done a nice job in right field. He's really made some real good running catches that he wasn't making earlier. He works hard during batting practice. He's done a nice job.
A lot of ground balls from Angel Sanchez tonight, what do you like about what you're seeing from him?
He is able to command both sides of the plate. And he has some velocity for his size. He mixes a cutter, changeup and he throws them all for strikes. He has a lot of hitters off stride a lot.
Lastly, more contact from Willy [Garcia] this year, but the power numbers are down -- is this intentional? Is he working on bat control over power swing?
It's been really cold here. It's not an excuse. It's early in the season. The big boys don't get heated up until June and July. We ain't there yet, so I'm not worried about it. I hope [the players] aren't and it's just a matter of time.
And that ends my week following the Altoona Curve. I'd like to thank Prince and all the players who gave their time to be interviewed this week. I'd especially like to thank the Curve's Director of Communications, Mike Passanisi, for setting up all of the interviews and for being so generous with his time. Here are links to each interview from the past week: Angel Sanchez, Stetson Allie, Josh Bell, Max Moroff, Gift Ngoepe and Keon Broxton.
I'll be back in Pittsburgh for the Pirates' next homestand, so we'll be back to having full coverage from PNC Park starting again on June 8.