Earlier this month I had an extended conversation with Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage and I was finally able to transcribe it (and edit it for clarity) over the weekend. This is Part 2; here is Part 1. You can listen to the entire conversation here.
What are the latest reports on Jameson Taillon?
Everything is going as planned.There are no restrictions on him. We just have to let him go about his business, keep an eye on him, let him get his work in and let him go from there.
I know you don't want to put expectations in fans' minds or in the players' minds. They are going to have to go out at Triple-A and do the work and prove that they can perform at that level before coming to the major leagues. But is there a timetable when we can realistically expect to see Jameson or Tyler Glasnow in Pittsburgh in May, June, July?
I wish I had a crystal ball to answer that question for you. They are going to dictate when they are ready to come up to the major leagues. The ball is in their hands, so to speak, no pun intended. They are the ones that are going to tell us, "Hey this guy is ready for the major leagues," and we'll go from there. We've got to make sure there are some areas that are taken care of. I know they work hard, they are good kids, they are very disciplined in what they do. We'll let what they do during the season and in spring training dictate what might happen after that.
What attracted the organization to Ryan Vogelsong and what are you expecting from him this year?
He's a guy with experience. He's a guy who's been to the World Series. He's had many good years up in the major leagues finding himself out. Last year was just an off year for him. He wants to come back to Pittsburgh and try to put out some fires that he left here. He's got some things to prove. He says, "Ray, I've got some more in the tank." And I said, "Ryan, I know you do." So we're looking forward [to it].
You know, I looked at video with all these guys we've gotten. It's not the same thing, it does have value, but it's not the same thing as putting an eyeball on them and watching them and watching the ball come out of their hand and seeing their delivery. It's something that's really exciting for me right now because we have some guys that are going to be really interesting to watch and see how they perform in Spring Training.
Did you get to see Jon Niese throw [in] minicamp in January?
At that point in time we were only doing long toss or their throwing program, but we had a nice conversation. He's raring to go. I'm really happy to see him get back into his old form because every time he pitched against us he was a tough son of a gun out there, so we are looking for him to be that guy for us.
I know you know these numbers, but over the last four or five seasons the average team has needed about 10 starters and needed roughly 30-35 starts typically from starters who aren't in the top 5. We know the Pirates, looking to 2017 [and beyond], have a nice pipeline of young starting pitchers who, if they develop as hoped, can certainly fill those roles. But there is a level of concern right now to start the season that if someone were to get injured, the team doesn't have starting pitching depth. Is it Juan Nicasio, is it someone else, where would you look for your sixth, seventh, eighth guys to start the season?
Like you said, the sixth, seventh, eighth guys, you need guys with starting ability. We've got Nicasio, [Kyle] Lobstein, [Wilfredo] Boscan and possibly Glasnow or Taillon to fill a void in for a week or two. You're right -- every team needs 10-12 starters during the course of the year due to injuries or fatigue or other things. We've got to make sure we have depth, and Neal has done a great job of giving us depth. With those guys who are like swingmen, they are going to fit the bill perfectly. And hopefully if that situation does occur at some point in time later on in the season, Glasnow and Taillon can fit that bill, too. You never have enough pitching, but I think we are in a good spot right now. But we're always looking to better ourselves.
You ran into a bad string of injuries in terms of the number with [Nick] Kingham, [Brandon] Cumpton and Taillon all missing at least a year after Tommy John surgery. I know you, as an organization, spend a lot of time looking at injuries. Is their anything that you have learned or is this still the big unsolved, Tommy John surgery?
Yes, that's a big X factor. There are so many different things involved in that. It stirs my mind, it's not in my pay grade. These things are going to happen over the course of the year and you try to help these guys prevent or minimize the injuries. Our strength and conditioning staff has done a tremendous job over the years and we will continue to do that. Injuries are a part of the game and they will happen and we just have to be prepared when they do happen. All the new information that we are getting will help us further minimize it, but not completely negate it.
Neftali Feliz is a guy Clint [Hurdle] had some experience with down in Texas. What was the attraction and what role do you see him playing with the Pirates?
Number one, we want to make sure he's healthy and gets his work in. Then, he'll dictate what spot he's going to be used in. The whole situation with Feliz is, I think, being hurt and then coming back a little bit too soon and thinking that you still can do what you did before without being 100 percent healed. You end up forcing stuff and doing things you normally wouldn't do as opposed to letting your instincts and talent take care of it. He's learned from those experiences and he's healthy, as far as I know, right now. We'll see how it goes. It looks real good and it looks real positive (laughs) and I'm looking forward to seeing some gas come out of that hand.
Speaking of gas, Ray I know your proud of all your guys and you love all your guys, but there must be a special spot for Arquimedes Caminero. You must be proud of the step forward he took last year.
Big time. He listened. He wasn't a robot. There were some times we had disagreements, him, myself, the catchers -- what to throw and where to throw it. But that's normal, that's good, I want these guys to think. I don't want these guys to be, "Ok, follow Ray, here we go, yo, he, ho" (laughing). No, I don't want that. I want input from them so I can help them and be a better coach for them. With him, the way he performed last year, we got him back on track, and I'm talking about everybody involved, we got him back on track, and then he was even able to go outside that and improve on some things. There were some old teachings from previous organizations that we were able to get past and hopefully we're on the right track and able to keep going.