On Monday October 13, I had some time to kill after arriving in Scottsdale for business and wandered over to Scottsdale Stadium, just a block from my hotel, where the Arizona Fall League was taking place. As luck had it, the Scottsdale Scorpions were playing and I was able to get press credentials. I conducted a number of interviews with some of the Phillies’ players and coaches who were in attendance. Come back each day to see the latest interview!
Ray Burris spent 15 years in the Major Leagues, spending time with the Cubs, Yankees, Mets, Expos, A’s, Brewers, and Cardinals. Still as lively as ever at age 64, Burris is now the pitching coach for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the pitching coach for the Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions.
Ian Riccaboni, Phillies Nation: Ethan Stewart is a guy who got off to a real good start with six strikeouts in three-plus innings. What’s Ethan doing right now that is making him so effective?
Ray Burris: Well, the one thing that he’s doing is that he’s learned his delivery and how to repeat it. He’s a young man that has a lot of upside, he’s a big guy, left-handed on top of that. But understanding his delivery, what he has to do day in and day out, to make that work for him is key. He’s gotten off to a good start, hopefully he can maintain that and have a good season in the Fall League.
IR: There are a lot more Phillies than there have been in previous years, the last few years. Colton Murray is a guy who has been in the lower levels, Ryan O’Sullivan is a guy who is climbing up the ranks as well. What are guys like Murray and O’Sullivan looking to work on in the Fall League?
RB: Well, for a guy like Colton Murray it is learning how to control the strike zone and learning how to repeat his delivery. Most of these guys are learning how to repeat their delivery. What we’re doing with them is teaching them what it takes to know your delivery. If they don’t know their delivery, they can’t repeat it. That’s the first the step of their learning process down here.
(The next step) is to still be able to go out and compete with something they feel good about out there on the mound. It’s kind of a spoon feeding process but at the same time it’s a learning process. There’s a certain position we want to have them in by the time this event is over with and hopefully we can accomplish that.
IR: Does anybody experience any kind of fatigue because it is an extension of the Minor League season that they’re not used to?
RB: Well, you do go through a dead-arm phase but at the same time, this teaches youngsters how to extent their career, learning their bodies and using the endurance they do have.
IR: Ken Giles was here last year and he’s a guy that successfully made the jump from Lehigh Valley to the Big Leagues. What did you see in Ken Giles this year that tipped you off that he was ready for the promotion?
RB: I think Ken Giles had the mental toughness necessary to make it. As it turned out, he had the mental toughness. He’s a young man that can be a big part of the future of the Philadelphia Phillies in regard to getting back to the playoffs and World Series with a lot of other young men at that level. He’s part of the future. I have a good feeling about what he brings to the table.
IR: The bullpen was one of the bright spots of this year’s bullpen. You worked with a lot of the arms that came through: Justin De Fratus, Jake Diekman, who wasn’t there this year but was last year. What do you attribute their success to? They definitely improved from Double-A to Triple-A and then Triple-A to the Majors.
RB: Well, for both of those guys, learning their deliveries. Learning how to make pitches and have the mental toughness to know what they need to do when things are not going their way. And I think that’s half the battle at any level. What do I do when I’m in a bind? What do I do when things aren’t going my way?
You go into damage control mode. What that means is for every run I give up, I get an out and that’s how you do correct damage control. With Diekman, what I’m proud of, and for De Fratus and Luis Garcia, is that they have begun to understand what they have to do at any level and that is compete, be consistent, and execute. The bullpen is starting to show that, especially at the Big League level.
IR: This is more of a preparatory question: as a pitcher in the Arizona Fall League, is there any distraction with “this guy is a top prospect” stuff?
RB: Not really. What we try to get the youngsters to understand is that these are the players you will play when you get to the Big Leagues. Some of the guys you see down here are going to meet you at the Big League Level and you have to have an idea of how to get them out and the guys that are already up there, how to get them out. So, this is just the starting point and beginning of learning hitters, learning swings, who does this, who does that so you can get your hitters out.