The Class A Lakewood BlueClaws got their season underway on Thursday with a new roster and a new manager. Shawn Williams, son of long-time big league coach Jimy Williams, takes over the reigns with the ‘Claws after a year as skipper of the Class A Short-season Williamsport Crosscutters.
Prior to their season opener on Thursday, I chatted with the 31-year-old about his club. Read ahead for comments from Williams about several names including Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Tocci, Deivi Grullon and many more.
-Is there anyone on the roster that stood out in spring training as a guy that was a catalyst for the club?
I look at our whole lineup and, really, all the guys are catalysts. There are guys that do the little things to help your team win. They’re great guys in the clubhouse, they play hard, they give you 100 percent every night and they do everything to kind of help your team win.
-Carlos Tocci returns to Lakewood for his third season. At 19 years old, he’s still one of the youngest guys on the team, probably one of the youngest guys in the league. What do you think about where he’s at right now?
I haven’t seen him much until this year, but he has really, for me, really improved. He’s really swinging the bat well. He had a good spring training. Obviously, his defense is outstanding. He’s running the bases. His instincts are there. I’m looking for him- and I know he’s looking to have a great year here and see what happens.
-I know, typically, the Phillies’ wish for Tocci is for him to add muscle and weight each off-season. Is that still of concern for the Phils?
He put on, I’m not sure exactly, I want to say 15 pounds this off-season. That’s a goal of ours and his- like you said- to put on some weight, so he has done that, which has helped with swinging the bat and he’s getting stronger. He’s got a good idea up there at the plate and just (a key is) getting bigger and stronger and that will come with time and age and working out. He’s always here ready to go and has been doing that.
-Hoping you can provide health updates on a few disabled list guys. Drew Anderson missed some time here last year. What’s his situation right now?
He’s down in Clearwater right now in (extended) spring training, just rehabbing some shoulder things. Other than that, he should be alright right now.
–Nick Rodesky was here last year as well. What’s his status?
His is the same thing. He’s down in extended, rehabbing, making sure his arm’s ready to go.
-And then Samuel Hiciano was here last year with the BlueClaws. What’s got him out of action?
He had an injury with three days left in spring training- ankle- where he’s probably going to be out for the year.
–Grenny Cumana is a guy that I’ve heard good stuff about. What can you tell me about him?
He’s very exciting. He brings a lot of energy. For me, he’s probably just going to be a fan favorite. Just how he plays, he’s energetic. He can swing the bat, he handles the bat, he’s got more power than you think looking at him. He swings the bat extremely well and he’s an outstanding defender. For me, he does a little bit of everything. He can run too. He’s just a good ballplayer.
-What is your starting rotation going to be?
-Is there anything that stands out among those guys that maybe resulted in their placement in that order?
No particular order for me. It’s just kind of how between spring training and how it kind of worked out to how that’s how they’re going to appear in the rotation. Pinto, he’s starting us off, he’s a competitor, a strike thrower, gives you all he’s got. He can really pitch and I know he’s looking forward to this challenge and getting us going.
-In the bullpen, are there any defined roles for the back end or for closer duties?
They can all handle it. The two main guys will be Matt Hockenberry and Calvin Rayburn. You know, they can do it. I’ve seen a couple guys last year and they’ll be the middle relief/set up guys helping us out.
-Rhys Hokins played for you in Williamsport last year. Fresh out of the draft, he showed some power, but didn’t hit for great average. What can you tell me about him?
He hit a lot better than what his average showed last year. He hit a lot of hard outs, line outs. He’s, for me, a very impressive hitter. He’s fun to watch. He’s got some power, but is, more importantly, a hitter first where, like I said, last year- if you saw him play every day, you would have thought he was hitting .320. So, I think he’s going to have an outstanding year this year and swing the bat extremely well.
-A guy that has a lot of buzz is catcher Deivi Grullon. He got some tastes of full season ball last year. What can you share about his progress?
Another exciting guy. His arm is impressive, back there catching. He is very good blocking and receiving. He’s learning the game, learning how to call a game. Swinging the bat, he’s got a different sound off his bat. He had an outstanding spring training. He’s a younger guy, but he is a leader as a catcher, a guy that others look up to. He’s got a good personality and other guys love to be around him.