This week I spent some time chatting with Double-A Reading Fightins skipper Dusty Wathan. The club is well touted this year with a collection of excellent pitching prospects along with some solid producers on offense. In the interview excerpts below, Wathan shares some thoughts on Cam Perkin’s dip in production this year, if the Fightin Five rotation makes his job easier and if the offense coming from his bench presents any difficulty in his role.
Read ahead for this exclusive interview from the farm.
-Off the top, I’ve got a two part question. Do you feel in any way that the solid production from some of your guys that haven’t played every day, like Art Charles and Harold Martinez, makes your job more difficult? On the other side, does the starting rotation, which includes last year’s top draft pick Aaron Nola along with Jesse Biddle, Zach Eflin, Tom Windle and Eastern League Pitcher of the Week Ben Lively, make your spot more comfortable?
I think as far as the guys on the bench, I mean, we’ve had a lot of National League (affiliate opponents) and we actually have, I think, 18 more National League games because the Rockies are in this league now. So, that makes it a little easier to get guys in games. It, obviously, takes away the DH, but for me there’s been games this year where we’ve used every position player, which is exciting and gives more opportunity for guys. That might not be five at bats in a game, but, you know, after the fifth or sixth inning, they could pinch hit. That makes it more realistic and lets us see how guys are going to react to pinch hitting. A lot of times, coming through A ball, you don’t pinch hit. (At that level) you kind of just go with the nine guys and you might pinch run here and there. It gives us an opportunity as an organization also to see if those guys have what it takes to pinch hit. It’s a difficult thing and we like to be able to see that from guys. You know, honestly, most guys aren’t going to get to the big leagues and hear, “Here’s your position. Go get ’em!” They may break in as a bench player or get in a game here and there and earn his right to be the everyday guy. So, it’s a fun thing to have with guys playing well and forcing to get them into a game.
As far as the comfort with the pitching, it’s a lot of fun when whoever you put in there, we’re going to have a good chance to win the ball game. We haven’t been disappointed at all with those guys. So far, so good. Through the first month of the season, we’ve been very happy with what they have done, with the way they’ve gone about their business, I should say, and they’ve done what their supposed to do. But we’re still in Double-A and we’re looking for consistency. A lot of guys can do things for short periods of time, but you have to do them for a long period of time going forward to end up being a major leaguer.
-Lefty pitcher Hoby Milner returns from injury this week and joins the bullpen. He is a guy that people wondered if he’d every make that transition. Do you think that’s something that’ll be difficult for Hoby?
I don’t know. I hope not, since he’s in the bullpen right now. Some guys take it and some guys need more of a routine, some guys don’t. But, obviously, with the trades that we’ve made this year, it was difficult for Hoby to start. But, he was injured in spring training so it really never ended up being an option at all. Then with Elvis (Araujo) going to the major leagues, a roster spot opening and with (Milner) being healthy enough to throw a couple innings at a time, gave him an opportunity to get out of extended spring and get him here.
-First baseman Brock Stassi has been an excellent offensive catalyst for your club thus far, leads the team in RBI by far. What can you tell me about the 25-year-old?
He’s been great. He’s kind of a leader on this club. He’s batting in the middle of our order. He’s played a full year here. He’s just a baseball player. He’s a guy that we’re looking for going forward- we’re looking more toward the baseball player instead of athletes and trying to make them baseball players. It’s really difficult to make guys baseball players. Not saying it’s impossible, but we’re looking for baseball players and he’s a baseball player. He comes out here every day, has fun, which is a big part of this game that we play. A lot of guys take it as a job, but it’s still a game and you have to have fun. If you’re out here every day with 25 guys and you probably don’t like a couple of them, you better have fun.
-Outfielder Cameron Perkins was a standout at this level last year, was promoted to Lehigh Valley and that could have set him back a bit, with his production at the plate down this year. Is there any level of concern with where Cam is at this point?
I don’t think- Cam’s a guy we’ve talked to here as of late. His hand-eye coordination’s tremendous. He has no problem putting the ball in play. We just want him to end up being able to drive the ball, putting up more in the power numbers as far as doubles and home runs. We don’t really want him to try to hit home runs, but, you know, driving the ball in gaps and things. He’s a big, tall, lanky guy, so hopefully we can get that out of him. He’s added a leg kick here and we’ll see how that works. We just want him to stay on his back side a little more, rather than get out front. We gave him a couple days off over the weekend and he’s gonna try to implement it and add it to his game. We’ll see how it works. This game’s all about adjustments and that’s an adjustment that’s Cam’s gonna try to make right now.
For more from Wathan on hurler Ben Lively, click here.