Recently I sat down with the manager of the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. During the chat, Wathan, who is primed to walk away from this week with Reading’s all-time managerial wins record, spoke about his team’s power hitting duo, veteran Jake Fox, starting pitcher Nick Pivetta, the wins record and more. Read ahead for that interview.
-Last week you got to go along with six of your players to the Eastern League All-Star Game in Akron. What can you share about that?
It was a tremendous group of guys. We had a lot of fun. They represented themselves well. It was just a fun time and to have those guys on the field at one time, it’s special to be able to be the manager for that.
-Many fans are having a blast online and otherwise watching the power duo of Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens slugging it out for the minor league lead in homers. There’s excitement each night following them, seeing what each guy did. Is it as fun for you guys as coaches to watch what they’re doing?
Well, yeah. I think, you know, when you work closely with these guys, anytime any of these players have success you take a lot of pride in it and you’re very happy for them because you see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. The fans don’t get the opportunity to see that. You know, they see the finished product, they see the game, but they don’t see these guys in cage at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and the conditioning and all the other things that go along with success.
–Jake Fox is a veteran on this club with big league experience. Players will often tell me that he’s the type of guy that helps them and is great to learn from, somewhat supplementing the coaching staff. What are your thoughts on Jake?
Jake’s been tremendous. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and then some. He’s been a leader on and off the field. He’s done everything that a guy in his situation should do and will do and that’s what we expected of him and that’s why we signed him this winter and gave him an opportunity to play. I can’t say enough about him. If he wants to, I think some day when his days as a player are done, he’s going to have a lot of opportunities to coach.
-With another win, you’ll set the Reading wins record by a manager at 351. I know you’re not too fond of talking about your own accomplishments, but what are your feelings on being able to reach that mark?
I mean, if you’re somewhere long enough, you’re probably going to break a record. I’ve been here five years now, so I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good players and the organization’s, especially over the last couple years, the scouting department and the player development department, getting these guys prepared to come to this level and they’ve put up a lot of wins.
-Would you trade all of that for this team to win the EL championship this season?
Aw, yeah! Obviously, that’s the ultimate goal every year when you start is to move guys up and get them to the next level and win with the guys that started a level or two behind you and I think we’ve done a good job with that. Especially on the pitching side, we’ve had a lot of guys that are in our rotation that weren’t here at the beginning of the year and the same thing with the bullpen. We’ve got some guys mixed in on the field also, so that’s what it’s all about is winning and it’s a big part of development. Right now it’s a lot of fun.
–Nick Pivetta,one of your team’s All-Stars, has been excellent, going 8-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 13 starts for this club since April. He may be a bit of a sleeper prospect with so much attention going to many other guys in this organization. What are your thoughts on Nick and what he’s been able to accomplish for this team?
Nick’s come a long way since the first time I saw him last year since he got here. He’s gone through a lot of changes with his mechanics. He’s done a lot changes with his mentality with how he pitches. He’s matured a lot. He’s got a ways to go in a lot of different categories, but he’s on the right track and he’s going in the right direction, so it’s fun to see the progression he’s had since we first got him and I think he’s enjoying his time here and he needs to continue doing what he’s doing, but it’s an exciting time for him and I would say that he’s not much of a sleeper prospect. I would say he is a prospect.
He’s a guy that we just signed prior to the season out of Cuba and never played in the United States before. You know, he’s trying to get his feet wet here, with the language, the culture and all that. He’s done a nice job filling in. We needed a guy to kind of fill in at center field and luckily we had him in the organization ready to go and he finally got all his paperwork and got over here and I think it was tough for him at first, but I think he’s doing well.
-Another guy that joined this team during the season is outfielder Andrew Pullin. He’s been a contributor to the already potent lineup.
Yeah, he’s a tremendous hitter. If you’re able to hit a fastball, you’re gonna be able to hit at a lot of levels and Andrew can definitely hit a fastball. He stepped right in. We put him in a pretty good spot to hit in front of some pretty good hitters, to give him an opportunity to get some fastballs and he’s taken full advantage of the opportunity.