State of the Sox: Daisuke, Smoltz and the Deadline
THE DAISUKE PROGRAM
–What is your perception of the situation with his throwing program? When you saw his between-starts work in ‘07, did you consider it fascinating, insane, something in between?
Daisuke is no different than any other pitcher I’ve played with from the Far East. They are taught at a young age to throw, throw some more, and when you’re exhausted, throw some more. That works well in some cases because their schedule is different. One thing that cannot be stated enough is the fact that they work in what amounts to a six-man rotation over there, which is worlds apart from the five-man. Their strike zones are bigger, they throw less pitches per start as well. BK Kim was a great example. Young kid, phenomenal arm, burned out. The quality of his stuff dropped dramatically because he refused to listen to anyone explain to him that sort of regimen could not maintain his arm strength through this much more rigorous and demanding schedule.
–What kind of teammate is he?
Nice kid, quiet. I can’t imagine the hurdles and challenges someone faces coming to a country where everything is foreign. I was surprised to find out he knew a lot more English than he ever let on and part of me thinks that was due to him wanting to know more of what was going on than he let on or people expected. It also, IMO only, presented him with the opportunity to say “I don’t understand” when he actually might have. He was always smiling.
–What’s your sense of the reason underlying his time on the DL this year: WBC, need to return to his lifelong shoulder program, poor conditioning, other?
I think he showed up to spring training in horrific shape based on what I heard and saw. When weight goes up, and body fat as well, it’s a clear indicator that work wasn’t being done. If he’s allowed to ‘do as he pleases’ he’s peaked and IMO he will not get better. If he is allowed to throw to the extreme volumes he wants you are looking at a starter who will need a few breaks during the season, and someone who will not remain a power guy for long.
–Will he be a useful piece this year?
I don’t think so. Any logical assessment of where he is, and where he needs to be to get major-league hitters out leads me to believe at the very best he might be able to give you some innings in September, but certainly not many and often.
–Inside a clubhouse, how is this sort of stuff perceived? Does this sort of controversy affect anyone else?
It’s looked on as it is, the guy didn’t do the work needed to do his job. This is one of those things that has far longer legs outside the clubhouse than in. You play games every day, there’s far too much to think about without worrying about stuff completely out of your control.
The far more important thing here is the destruction of trust. I watched this team acquiesce to everything in year one. They did any and every thing they could to make him comfortable. No one told him NO, or YOU CANNOT, but there was a large group of people working with him to make him understand the game here is far different from the one he’s been playing, and that is going to require change. The lack of accountability is sad to see as well.
He is where he is because of no one’s actions – or inactions – other than his own. This team, especially the manager and pitching coach, have busted their asses to do what is right by him, at every turn; and to be honest why wouldn’t they? It’s in their best interest for Dice to be as good as he can. The hard part was persuading someone who was every bit as much an icon as Michael Jordan was here, in Japan, that he needed to change. He obviously, regardless of what he’s said, doesn’t believe that’s the case.
If he doesn’t listen to John, and he is allowed to do his own thing, he won’t remain a top line starter in the big leagues.
–It seems like fastball command has been his chief problem. Is that the last thing to come back after labrum surgery?
It wasn’t for me. The last thing I got was consistent velocity. I talked with John a few weeks back about coming back from labrum surgery and told him that for me it was about eight weeks into my big-league return when things started to get back to normal.
My first eight weeks my velocity was incredibly erratic. I pitched a game in SF, had a three-pitch first inning, 83, 84 and 85 mph fastballs, all three pop ups in the infield. Second inning on I K’d 7 in a row and was throwing 95. I had to ‘hang on’ in every game until my velocity showed up.
The HUGE plus I have seen in John is the ‘stuff’ is there. His velocity is more than good enough, and his other stuff is too, it’s really boiling down to one simple thing, fastball command. That will come, and when it does he’s a top of the rotation guy. Right now he’s wild in the zone and getting killed for it.
–You made the transition from a guy who used the fastball down and away to someone who worked both sides of the plate. What are the challenges of that adjustment? How does diminished FB velocity force a gameplan change? Does it become necessary to concede diminished velocity and dial back in order to gain greater precision?
It affects everything. Remember though – he still has a power pitcher’s fastball; I didn’t. He can blow one by anyone if he’s commanding it and his slider is working. The key is recognition of the change, and internally adjusting. He just needs to have better command of it right now and he doesn’t.
The HUGE plus for me though is that it IS something that can literally show up overnight, unlike many other adjustments or pitches, fastball command is as much a state of mind and belief as anything mechanical.
THE TRADE MARKET
–As a veteran, how do you perceive the value of prospects versus All-Star caliber veterans in the trade market at this time of year? In clubhouse conversations, do guys care about long-term shape of the organization, or would the idea of Roy Halladay, Victor Martinez, Adrian Gonzalez, etc., come with a make-the-deal, screw-the-prospects sort of response?
Depends on the player. As we have talked about in the past, this is a different place. Everyone here knows the team will do whatever it can to make the club better, and to make the club a World Series contender. For the most part that means everyone is on the table and available. With the exception of Josh, Lester and Bard, Petey and Youk, I don’t imagine anyone on this team is untouchable. Theo won’t screw up what he’s worked to build the past 5-6 years, but if he has a chance to get Doc or Gonzalez and not deplete the entire system, I think anyone that knows him knows he’ll do it. If he believes he can sign Doc, keep Josh, I guarantee he will do it.
As far as value, it really boils down to perspective. What are the chances of any pitcher they have in their system having the year Doc might have next year? Slim? None? If you can sign him then the argument gets even more lopsided.
Gonzalez means moving Lowell, which I wouldn’t do given his value on and off the field. I have no clue where or what Victor Martinez would do, and I am having trouble seeing that move happening without some major shake up. Not that it won’t, but that’s a tough one to play out. Do you go with three catchers? Put a below average glove at first over a Gold Glover, moving him to third? Moving Lowell where? Who catches Wake? You don’t trade the prospects it might take to get a guy like that and then only plan on him being in the lineup 4-5 days a week, right?