Lance on Portland Beavers pitchers

Ryan Ketchner

Gary Lance was the Portland Beavers pitching coach in 2007. While he has since moved on, Lance was able to provide his thoughts on many of the arms that came through the Triple-A ranks, including Clay Hensley, Jack Cassel, Tim Stauffer, Scott Cassidy and Ryan Ketchner. Lance gives his brutally honest take on each player.

Jack Cassel, who has since been non-tendered, had a lot of hits allowed – was part of that a product of the defense?

Gary Lance: People may never realize what a poor defense we had. It was said by other organizations that we ‘were probably the poorest defense in Triple-A in the history of the world.'

One manager sent the clubhouse guy over and congratulated me and Rick Renteria for our body language under such circumstances that we had to compete under. I thanked them profusely. It was a class move.

He said, ‘You have the worst Triple-A team in baseball and the worst defensive team in the history of the world.'

Everybody we played realized what conditions we were under.

You cannot blame – playing on that living room carpet and then we have the left field wall. The supporting cast was poor and you have a defense that can't get to this ball or can't get to that and if they do they would throw it away. It was a nightmare.

This year was one of the worst years in my 33 as a pitching coach as far as stress goes.

What is more telling is hits to innings pitched. Hits that were not even gotten to that other teams would have made the play – we didn't even get to.

You said Cassel would pitch in the majors – you were dead on.

Gary Lance: I was the only one that said that in the entire organization. I said it in a conference meeting with Kevin Towers. Nobody backed me up when I made the statement.

When he got called up, you wouldn't believe the people that came out of the woodwork that said, ‘Oh yea, with his sinker.'

Injuries aside, what did you see from Clay Hensley this year?

Gary Lance: Injuries is a huge thing. I will never forget the year I hurt my arm with tendonitis. I couldn't throw. The Kansas City Royals tried to hide it. My arm was killing me and I could not get anybody out. It was severe tendonitis.

You can't say injuries aside. He tried to hide it. He is young and energetic and eager. He thought he could pitch with it injured. That arm injury was more telling and more debilitating than anyone, even Clay, would admit. We were trying to put a band-aid on it. There were signs of brilliance but he could not sustain it because of the injury.

Can you see that? You might suspect it but do you also step in and ask him directly?

Gary Lance: Yes, which I did. He finally told me. Clay ended up going down for an MRI.

We talked about Tim Stauffer lacking some confidence in the past. How did he grow from last year to this?

Gary Lance: I was so happy with him. Previous to this year he had been nothing but frustrating and I am pulling my hair out.

This year he turned it around. It had to do with his landing leg. He was very hard to work with mechanically, but I showed him it on film one day and it clicked. You have to be patient. It clicked. He went out and started landing – it is lock a shock absorber on your car – and using it and that is when it clicked. It put his arm in the right spot, kept his body back so he release the ball in front of him on a downward plane. That is when he started throwing well.

Of everything that happened, Jack Cassel notwithstanding, I was as proud of Tim Stauffer and the job he did, the way he turned it around, as anybody.

The exception was the last week of Scott Cassidy. When everyone wrote him off – and all we did was get his arm back at a higher plane when he started dealing.

Those guys – everyone can say Jack Cassel since he made it into the big leagues after being released last year – those are easy. The Tim Stauffer's and Scott Cassidy's are harder to see.

Ryan Ketchner went 1-11 with a high ERA. Were his numbers indicative of the way he really threw?

Gary Lance: Absolutely not. That guy had the worst luck of any pitcher on that staff. Every time he would make a good pitch – they couldn't catch a hold with him. They couldn't score a run. He pitched so much better than those stats indicate. That is why we left him at Triple-A. He wasn't getting buried. His stats were bad and he was losing, but he was not pitching poorly.

He ended up hurting his arm, probably from overthrowing to right the ship, but he did not throw nearly – his was as bad as I have ever seen.

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