Portland Beavers Interview: Glenn Abbott

Glenn Abbott talks about LeBlanc

PORTLAND, OR- Looking at last year's championship team in San Antonio the first names that come to everyone's mind are players like Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli and Nick Hundley – all of whom were top prospects in the Padres organization before the year.

The big reason the Missions won last year was, however, their ability to pitch. In 2007, Missions pitching coach Glenn Abbot was able to guide Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos and Wade LeBlanc, among others on the staff such as Dirk Hayhurst, to the best years of their professional careers.

In his third year with San Diego, the 6-foot-6 easy going Abbott is an imposing presence but has a unique way in seeing all of his pitchers individual abilities while attempting to implant the organizations pitching philosophy. It's no secret that many of the Padres' pitching prospects have experienced their greatest success under Abbott's tutelage.

We caught up with him to review his current staff in Portland:

The first guys we want to talk to you about are the ones that you had last year: Josh Geer, Cesar Ramos and Wade LeBlanc. Could you go over what they throw and what they need to work on?

Glenn Abbott: Josh Geer is a fastball, changeup guy that is working on a slider. His slider is definitely a work in progress because right now he's a little bit slurvy with it. He's coming off of a very good year last year, but he's starting to have an adjustment period with more experienced hitters. He's going to have to make a little bit better pitches and understand how you have to be careful with pitches.

Some of these guys will look for pitches in certain situations, like changeups, which are kind of the problem that LeBlanc is having right now. You have to be able to make a pitch at this level then go back to a different location with a different pitch. He's getting better at it. He's staying aggressive, but he's been up a little bit more this year.

Has the bad weather in Portland been part of it?

Glenn Abbott: In April we really had one good day here. The first good weather we had was when we were in Las Vegas.

So much of what you do at this level is preparation before the game, which must make things like tightening up your pitches or refining the release point difficult.

Glenn Abbott: The problem with cold weather is you get loose, but you don't feel loose. It's just a different feeling from warmer weather. The guys right now are just going through a transition.

If we could go back to the first question, how has Cesar Ramos been pitching?

Glenn Abbott: Cesar has been doing well and is working much more with his change and slider this year. We brought him back to spring training, and he picked up right where he left off. In April, he probably had nearly a strikeout an inning, which he didn't do last year. He's learning, too, that he has to make adjustments that he has to start catching a little bit more of the plate that guys up here don't chase balls like they do in Double-A.

He's been doing well in the first month; you know he's one of the few guys that beat Salt Lake. He's been aggressive, pitching inside. It's the same with all three of these guys, they learned the importance of pitching inside and they see that it is even more necessary at Triple-A.

Your catchers at San Antonio last year told me one of Ramos' big advantages is that he can not only throw in and out, but he can also throw more up and down. Can he do that because he throws a little harder than the other two guys?

Glenn Abbott: He's about 88 to 92 and he has some nice life on his fastball. The big thing for him is when he's good he's very aggressive inside with quality strikes.

With LeBlanc is having a transition right now because he has never had anybody hit his changeup. He's had his ego bruised and is not used to anyone hitting him. Guys here are sitting on it, and they can hit it here.

He was amazing in some of his outings in San Antonio last year. He really put up some numbers.

Glenn Abbott: I reminded him that fastball command is especially important, especially since his changeup is his money pitch. He needs to throw quality fastball for strikes. With him, it's all about location because he's never going to throw that hard. He's had some rough outings, but I've seen him grow as a pitcher.

I'll give you an example. We were playing Salt Lake, and we put three on the board to start the game, and he gave up four in the next half. The next inning he gave up two more, but in the third, fourth and fifth he didn't give up any. The first two innings he couldn't get a ball below the waist. I asked him what happened, and he said that he got mad because his team is scoring him runs and he can't be giving them up.

That is the mark of a good pitcher. A lot of guys if they don't have it that day, they will say, ‘I'll get them next time.' He pitched like a pitcher is supposed to be saying that, ‘hey, I got to make an adjustment and find a way to compete.'

How has his two-seamer been coming along?

Glenn Abbott: He's throwing it but not as much as I would like him to throw it. His two-seamer is even softer than his four-seamer. I think it's like anything else – it's a confidence thing. He's always pitched pretty well wherever he has pitched, college, A-ball and Double-A. In a way, it seems simple to start doing it, but if you have been successful, it's kind of like why should I change? You need to learn to get your ego bruised to make some adjustments. He needs to throw more two-seamers, but, right now, it's just a comfort thing.

A couple of relief pitchers we wanted to talk to you about. How has Paul Abraham been looking?

Glenn Abbott: Abby has been doing well. Sometimes he gets to over-thinking but I've told him he's fine. He's been doing a lot of work, and he pays attention a lot more too how his delivery is working, especially from midway through last year. He's been pretty consistent. He has a good slider, but it's all about fastball command with him and not just right down the middle.

A guy who had a good year last year too is Dirk Hayhurst. How has he been doing? He had a nice year in San Antonio, doesn't walk anyone, and he's one of the team leaders in strikeouts.

Glenn Abbott: I'm really proud of him. Dirk is very good when people tell him what he needs to do and he will work on it. Two years ago, he came up to Mobile and had a real slow curveball that wasn't any good, and I told him, ‘Dirk this won't work at higher levels.' I'm always talking to pitchers about stuff that will work at the major league level, not where they are at right now. He couldn't throw that with two strikes against better hitters. So we started working with his slider, and he couldn't even make it spin right. He worked on it and worked on it, and when he came to spring training last year, I was amazed at the progress that he made.

Sometimes when you improve upon your slider, it improves your curve and it did with Dirk. He's grown and is getting a better feel with his slider and who knows how good he can be along with his curve. He's very aggressive with his pitches and very conscientious about what he does and how he goes about it. He will get off of the mound and feel the slope of the mound when he throws.

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