Saturday, June 27, 2009
Wil Nieves--ESPN Zone--Part Two
Finishing up and concluding Wil Nieves' Meet & Greet appearance at The ESPN Zone in downtown Washington, DC on Wednesday, June 24th--Radio Broadcaster Charlie Slowes is fielding questions from a very attentive audience of fans of Our Washington Nationals.
With that, here we go with Wil Nieves--ESPN Zone--Part Two:
Question: How do you keep up the energy to play everyday when the team isn’t doing so well?
Wil: “I think its just being positive. We have a good team. We have a good team. Even though the record is not showing, we do have a good team. We showed it against The Yankees and Toronto. When we play good baseball and we put everything together, we don’t make errors. And we do small things like moving the runner and scoring the guys from 3rd with less than two outs. We have a good team. Our Pitching is getting better, it’s getting better. I always said, in the beginning, if we only played seven inning games we would be 40 (wins) and 20 (losses), because we always give up that lead after the 7th into the 8th. But they are coming around; we just have to stay positive. We have got to stay positive because if not, it will drive you crazy. It’s tough to lose every day. It is tough. We love it when we win because we go into the clubhouse and we have music. So when we lose you can hear everything. You can hear everything, there is no music, no nothing—you can hear everybody breathing. So it’s tough. We want to win every day and every night. We go out there and we want to win. But we just have got to stay positive. We have a good team and it’s a long season.”
Charlie: “Speaking of music, if you notice when Wil comes to bat at Nationals Park, he waits in the on deck circle until his batting music starts (‘you noticed that’—Wil). Then he takes a long slow walk, and not many players do this any more. Players used to not want to walk in front of the umpire and the other catcher. So they would walk around—especially from the 1st base dugout. So Wil takes the long way around, walks outside the circle, does a couple practice swings. He gets about 20 to 25 Seconds of his music.”
Wil: (Laughing) “Yes, that is true.”
Question: How hard is it to focus on the batter with runners on base attempting to steal?
Wil: “It’s not too hard, you get used to it to concentrate while calling the games. As a catcher, you see the whole field. You might think that I am concentrating on the pitcher and the hitter, but I can see the guy if he takes off for second base or third base. You just get used to everything surrounding you—concentration is the main key.”
Charlie: “As pitchers have gotten bigger in size, teams have wanted these 6’3” or 6’4” or 6’5” pitchers, when they have the big leg kick and they don’t learn to side-step that timing of the pitch between the pitcher and catcher--that can determine whether someone runs on you. It’s become where catchers have very little opportunity to throw a runner out.”
Wil: “Most of the time when they steal second base, or any base, it is off the pitcher. A pitcher is supposed to be 1.3 (seconds delivery time) to home plate. And we have pitchers that are getting there now in 1.6, 1.7. And even if we get a bazooka throwing to second base, we are not going to throw them out.”
Charlie: “When you release the ball, what is your timing?”
Wil: “1.8 seconds, maybe 1.9. A good time is 2.0 flat. Big League time is 2.0 flat. But like you said, if the pitcher is 1.6 or 1.7, then even if I did 1.6 on my release, I am still not going to throw him out. You are right, the pitchers have got to be a little bit quicker to home plate to give us the chance to throw out the runner.”
Charlie: “And that’s if it’s a pitch that’s in the right spot so you don’t have to bring the ball all the way across your body—so you can shoot forward.”
Question: How has technology changed how well you prepare for not just the hitters, but as a catcher and scouting opponents?
Wil: “It’s unbelievable. We have a room full of computers that lets us know what the hitters have done against any pitch--whether it’s a curveball, slider, changeup, fastballs—outside, inside. It’s pretty good. We have real good technology. You can type a name into the computer and it will show you every single At-Bat you have had against that pitcher. So, the technology is there. We just have got to use it and it’s pretty impressive. Before, we didn’t have all that. We used to just go out there and just pitch. Now, we have all this type of stuff to help us to make a better plan. When we are in a key situation with a runner on 2nd and 3rd, we know what we need to do get to the pitcher. Maybe, he doesn’t throw a good breaking ball. The technology is really helpful in that regard.”
Charlie: “They even have a computer room that is right off the dugout, in most of the parks, particularly at home, where as a hitter, if you want to see how you swung at a certain pitch or how a pitcher threw to you or how close was it—in between at-bats while the team is up and not your turn—you can run in and take a look at that.”
Wil: “Yes, it is right there. When your At-Bat is over and you felt like you had a bad swing or they called a strike that wasn’t—the computer is right there to check out. And hopefully, you can fix your swing for your next At-Bat. I was telling someone else recently--our stadium is the best when it comes to just this. The technology really works for us here.”
Question: When do you believe The Nationals might be ready to challenge The Phillies, The Mets and teams like that?
Wil: “I think next year we are going to have a really good team. You look at our lineup and you compare our lineup to others—you see that we are right there. The difference is not too much. Our pitching is the part that needs to get sharper for us to compete with those teams like The Mets or The Phillies, The Braves or Florida (Marlins). If we stay healthy, next year when the guys get more experience, I am hoping—PLEASE GOD—next year. I don’t want to wait too much longer.”
Charlie: “Me too, Wil.”
Question: Your manager Manny Acta really seems to follow your philosophy about positive thinking and looking at things positively. Myself and many other Nationals Fans admire him a lot for the way he conducts himself and the way he emphasizes the positive. How is he doing? We see the public side. Is he sort of a little down? As he taken all these criticisms and speculations in the newspaper about his last days---does he take it to heart or does he concentrate on doing his job and continues to motivate the team?
Wil: “That is exactly what he is doing. He doesn’t show it, if he is feeling that pressure from the media. We see him out there every day—the same. He keeps being positive. We see Manny every day being the same. Like I said, he is always positive. I am pretty sure he is thinking whatever is going to happen, he cannot control it. So whatever he can control, he will. He can control his attitude and the way he acts. And that is what I think he is doing right now. If you see Manny in the clubhouse, during BP, whatever—he is the same guy from when we started in Spring Training.” (Applause)
Question: Does your hard hurt when Joel Hanrahan pitches?
Wil: “If I catch the ball wrong—yes it hurts. But if I catch it right, it doesn’t. That is why I don’t use a batting glove (on his catching hand) when I catch. I learned that if you catch it wrong—it would hurt. And if you don’t---it’s not going to hurt. There are some guys that when their ball moves and I catch it a little bit in the middle (of the glove pocket) it will sting—but I am used to it. I am used to it. I play with pain. I am a catcher.”
Charlie: “A lot of pain. A lot of pitches in the dirt, wild pitches, foul balls. There was one point earlier in the year where both you and Jesus Flores, before he got hurt, you could have played connect-a-dot among the bruises you guys had over your arms and legs.”
Wil: “Yes, I’ve said that one of my favorite parts in blocking (pitches). But I think they (our pitchers) are taking it too seriously.” (Laughter)
Question: Is it better to be taller or shorter as a catcher?
Wil: “Shorter, easy. Shorter!! The best thing about me being 5’10”, 5’11” or whatever I am (chuckles). I don’t have knee problems or back problems. If you are short and you are a catcher, I think it is better because you don’t have to bend over that much. And your knees are not going to suffer that much and your lower back. I think just being short and not heavy (in weight)—that helps me. I have played every year and I have never been hurt. Thank God. But I know it is because I am not a big guy.”
Charlie: “I think it is harder for a bigger catcher to come up to throw. It takes more of a toll on blocking balls and popping back up.”
Wil: “Short is better. (‘And quick’---Charlie) Oh yes.”
Question: How excited are you about this year’s draft class with Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen?
Wil; “I am real excited. That guy (Strasburg) that can throw 100-Miles Per Hour. We have good pitching right now. And if you bring those two guys to our team—it’s going to help. I am real excited about those picks we had. If they stay healthy, and hopefully they will, we are going to have a pretty good starting rotation.”
Charlie: “Maybe, we will have more pitchers than spots in the rotation this year. Craig Stammen, Ross Detwiler—who made the jump from AA after just six starts at Harrisburg—how impressed are you with those guys?”
Wil: “Detwiler was only supposed to have just one start here (in Washington). And he’s still here. I am impressed that they are kids that listen to you. They listen to you and they are not afraid. Stammen has a real good sinker, good stuff. All of them are not afraid. When you are young—like those kids—including Shairon Martis—you don’t care if you are facing The Mets, Boston, The Yankees—they just pitch. They have real big hearts and they don’t care who they are facing—it’s just another team to them. Forget about their names, they’re great teams, but you just got to forget about that and just pitch your best stuff against them. It’s just not being afraid.”
Charlie: “Of course Jordan Zimmermann.”
Wil: “Yes, and then we have (John) Lannan who is in his second year—he’s still young too. We have great young pitching and guys with a lot of heart.”
Charlie: “Yep. We tease Lannan that he is the old man at 25 (years old). And (Scott) Olsen is going to come back and try to push one of these guys out to get a spot back. And that’s all good though (competition).”
Wil: “It’s always good to have that problem.”
Question: It is often described that catching is an art. Is there any one catcher in The Major Leagues that you particularly enjoy watching?
Wil: “A guy I enjoy watching and really think is a great catcher is Yadier Molina (St. Louis Cardinals). I think he is a great catcher. The way he calls the game and I enjoy watching him. He is just a great catcher. He is one of the guys that I admire the most when I watch him play.”
Question: “When you were growing up, was Pudge Rodriguez (fellow Puerto Rican) the guy for you?”
Wil: “Oh, yeah. When I started catching, Ivan Rodriguez was the guy that I followed the most. And they (coaches and scouts) compared me to him the most---because of both of us being 5’10” (‘Maybe? —Charlie). Hey, hey, hey!! (Laughter). That’s a guy that I used to follow because he was one of the biggest names back then. We had Benito Santiago and Ivan Rodriguez when I was growing up. But he (Pudge) was the one.”
With that final answer, The ESPN Zone Q & A Session with Wil Nieves concluded. Fans then lined up to receive autographs from Our Number 23 and take pictures. The next ESPN Zone Lunch Time Get Together is scheduled for Tuesday, July 21st--player to be announced.