Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Collin Balester, Garrett Mock & Josh Willingham Availability

Continuing in this procession of transcripts--Pitchers Collin Balester & Garrett Mock were joined by Outfielder Josh Willingham in the Media Room at Nationals Park this past Sunday morning to meet with the assembled bloggers in attendance.

Here is that availability of the 12 Minute Session.

With that, here we go:

Question: Josh, this is your first year in Washington. How would you evaluate what the team has accomplished this year? In your mind, what is moving forward with the team?

Josh: “Well, I think when you look at where we’ve come since the start of spring training, I think a lot more pieces are in place now. You kind of know where your future is heading now. When you talk about getting a leadoff hitter, a guy that can get on base and steal bases—we got that in Nyjer (Morgan). Also, he is a guy that can roam around and cover a lot of ground in the outfield. So, I feel we were in the need of a centerfielder that could really play defense—pretty much the whole year. So you kind of killed two birds with one stone. Obviously, our starting pitching is talented but young. It is one of those things where you are going to have to kind of let them grow into the player they are going to be. And as far as our lineup, I think our lineup has been pretty steady all year. We’ve got some pieces in the middle of that lineup. When we get Flo’ (Jesus Flores) back next year we will have the chance to make some noise next year. But I think this year has been kind of a building process for us to get the pieces in place to get to where we need to go.”

Question: Josh, earlier this year you were not getting a lot of at –bats, how frustrating was that for you and how did maintain your focus?

Josh: “It was frustrating because I had always played every day. Not everyday, but I had always been an everyday player since I started playing in The Big Leagues. So, that was obviously frustrating as it is something I had never done before. It was also something that I couldn’t control. And once I realized I couldn’t control it, I stopped worrying about it. In this game there are so many things you can’t control, so you just have to focus on the one’s you can. So (shrugging his shoulders).”

Question: Collin, what do you think has been--can you describe the evolution--a shift in the philosophy in both the staff and the bullpen with the change in the pitching coaches from Randy St.Claire to Steve McCatty?

Collin: “With St. Claire, he was more about looking at video and looking at things more on the lines of—what these hitters can’t hit in this league. And what their weaknesses are. And not our strengths as a pitching staff. McCatty, one thing he stresses the most is pitching to our strengths instead of pitching to their weaknesses--that might not be our strengths. So, as a whole, it just been a better atmosphere as far as just throwing the pitches we want to these guys, instead of trying to pitch around these guys and throw stuff that we might not be comfortable throwing. I think it is a positive outlook. We are still a little young and I am still learning how to pitch up here. But he (McCatty) is helping us through it and I think, in the long run, it’s going to be a much better pitching staff in the next couple of years.”

Garrett: “Cat’s (McCatty’s) biggest thing is pitch to contact, trust the defense and, echoing what Bally said—being a little bit younger pitching staff and I am not necessarily young at 26—but as far as experience goes I am still pretty young in Major League Baseball—in my time here. But Cat’s biggest thing is to pitch to contact, trust the defense and you might go out (to the mound) and have the best stuff on the best day and perfect conditions and you might not be successful because you are trying to do too much. And then on a day when you don’t have your best stuff and you have to battle through it—you just have to grind it out and put the ball over the plate. Those are the days you end up having more success because you are trusting the defense and pitching to contact. What Bally says is right on and we just pitch to contact (now).”

Question: Garrett, you have been bounced back into and out of the rotation—to the bullpen and back to the rotation again. How have you dealt with that since it is different preparations and everything? Is that tough?

Garrett: “It has been an adjustment. Although I was fortunate to be here—it is a dream come true—to go to AAA—it is baseball—but it’s been a very good learning experience for me. I have seen the game from a couple of different points of view at different times and against different teams. So, it has been tough at some points adjusting my routine. But it is not anything that has been too tough to handle. I have made those adjustments and it has been a great learning experience.”

Question: With the signing deadline just past and the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) expiring shortly, there is a lot of chatter about how the draft should change or how the system is broken. Would you like to see the draft—how amateurs enter the league—would you like to see the system change? Would you like to see American players given more of an opportunity to cash in on the type of money that International Amateurs get?

Josh: “I really haven’t thought about that. I really don’t have a comment on that.”

Collin: “As far as the signing bonuses and everything is concerned, I think these amateurs in high school and college want to get their signing bonus and get all their money there and hold out. I think—just going through that whole process and doing that—it’s a little different now because I don’t have to go through it again. But, these players need to learn that it is not the signing bonuses that are going to get you all your money. It’s playing in The Big Leagues and making a name for yourself at that point. I guess that is one thing American players don’t understand is that you have to earn your way through it instead of trying to get $15 Million—not saying that because I think (Stephen) Strasburg is a great player. But…(lots of laughter) as a whole they are trying to get as much money as they can in their signing bonuses without working their way through the Minor Leagues and earning their keep in this league. And I think that is the only difference—the mindset of these guys year after year. I think something needs to change in that whole aspect of this.”

Question: Collin, you played down in the Minors with Clint Everts who got a big signing bonus and Chris Marrero who had a big signing bonus. Where those guys treated any different than you down there is terms of when they came in with these big dollars and higher expectations? Or, where they just another one of the guys?

Collin: “That all gets blown out of proportion. I think everyone gets treated the same. There is no difference. Some people just make more money in the beginning than others and once you get in everyone is treated the same. It’s then who is going to work harder to see who is going to get to the top.”

Question: Josh, Nyjer Morgan has transformed the outfield, when a ball goes into the gap, and he is playing there, do you tend not to run as hard—knowing he has it covered?

Josh: “I usually run as hard.”

Follow Up: But do you give way to him every time?

Josh: “Well, if he calls the ball then I am getting out of the way. I don’t want to catch it when he is calling it. I wouldn’t say you run any slower or any harder. You still go after the ball the same; he just gets to so much more stuff. The centerfielder and I were earlier in the year were going all out after everything in the gap. He is getting to those balls. He just makes a world of difference.”

Question: Recently, in the last week or two, the media has really been focused on the whole Strasburg signing and it is a big deal for all the fans around here. How wrapped up are you guys into it?

Josh: “I don’t get wrapped up into it at all. I think it is very important that we sign him because you want, as an organization, you need to sign your top picks. And the picks that are talented and are going to help you win down the road. But as far as me personally, or players in general, we don’t get wrapped up into it. We have enough to worry about with playing every day.”

Question: Just going into the last month, you guys have played a lot better since the All-Star Break. Are you kind of looking forward to spoiling some of your division rivals’ post season hopes?

Garrett: “From my standpoint, I am not going to hit a three run homer like Josh will, but I think there is a lot of stuff that goes into it. As far as spoiling someone’s playoff dreams, for me personally, I am not going to go out on the mound with that mindset. As a starting pitcher, either as a bullpen guy or defense or offensive player, you have a job to do just for that day. For today, this game, if I am starting, my job is to keep my teammates in the ball game and try to save the bullpen’s arms a little bit. And going back to what I said just a minute ago—pitch to contact and get the game going and try to give the team a chance to win. As far as the pressure of the playoffs, I think that is more on the other side. If I can do something and play a part to put a quality start up and play the spoiler, then that’s great. But as far as the mindset that we are going to ruin somebody’s day—we just want to go out and win.”

Josh: “I think having the chance to ruin The Mets the last couple of years (while with The Marlins)--it’s not like you want to go out and win any more (badly). But, the atmosphere there, especially when you are on the road, is a playoff atmosphere and that is fun to play in. That is why you want to play and win those games.”

With that final answer, Collin Balester, Garrett Mock and Josh Willingham had to head off and prepare for Sunday’s Game with The Milwaukee Brewers.

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