Q: With the minicamp before everyone showed up, you had a chance to get a look at some of the young guys everyone is excited about in the system. Did anyone really jump out at you for clearly doing a lot of work over the offseason?
Nick Noonan put on seven pounds. Charlie Culberson put on like nine. They did a nice job of building the strength up. They looked really good and they’re playing really well. They seem like they belong. A lot of times, you get high school kids coming out and they’re a little running-around-crazy. These kids have a lot more maturity. Ryan Rohlinger came in bigger and I was pleased with that.
Q: You also had a few guys with a lot more history with the organization in that camp. Were there specific things you were looking for with guys like Mark Minicozzi and Jake Wald?
Our biggest concern was if they needed two middle infielders to play for the big league team. We’re comfortable with them helping at the Major League level. Not that Culberson or Noonan couldn’t do it, it’s just that we want to take baby steps with them.
Minicozzi, a year ago, was a really nice player for us. He got hit on the wrist in the last two days of spring training (last year) and he never recovered from it. We’re trying to get him back to where he was where he drove in almost 85 runs for us. If he does that, he’ll be a guy who could help them at the Major League level.
We’re gonna probably open the season with Minicozzi at second base at Norwich. Jake Wald is kind of going to be between Double-A and Triple-A, we haven’t really decided. The other thing, with Rohlinger, he could be somewhere between San Jose and Double-A. We have David Maroul – in the minicamp also – is a guy that could go to Double-A and start. He’s had a full season at San Jose and he’s got the power potential, we’ve just got to get him to put the ball in play a little bit more.
Q: With Minicozzi looking at Double-A, does that put Matt Downs in the mix for San Jose potentially, or do you want to get him experience in Augusta?
Matt Downs is going to be fighting for a position. He could go as a utility player, he could go as a front-line second baseman. He’ll be in that mix and we’ll just play it out and see where he goes. I think if we broke camp today, he’d probably have a shot at making the San Jose club.
We’ve got three or four guys that we consider really good players – Brad Boyer’s a good player; Brock Bond had a solid season with Steve Decker in Salem; Downs had a great year and Sharlon Schoop – we like him as a prospect, so we might just open up the floodgates and see if one of them can step up and take the job.
I love the idea that we’ve got that kind of competition because every single day, that guy better show up or a guy will take that job.
Q: Depending on how that shakes out, would you like to look at D'Alessio joining Brett Pill in San Jose and splitting time at first and DH?
A: I think that role is open. It’s also open for him to be first baseman at Augusta. It’s also open, if something happens, we could use Pill at Connecticut and D’Alessio could go to San Jose.
Q: You've got a couple of outfielders trying to come back from injuries. Can you give an update on Thomas Neal and Marcus Sanders
Thomas Neal is on the field and he’ll have an opportunity to make the Augusta ballclub. Left field is the area we would play him. He is throwing the ball, swinging, we have no limitations on him.
(Sanders) is still having trouble throwing. That’s a concern for us. His shoulder has not freed up from the surgeries, so we’re waiting to see if does loosen up. Sometimes scar tissue pops and you get some freedom. Our situation with him is we’re going to go day-by-day and see what happens. It’s hard to project what he’s going to do because he’s got such a tender shoulder that we just can’t do much more rehab with it. It’s something he’s going to have to live with.
Q: On the mound, is Manuel Cabeza going to get back on the field after missing all of last season?
He just blew out his elbow. He’s being seen by Dr. Yocum and he may have torn that ligament in his elbow. We’re not sure. It could be scar tissue – that would be a big break for us.
Q:Speaking of guys with multiple surgeries, Jesse Foppert is back in minor league camp with you this year. After last year's struggles to get the feel back, how is he looking?
He was recovering from that surgery he had and he had a little bit of a setback in his rehab. We’re looking at him and see if he’s the Jesse Foppert that pitched for me and got to the big leagues awful quick. If he does, that’ll be a great thing for us as an organization because Jesse’s a quality guy and, wow, he had commanding stuff. He had great control and he challenged hitters. He had a good explosive fastball. He was a good up-and-coming guy who could have had stardom.
He threw (Wednesday) for the first time I had seen him. I know he’s thrown live BP and things. He looks awful good in the bullpen, but the next 20 days are going to be big for Jesse.