Last month, Pirates Prospects introduced a new feature to the site called “The View From the Booth”. On the fourth Monday of every month, we interview a different broadcaster from one of the minor league affiliates, getting their opinion on how the team they follow looks, as well as some insight on that level of the system. With the 2011 trade deadline approaching, we felt that it would be a great time to get some insight from the level that is most affected by deadline deals: Indianapolis.
Scott McCauley has been the radio broadcaster for the Indianapolis Indians for the last three years. He’s been with the Indians since 2006, and has spent parts of seven seasons as a minor league broadcaster. Scott is easily the most followed broadcaster in the Pirates’ system, due to his social media presence. He’s one of the only broadcasters in the system on Twitter, and he runs a great blog which gives more of his excellent insight to the Indians.
1. What is the atmosphere like in the AAA clubhouse around the time of the trade deadline?
Every day for the past week I’ve been asked what the latest rumor is. I just tell the players that they know as much as I do. ESPN and the MLB Network are always on the clubhouse TV so they are aware of the rumors. It’s always a topic of discussion and for the most part the player’s question why team A would add player B when they should add player C. (If only it was that easy) Until it’s time for the day to start they speculate like the rest of us. They put the rumors behind them when it’s game time because they know it’s a business and all you can do it wait and see.
2. The AAA clubhouse is always in a state of turnover, especially when the major league club experiences pitching issues, which we’ve seen in years past, but not this year. What is the atmosphere like knowing that the roster could be different from one day to the next?
It’s not easy, but players try to balance playing their best and not expecting anything to happen. All of the sudden movement gives everyone hope that they will be next, but you can’t let yourself get too excited or look ahead. All of the movement is great for the clubhouse and keeps the roster fresh. Another plus is signing minor league free agents. Players will sign when they see a team promote from the Triple-A roster.
3. The Pirates have a need at first base, and two first base options in AAA: John Bowker and Matt Hague. Both are performing well, but seem to be an after thought. How do the players react to this?
It’s so cliché, but both guys can only worry about doing their best for the Indians. I’ve talk to both players recently about the Pirates acquiring a first baseman and they said if it helps the Pirates then do it. It’s the right attitude and Matt Hague is excited about the year he is having and only worried about finishing strong. Bowker has been there with the Giants, but this is new to Hague and maybe after the trading deadline he will realize that he is not only playing for the Pirates brass, but every other team in the big leagues.
4. We heard a lot of #FreeAlexPresley chants about a month ago, with a lot of Pirates fans impatiently waiting for his arrival. I credit you with starting that chant. Was it as popular in Indianapolis as it was in Pittsburgh?
Yes and no. The local news stations were on board and Alex was on a lot of Sunday night sports shows, but the fans wanted him to stay in Indy. He was asked repeatedly when he was going up and to his credit he handled everything like a pro. There must be something about outfielders who cover spacious Victory Field. The only other players that I can remember Indians fans falling in love with were Andrew McCutchen and Nyger Morgan. Pres doesn’t have near the flash of those two, but the great outfield play excites the fans of Indy. Even today I get fans asking me “hey how is that little guy Presley doing for the Pirates? Man I loved watching that guy play. He hit everything.”
5. How much do the guys in AAA follow the progress of guys like Presley, Chase d’Arnaud, and Josh Harrison once they get the call to the majors?
Every player knows exactly what everybody is doing for the Pirates. It’s not only the players who were called up, but the guys who have been there all year. The players know the stats and split stats for every Pirate. I guess you follow the players who are keeping you from reaching the Major Leagues.
6. From the Pittsburgh angle, fans pay a lot of attention to prospects on the rise, but seem to forget about guys like Bowker, Dusty Brown, and Jose Ascanio after they are outrighted to AAA. How do those players respond to such a difficult move?
It amazes me how much attention is paid to the prospects. Tim, you and your crew do a great job of updating progress, but the amount of excitement for players two, three, maybe four years away blows my mind. Speaks to the passion of Pirates fans and to some extent how tired they have been to seeing long time vets fail. Now to your question, although they don’t say as much, they know that their chance may have passed them by. I remember Brandon Moss last year figuring he was done and then the surprising September call-up. The September call-up is the hope they hold on to and putting up numbers that can get them a job in 2012. “I’ve got to get a job next year” is a phrase you hear a lot in a Triple-A clubhouse.
7. This year you’ve seen a lot of the prospects that won championships with Altoona and Lynchburg over the last two years. What’s your impression on those players, compared to previous Indianapolis teams?
This was the youngest team the Indians have fielded in quite some time, but it was one of the most confident teams. It was humbling for them to get off to such a slow start, but when the season turned around in Mid-May a few of them were letting me know they have been champs before. “Don’t give up on us, we know how to win.” This year’s team has a shot at the wild card and the Manager and players talk about the playoffs more than any team in the past five years. The 2006 team was the last team that cared about making the playoffs. That club was full of vets who were playing for one last hurrah. This year’s team wants to win and drink the champagne. Hague and d’Arnaud have told me the celebrations get better each year.
8. Rudy Owens was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year the last two years. He’s been inconsistent this year. Do you think that’s a result of making the jump to AAA, or is there something else bothering Rudy this year?
I definitely think it is the level that has caused him some problems. His fastball was getting hit and that can shake your confidence. Now instead of challenging hitters and pitching inside he was nibbling and was reaching his pitch count in the 5th inning. His last three starts have been better and he is getting more swings and misses. Pirates fans should still be high on Rudy and chalk up this season to experience. The other night he went 7 innings in a game for the first time in 2 months. (Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted before Rudy’s start last night when he pitched seven shutout innings.) The Indians coaching staff had a reliever warming up in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings, but stayed with Rudy. Rudy getting through those final three innings were big for him and his confidence. I’ve always looked forward to his starts and I’m really excited to see how he responds the next time out.
9. Gorkys Hernandez is a guy who used to be one of the top prospects in baseball, fell off for a few years, and looks to be re-establishing some of his value this year in Indianapolis. What have you seen out of Gorkys this year?
You can see the tools the 23 year-old has and they key is consistency. Indy has been blessed with great centerfielders (Chris Duffy, Rajai Davis, McCutchen, Morgan) and Gorkys is as good anyone the Indians have had. I didn’t see Duffy during the 2005 season and from I’m told he is the gold standard. Davis was the fastest, ‘Cutch was the quickest, and without a doubt Gorkys is the smoothest. At the beginning of the season Gorkys lacked focus and was benched several times because of it. He got the message and now plays with focus and more importantly a full effort all the time. Like most young players he could show more patience (6 BB last 169 AB), but he is a line drive hitter who goes up the middle more than any other Indians hitter. Like his performance this season, I’ve really liked him at times and he frustrated me at times with the mental lapses.
10. The obvious appeal in Indianapolis is the ability to go see baseball players who could be in the majors tomorrow. What are some of the other experiences you guys provide for fans who come out to see the team?
Victory Field is one of the best minor league stadiums. Like PNC Park you have a full view of the city skyline and the Indians most expensive ticket is $14. With two full service picnic areas, and a full service VIP bar area seats that seats up to 125 people you have a venue that caters to families and businesses. One thing the Indians are proud of is giving their fans a night to remember without having to bribe them with your typical minor league antics and it all starts with the ballpark.