Each year during Spring Training there is a player that exceeds expectations, yet doesn’t win a roster spot. Perhaps it’s a top prospect who gets a shot, looks good in a few appearances, then is sent down to the minors. It could be a non-roster invitee who plays well, but has no chance of beating out the projected starter, even if that starter isn’t having a good Spring.
There are often complaints and theories about these situations, suggesting that the player could become discouraged, or that the team is sending a message to the player that nothing he can do will help. These are often theories that speculate the worst possible scenario of thoughts that could be going through the player’s mind, with no consideration that the players knew their realistic chances of making the Opening Day roster going in to camp.
Today, Clint Hurdle talked about “entrance interviews”. You hear the term “exit interviews” all the time, which is where the players meet with the team at the end of the season to discuss the year. The purpose of the “entrance interviews” is to give the player an outline of how they will be used that Spring, what spots they will be tried for, and the situation with the team at each spot.
“The purpose of the entrance interviews that we’ll be starting to have tomorrow, we lay that out for the guys. Each individual guys,” Hurdle said. “The opportunity for a camp, where it exists. We’ll look at you here. If this doesn’t work, this is going to be a Plan B. Just to lay out the road map and the potential for what can happen in camp. That way there’s no misconceptions going in. There’s no hidden agenda for anybody. Everything’s laid out. Now they can go out there and play.”
That’s not to say that players are never disappointed when they are sent down. That’s inevitable when you’ve got competitive athletes who have one goal of making the majors. But the idea that a team can’t cut a player out of fear of alienating that player is wrong, and assumes the player doesn’t know his situation coming into camp. Even without the interviews, a player has to know his realistic situation. I can look at the Spring Training roster and tell you that about 20-21 spots are filled going into camp, and the remaining spots have just a few people with a realistic shot for the job. There are plenty of people with a Spring Training invite who have zero chance of winning a major league job. Even if the players weren’t told their situation and the team situation, they’d have to be able to see what everyone else can see.
“They have really responded well to it the last three years,” Hurdle said of the process. “We bring every man in. Position player and pitcher, and lay out the camp for them. We share some things, if they were with us last year, that we thought they finished with; some areas of improvement for this Spring; and the opportunity to compete and how we’re going to use them throughout the Spring.”
This is something to keep in mind later in camp. There are definitely going to be some tough decisions this year. Jameson Taillon might pitch well in his short time in major league camp. Gregory Polanco might hit well in his limited at-bats in major league camp. There are currently eight relievers who either have a guaranteed spot, or are out of options, and there are only seven bullpen spots. Someone is bound to miss out on a major league job, despite strong numbers this Spring. But that person probably already knew their fate, and knew that their numbers wouldn’t make a difference. It’s probably not preferable to a player who wants to be in the majors, but there’s no fear of blindsiding the player with unexpected news.
I thought the concept of “entrance interviews” was interesting, since most people tend to operate under the assumption that these don’t exist, and that the players don’t have an idea of their chances. This is the first I’ve heard of these interviews, and they came in response during a question I had today about Stolmy Pimentel’s role in 2014. Speaking of Pimentel, I’ll have an article on him tomorrow, so look for that on the site in the morning or afternoon. He should be throwing a bullpen tomorrow, so I’ll try to get some video.
Links and Notes
**With Spring Training underway, now is the perfect time to get your copy of the 2014 Prospect Guide. You can purchase your copy here, and read about every prospect in the Pirates’ system. The book includes our top 50 prospects, as well as scouting reports and future potential ratings for every player.
Links and Videos From the Weekend