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.
**First Look at Pirates’ Taiwanese Left-Hander Yao-Hsun Yang (Video)
**See Why Joely Rodriguez Was Added to the 40-Man Roster (Video)
**The Pirates 2014 Focus: Improving the Consistency of the Offense
**Week In Review: Spring Training and 2014 Draft Coverage Begin
**Draft Prospect Watch: Turner and Rodon Make Debuts
Links and Videos From the Weekend
**Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Minor League Spring Training Schedule
**The Non-Negotiables the Pirates Have For Their Major League Pitchers
**Gerrit Cole Pitching Will Make You Forget About Snow (Video)
**Edinson Volquez Throwing Plus Change, Curveball For Strikes (Video)
**Jameson Taillon Throwing a Bullpen to Russell Martin (Video)
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Talk about a guy that is going to be disappointed, it will be Locke if he is sent down, won’t matter what they told him in the entrance interview, the exit interview is not going to go well IMO.
Yes indeed leadpff,I am sure he will be,I would be too. But,it is the nature of the business.
Pimental is a guy I’m excited to see this year. Unless there’s an injury, he won’t be in the rotation. Hopefully he’ll pitch well enough to be the first alternative and they’ll keep him stretched out.
I would guess that if Wandy Rodriguez is healthy he and Volquez will be the # 4 and # 5 guys in the rotation. If anything goes wrong,poor performance or injury,Locke will be the first alternative,though I think he will be in Indianapolis to start the season. Pimental will be the last guy in the bullpen and mop up guy…if he isn’t included in a trade first.
Dang, I was way off. I thought the entrance interview would be about what their walk-up song would be. Or what relievers would use for their entrance song when they came into a game.