An interview with your Class AA manager
Ladies and gentlemen, seamheads amongs us -- let's welcome Harrisburg skipper John Stearns.
Q: Atmosphere up there in Harrisburg?
A: Everybody is getting along, everybody is having fun, and we've got some really good talent down there in Harrisburg; we've got some guys who can play. Some younger guys on their way up and some older guys who've been there before, and they're really helping out. We've just got a nice mix of players.
Q: In terms of big-league readiness, is there anyone ready?
A: Well, right now I don't think so, but I think in the very near future we could have several kids down on our club that could come up and help the club here. A couple guys I could mention -- Justin Maxwell, Cory VanAllen, Zimmermann the pitcher... Jordan will be there. We've got a bunch of guys. Bernadina. Mike Daniel. Luke Montz has done a great job behind the plate. Just to mention a few, those are some of the guys I think will play in the big leagues in the very near future.
Q: How do you explain Bernadina's and Montz's turnaround offensively?
A: Well, I don't know, because I never had those guys before. This is the first time I've been with them in the season. They've both come on strong out of the blocks, really swinging the bat well, and even playing defense well.
Q: How about Zech Zinicola?
A: He's just come up. He's had about five outings. He's been really good. He's pounding the strike zone, throwing the fastball for strikes, working on his secondary pitches. He's throwing 90-93. He's a good-looking pitcher. We'll see how it works out. He was rushed a little last year, but this year, he started out in Potomac, now he's in Harrisburg, and he's really doing well for us.
Q: Has Maxwell become more patient, more selective maybe?
A: He's leading the league in walks and runs scored even though he's hitting .235. He's on base a lot. He's scoring runs, seven or eight home runs. He's a good looking player obviously. We expect him to play in the big leagues soon. And, uh, I think you guys saw a little of what he can do last year.
Q: How much fun are you having?
A: Well you know what it is in this business? If you win, it's fun. If you lose, you start to beat your head on the wall. We're having fun because we're 28-16. The other part of that is, we've got a good group of kids. Everybody is making a contribution... Hopefully we can keep that up all here.
Q: When you talk about guys showing up early at the ballpark, how rare is that?
A: It's rare. I've managed maybe eight or 10 minor league teams, and none seem to be like this team. I come in early every day, and I'm seeing players in there when I come. They're playing cards, hanging out together, they go out on the field for some early batting practice. ... And our pitching coach, Rick Tomlin, has the pitchers out early. ... It's like the want to come to the park. It's not like a job.
Q: Bob Boone has said that Daniel is the best hitter in the organization. Do you agree with that?
A: Well I don't want to... he's one of our best hitters. He's hitting .300 right now in Class AA. I don't know if I could pick the best hitter, but he's in the mix, definitely. You'd have to look at four or five guys, with Maxwell, Daniel, Bernadina, Casto, Marrero, ... I just haven't seen everybody.
Q: What does Maxwell still need to do?
A: He just needs another 100 games or so of experience. He's really making improvement on his strike zone recognition this year. I've been shocked at how well he's able to not bite on the breaking ball low and out of the zone like most hitters do. That's really the difference between a major league hitter and a minor league hitter. The minor league guys go after the ball out of the strike zone. And big league guys, they learn the strike zone, learn how to be patient. And it seems like Maxwell is doing that right now. It's almost to a fault, because he needs to be a little more aggressive; he's such a good hitter, he's got so much power, and sometimes you just want him to sit on that fastball early in the count and hit it hard somewhere. Even though he's been so patient, already he has seven or eight home runs... He's close to the league lead in walks. He's really having a good year, even though his average is only in the .230s right now. I expect that to come up, and for him to have a really good year, probably be up here at some point.
May 24, 2008; 3:13 PM ET
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