Way back in October, I interviewed Tyrell Jenkins and Doug White (Johnson City pitching coach) for an article in the upcoming VEB Annual ebook (formerly the Maple Street Press Annual). It’s different from anything I’ve written previously in that it takes the conversation I had with both Tyrell and Doug and weaves them into the larger narrative of Tyrell as a player. It reads more like a newspaper column than a Q&A. I learned a lot writing it and it’s something that I may do in the future but it’s dramatically more time consuming than posting a straight Q&A. Nonetheless, I was excited to get to work with Larry Borowsky (lboros on VEB) on the project and I’m sure that the ebook will be excellent. When more details on it become available, I’ll pass them along.
Below the fold are the remains of my conversations that didn’t mesh into the story. Before you make the jump though, I have to say how appreciative I am that both Doug and Tyrell took the time to talk with me. Tyrell was far more thoughtful in his answers than I expected of an 18 year old (he was certainly less flippant than I was at 18) and it was clear to me that he was very much taking to heart the coaching he had received in Johnson City. Doug was generous with his time and I left with the impression of someone who understand that his job is as much about guiding a young player through the baseball “process” as it is making sure he has the right grip on a changeup.
Jenkins on focusing on baseball:
It’s great. There are lots of things I can work on now without having to worry about whether commitments to other sports interfered. I can put my full effort towards baseball. I’ve got so much time to learn things that I didn’t know before.
Jenkins on the absence of changeup pitch quotas:
It was more about throwing it when I should. If I throw it after a fastball, the guy will swing through it. Learning to throw it in different counts. By the end of the season I had a lot of confidence in the changeup. It was working really well for me.
Jenkins on being the youngest player on the Johnson City squad:
It was pretty good to be around people who have been in the game for a while. The guys were really helpful. Most of the guys don’t see age. It’s about being Cardinals. I never realized I was the youngest player on the team until you mentioned it. It was just a great group of guys.
White on joining the organization:
I was jumping between independent leagues at the time trying to make it as a pitcher. I had talked to Brent [Strom] about my pitching. Later on he talked to me about coaching and said he thought I’d make a good pitching coach. I asked him what I could do to that end. Later on when he got his job with the Cardinals, he recommended me. I met with [Jeff] Luhnow and Dyar Miller and got hired.
White on mechanics:
If the ball is doing what it needs to be doing then I’m not going to mess with anyone. if we think there’s a way to add velocity or change the way a pitch arrives at the plate by making small changes, then we’ll work with the pitchers on that. Of course, if someone is feeling pain or coming back from an injury that would be a time that we would work on bigger mechanical issues if there are problems.
White on Tyrell’s mechanics:
A lot of the season was spent trying to find a repeatable delivery. Avoid throwing at max effort. At times, he just wanted to throw the ball hard. Everyone likes to see how hard they can throw it sometimes.
White on coaching:
The players have to understand what you are telling them but they also need to feel like you aren’t saying it just because you like to hear yourself talk.
White on raw versus experienced pitchers:
If you’ve got someone who is stubborn — well it doesn’t even matter then. It depends on the kid’s makeup; it depends on the individual.
White on Tyrell:
If he works to the level of his competition, we’re screwed. He’s got too much talent for that.
The last thing I have to pass along, which made me laugh when he answered, was my question to Tyrell about his involvement in four sports during high school. When I asked if he slept at all, without missing a beat he answered, “Rarely.”