Interviews with Kannapolis' Jose Bautista, Thad Lowry, and Connor Walsh

As a part of our in-person visits to the White Sox affiliates, we’ve been interviewing players and coaches along the way. I was at CMC-Northeast Stadium in Kannapolis with the Intimidators on May 26th, and you can read my in-depth game and scouting report here. We visited Kannapolis on May 3rd earlier this year. I also interviewed the insightful Kannapolis pitching coach Jose Bautista and pitchers Thad Lowry and Connor Walsh – guys we did not get a chance to speak with during the previous visit.

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Pitching Coach Jose Bautista:

A Fleer Card of Pitching Coach Jose Bautista

A Fleer Card of Pitching Coach Jose Bautista from his playing days

Q: What piece of advice or practice have you taken from your career in the big leagues that you try to teach to this pitching staff?

A: “Picking up adjustments real quick. The [pitching staff] has lots of problems with adjustments. They cannot repeat things very well here at this level. I’ve been here for five years, I see it all the time. Right now, five of the starters are 20 years old. They think they got it, but I know they don’t. [We’re] working on staying tall and staying through the plate and throwing strikes.”

Q: What has been your role in bridging the gap for the players that have come from high school now in professional baseball?

A: “They need to trust me, so I can transfer all the things I know. They take a month to adjust – when they fail, they come to me. It’s hard for them because they have to fail – and I know that’s going to happen, but it’s tough coming from HS or college to this level. It’s completely different and you see hitters here in the low to mid twenties and they make good adjustments at the plate.”

“All the little things, like hitting both sides of the zone, come later to them.”

Q: Can you elaborate on the trust factor?

A: “The importance of the trust factor is unbelievable. When these kids come in, they think they know everything. You have to keep telling them what they have to do. Right now, I’ve told [Spencer] Adams for a month and a half – but these last two weeks he has just started listening to me and he’s progressed a lot. They have to fail for month(s) for them to come to me [for advice].”

Q: What can you tell me about Spencer [Adams] and your work with him these past couple months?

A: “Coming to Kannapolis for Spencer has been completely different than his somewhat small high school in Georgia. He was fighting with me to not do the things I wanted to do with him. I had to let him know, but now he’s working really well now.”

Q: What goes right for [Yency] Almonte when he’s succeeding? What are you working on with him? (Update: Almonte has since been promoted to Winston-Salem)

A: “I want him to stay tall with the back leg and go through the ball – sometimes he’s side to side. He’s doing pretty good too. One of those guys who wasn’t listening to me, but has been making some mechanical adjustments and has done well these last couple weeks.”

Q: Almonte is new to the organization. What has been your initial impression with him? What has he told you about from his time with the Angels?

A:  “It was really bad mechanically. Arm action and going side to side – falling over. Those things make pitchers’ pitches flat. He’s staying taller and throwing strikes. I taught him a change and a sinker. He’s being doing really well with it. We’ve worked on the slider too.”

“Almonte didn’t receive much beyond the basic instruction with the Angels. I’m more about getting to the pitchers and helping them prepare. I like to do it. A lot of pitching coaches just say ‘If you got, you got it. If you don’t, you don’t.’ I’m more into it.”

Q: On Organizational Pitching Development Philosophy:

A: “We’re all on the same page. Staying tall and going through the ball, going through the front side, and not falling to the side.”

RHP Thad Lowry:

Thad Lowry

Thad Lowry

Q: On his 5/25/2015 start v. Lexington when he recorded a career high seven Ks

A: “I knew from watching Lexington’s last game that they weren’t handling the changeups and the sliders real well and I made sure that [the slider] was the put away pitch that day.”

Q: You came directly out of high school to pro-ball. What has the adjustment been like for you? Has anything surprised you?

A: “I knew everything about [the adjustment]. I had guys that did it beforehand and explained it to me and the preparation/mental aspect of the game. You need to know how to handle yourself as a professional. You have three days to get your stuff together and become an adult.”

Q: Was the scouting report you got on Lexington something you did on your own accord through game tape? Or was that information given to you prior to the start?

A: “The changeup detail came from the pitching coach. I was told that if you get behind in the count, don’t rely on the fastball. I threw the fastball to [Ryan] O’Hearn and he hit it out of the park. I realized that, okay, well this is a fastball hitting team.”

Q: What has your working relationship with pitching coach Jose Bautista been like? Is there something now — or throughout the season — that you have been working on? 

A: “We have a goal every single time, every single start. I put a shaky start in Nashville behind me and needed to stick to the same routine because every start besides that one has been quality.”

Q: Is there a specific mechanical or mental thing that Jose has been able to help you with?

“[He] teaches me that I should stay back on the fastball – sometimes I’ll rush out and then the [velocity] will drop. When I stay back, the velo is there and everything is there for me.”

RHP Connor Walsh:

Connor Walsh started at the University of Cincinnati

Connor Walsh started at the University of Cincinnati

Q: What’s your transition been like now as a reliever in Kannapolis?

A: “I relieved a little bit in my draft year [at U-Cincinnati] and the transition has not really been a tough transition – it’s more of a mental one. As a starter, you know, you want to have that same attack mode that you always kind of have on the mound. Same thing for relieving, but as a starter you want to have some bullets. As a reliever, you have to go out with your best stuff for that inning. It’s been an easy transition, but a transition nonetheless.”

Q: How has your season gone? You’ve had a few appearances, did you suffer an injury? 

A: “I had a shoulder injury earlier this year toward the end of spring training. It was a minor setback. I feel great now and the athletic training staff has been unbelievable. That got me back on the field in like a week and a half. You know, I obviously need to establish first strike, an issue that comes and goes with pitchers. But it’s an easy one to fix if you stay within yourself.”

Q: Is there anything in particular that you have been working on with Jose — whether it’s a specific pitch, mental, or mechanical?

“Jose is great with both sides. He’s great if you need help with mechanics, or he’s great if you just need to mentally fix some things. I’ve been working on a four-seam fastball with him. I’ve always been a two-seam guy, and I dabbled four-seam last season and in college, but I’ve been mainly a two-seam fastball pitcher. With Jose, I’m making sure that I have angle with the four-seam. Changing planes, speeds, stuff like that. It’s good that I have his help because he’s a great mentor.”

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