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Frisco Media Day/ MiLB Opening Day

Notes from Frisco Media Day, and how MiLB Opening Day shakes out for the Rangers

MLB: Texas Rangers-Media Day
Jose Trevino
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hello and happy MiLB Opening Day, LSB. Once again I’m checking in with some notes from the farm, specifically from Frisco’s media day on Tuesday. The RoughRiders take the field for the first time in 2017 tonight at good ol’ Dr. Pepper Ballpark. They’re gonna be stacked, to start the year at least, and they’ll be fun to watch all season, even after the inevitable promotions and late-July trades (0-3 starts don’t faze me). The team was kind enough to toss out a couple players and the skipper himself to answer some questions relating to the upcoming season, their goals for 2017, and what they need to do to improve.

The first guy we heard from was RoughRiders manager Joe Mikulik, and we heard from him at length. This was my first time being up close and personal with Mik (who is newly-bearded, by the way), and it took me about fifteen seconds to realize why he has the job that he has. He seems like a guy who will get you ready to run through a wall at some points, and a guy who will, to use a Banny-ism, “wrap his arms around ya” at others. He’s big on treating his clubhouse as a family unit, but his main goal, of course: “What can we do to make our big league club the best club possible?” And for him, doing that involves prepping these guys mentally as much as physically.

“This is the time where I think you allow them to police themselves. You gotta get them ready… In A-ball you’re more hands-on, I think, you’re more getting them to learn the routine, getting them to learn to wear the uniform, and how to show up. I think here it starts where you have to be more of a man, you gotta understand your responsibilities, nobody’s gonna babysit you anymore.” Around this time he brought up how things are run in the big league clubhouse and I’ll give you one guess as to whose name he mentioned.

Another challenge for Mik will be working with players from nine different countries on one roster. The U.S., the D.R., Puerto Rico, Panama, Venezuela, Cuba, Curacao, Mexico, and Canada all have at least one RoughRider diplomat. Not only that, but a number of them play many different positions. Mikulik will work around having 6 outfielders who all need to get time and a crowded and talented infield, one of whom the org is trying to get around 40 games behind the plate as well (IKF). Having so many guys with positional versatility is a good problem to have, but Mik knows he’ll need to “manage accordingly.”

The Mik line-of-the-day: “Embrace the suck.” He wants the guys to embrace the struggle of failing and succeeding (and failing and succeeding, and failing and succeeding...) as they grow and mature, so he and the other coaches have some room to teach.

Mik also singled out some individual players and spoke on some objectives for them this season. He talked about Opening Day starter Connor Sadzeck, who we’ll hear from later. First and foremost, Connor needs to improve his fastball command, which is a common necessity for AA pitchers. Mik wants Sadzeck to hit his spots and attack, which will help to limit some of the long innings that Sadz has had issues with. He said similar things about lefty Yohander Mendez, wanting Yo to develop, attack, and challenge hitters with the fastball so the secondaries will play.

Mik loves catcher Jose Trevino, as does everyone. Mikulik, of course, said Trev was a natural born leader, and that without officially appointing a captain Jose was in Mik’s office asking what the team was doing today, what they’re wearing, etc. “It’s outstanding for the pitching staff. [Trevino] is gonna get to know every guy, their weaknesses, their strengths, where they eat, what they do… what makes them succeed.”

Listening to Trevino talk, it’s clear he understands his role.

The first thing Trevino did when he walked out to the media circle was shake everyone’s hand and introduce himself. The second thing he did was make it clear that he wants to be the team captain. He’s another guy that within the first minute or so of listening to him talk it was clear why he’s a catcher and why he’s been the captain (official or unofficial) of every team he’s been on. He was asked what he thought the main responsibility of a catcher is, and he responded immediately: “Take care of his pitchers.” I was fascinated to hear him talk about the dynamic he has with different guys, and how when certain pitchers get in trouble he needs to help tighten up their mechanics, and when others get in trouble he needs to tamp down their emotions. He was the battery mate for Brett Martin during the last start of Martin’s 2016, a 7-inning, no-hit, 15-K performance, and the most positive Trevino sounded all day (which is saying something) was when he said that Martin would’ve finished out the no-no had he been permitted. He was also lucky enough to catch some of the big guys (including Yu) during the spring and was asked what it’s like to work with the big leaguers. “It’s just being there. They’re gonna ask you, ‘Hey, what do you see?’ And I’m like, ‘Hey man, front side’s leaking a bit, not staying back, release is a little off…’ Something like that just to get them back, and there’s a few words for pitchers, you can check ‘em right back into gear.”

Jose is a kid who really understands what he needs to do as the man behind the plate, and it’s clear he has a fiery-hot passion for it.

Trevino’s listed at 5’11” and I don’t think there’s any way he’s 5’11”, but he looked even more stout walking out onto the field with 6’7” Connor Sadzeck. Sadz’ media session reflected much of what Mik had to say about him, lowering pitch counts, getting after guys, and, specifically, his use of the 2-seamer as opposed to the 4-seamer. He got advice on the 2-seam from Sam Dyson, who would know a thing or two about that (although currently it might not be a good time to ask Dyson about it). “Earlier in my career back in 2013 I used a lot of 2-seamers and got a lot of ground balls… starting to throw harder you kinda get away from that. ‘Oh let me throw the four because that might be a little sexier.’ And this is what Dyson told me, a 94-95 2-seamer is gonna be better than a 99 straight 9 times out of 10.” Sadz is pumped to be starting on Opening Day for the first time in his career and wants to set the tone for the season. He’ll take the bump at 7:05 tonight.

Connor will be followed by Ariel Jurado on Friday night and Yohander Mendez on Saturday, and I would highly recommend getting out to see them in Frisco ASAP, because any one of those three is apt to get the call to head to Round Rock (or Arlington) if they should flash some early season success. If minor league baseball and man-crushing on prospects isn’t your thing, Dr. Pepper Ballpark also offers the chillaxed lazy river out in right, and they broke out their own RoughRider Red Ale for ’17, so there’s fun for the whole family. Come out, enjoy the scene, and watch these kids try to shed their youthful exoskeletons and molt into bonafide big-leaguers.

Forever yours,