Former Albuquerque Isotopes pitching coach Darryl Scott is a happy man these days.
Now the Colorado Rockies minor-league pitching coordinator, Scott oversees the staffs of the top three teams in the farm system. Once upon a time that might have been a chore with so little talent coming up, but not anymore.
“It’s way, way more (talent) than ever before,” Scott said. “That’s what’s so exciting. When you can absorb the losses that we had in spring training of Chad Bettis and then Jon Gray, and to be able to maintain a winning team, we’ve never really been in that position to have guys ready to step up.”
While rookies Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela have done their part in the big leagues, there is more talent on the way to Denver. Heck, Jeff Hoffman just went out and pitched a gem for the Rockies in a spot start and had to be sent back down to the Isotopes because there isn’t a rotation opening right now.
“There’s a lot of organizations who would love to have that issue right now,” Scott said. “Here (in Albuquerque) you’ve got (Harrison) Musgrave, he’s taken a little time off with the (injured) hip and he’s back going again. Obviously Hoffman’s here. We have pitchers. Then you go sign a guy like Barry Enright who has some experience. Shoot, you’ve got Carlos Estevez down here. Another guy that’s a big-league pitcher.
“Then you move to the Double-A level and there’s really a staff of really good pitchers. Then you’ve got Peter Lambert at the Lancaster level, the High-A level. Then you’ve got Riley Pint at Asheville. Hopefully we can just continue that trend, where we have those guys coming through the system. It’s nice when there are no gaps in the system.”
Scott’s job now is not to override the pitching coaches at Albuquerque, Hartford or Lancaster, but to back them up and help them out as needed, all while making sure everyone at every level sticks to the organization’s philosophies.
“Really it’s overseeing the upper levels, the Triple-A, Double-A and High-A levels,” Scott said. He see’s his job “as not necessarily a pitching coach to the pitchers but a pitching coach and an assistant to the pitching coaches and working with those guys. When I go in the first thing that I ask them is what can I help with? What can I help you reinforce?
“It’s not me coming in and doing something different as much as it is coming in and reinforcing what’s already going on. We have to have guys that look out over those levels and now you can kind of get some comparisons within the levels and see who’s ready to move (up).”
Keeping the pitching coaches on the same page from level to level helps keep the players’ mindsets the same as they move up the ladder. Namely that is to execute pitches and not worry about what happens beyond that.
“Yeah, absolutely, and we’re preaching it from day one,” Scott said. “We’re really preaching to get out of the stats. We’re not looking at stats. We’re looking at how you’re going about executing your pitchers. We’re looking at how you’re going about handling yourself, body language, mentality, everything else. The stats are the last thing we really care about. We care about you going out there and competing and learning and getting better on a daily basis.”
Scott said keeping the pitchers focused on moving forward is the key.
“I was in Lancaster and I sat there talking to the guys and I said, ‘Hey, Brandon Emanuel, the pitching coach, his job isn’t to make you a good A-ball pitcher. His job is to make you a good major-league pitcher. When you go to Double-A and Dave Burba is there, his job is to make you a good major-league pitcher. He’s just working on the next step,’” Scott said. “That’s the mentality now.”
Rockies fans groaned when they saw the new affiliation agreement with Lancaster, one of the most notorious hitter-friendly parks in all of the minors. Scott said a big part of the Rockies’ pitching philosophy is to never use the conditions as an excuse.
“One of the things, we’re in Lancaster, the wind blows straight out to right field at about 25 miles per hour on average,” he said. “You have to learn to deal with that type of stuff. For me, we’re almost weeding out the weaker guys mentally. If you can’t handle pitching in Lancaster, then guess what, you’re not going to be able to handle pitching in Denver. So we’re teaching them how to handle different situations. Then you get shipped back east, that’s a whole new world. It’s been a great environment.”
Scott said that in many ways, exposing young pitchers to hitter-friendly environments is a good thing when the big-league team plays half its games at the highest elevation in the majors. It has certainly worked for the pitchers who have come through Albuquerque.
“What I did the last two years I’d come in on the first day and sit down and go over every negative thing I could possibly think of,” Scott said. “You’re going to give up home runs that should never be home runs. You’re going to give up more triples than ever before in your life. This infield will get fast, the air is dry, you’re going to have trouble holding onto the ball.
“I’ll go through everything and get done and say, ‘We’ve got that out of the way. That’s the last time we’ll ever talk about it. Your job isn’t to worry about the conditions, your job is to go out there and execute pitches.’ We get it out in the open and it’s over and done. Nobody is ever allowed to use conditions as an excuse because the other team is playing under the same conditions.”