Recently, Josh Norris of The Trentonian and myself were lucky enough to sit down with the Yankees Vice President of Scouting, Damon Oppenheimer, for about 15 minutes in the Thunder dugout.
Because I love you all so very much, I transcribed the whole thing for you guys…here are the first seven minutes or so. Stay tuned for the rest later this week.
Of all the players you selected in the 2009 draft, who would you anticipate reaching the Double-A level the quickest?
Damon Oppenheimer: “I would say you’re probably looking at (Adam) Warren, the kid from North Carolina and Caleb Cotham. Those two guys could get here pretty quick. Those are both college pitchers that have now stuff that can locate and stuff, so they can probably be on the same track as (Jeremy) Bleich.”
Just trying to segue off of that, are you pleased with what Bleich has done so far? He’s in his second year and already in Double-A…
Oppenheimer: “Yeah. I’d call it his first year, really. If you look back, it wasn’t like he pitched much last year. So I’d say that this is considered a first year, and I thought that (Saturday) night, he had three pitches that were very good. He just needs to continue to be aggressive and pound the zone and have confidence. Go out there and trust his stuff.”
Do you think he’s lacking confidence at this point? We all noticed in the press box that he was taking a lot of time between pitches and was looking a little apprehensive out there…
Oppenheimer: “I think what you saw was pretty accurate. The thing that really was exciting about it, was he was getting to 0-2 and he was getting ahead of hitters. Now, it’s just a matter of saying I’m going to put him away and not giving them too much respect and just go after them. Very rarely are you going to find lefthanders who have that kind of curveball and that kind of changeup and throw 92-93 miles per hour. We can’t teach that stuff. We can help them with the other stuff.”
So as long as he’s getting two strikes and strikeouts, there’s no reason to think his progress may have slowed?
Oppenheimer: “That’s why he’s here. You’re going to have to experience some failure, and we’d rather you experience it here than have you experience it in the Bronx. So he needs to learn how to get through that stuff and that’s what he’s learning how to do now.”
You got to see Zach McAllister yesterday when he was as on as he’s been. What were your thoughts on him, and what are your thoughts on him overall?
Oppenheimer: “I’m really happy with what we saw yesterday. I mean, that was advanced. It looked really good. That fastball was jumping on people, even though it’s not blowing up a radar gun. He’s locating, and he’s coming out there and you guys probably noticed it, but he looked like he was in complete control of the game. It’s nice that he’s staying here and being a part of this race, that was a big game for this team. He came out and performed real well, and he’s going to continue to help this team go for the playoffs. That’s another big part of it. They needed him to go out there and have a good game and he went out and did it.”
Does it speak to his character at all that he was able to take that line drive off his leg and stay in and finish what he started?
Oppenheimer: “It’s a huge part of his development to realize that I need to go out there and finish what I started. It might hurt a little bit, but I’ve got to get through this.”
Overall, are you happy with what’s going on here at this level?
Oppenheimer: “Overall? We could always get better. Sure, I’d like to give you guys three Austin Jackson’s every year and all that, but that’s just not the way the thing operates. With what’s gone through here and the glimpse you got of Montero, we’re pretty slow on moving guys up too quick. But I think that what we’re seeing and what you guys are getting, I think we’re pretty happy. I think some of the guys have gotten better here, and I think the coaching staff has done a nice job with developing some of these guys. You’re seeing some smiles in the clubhouse and some stuff that’s pretty exciting.”
What are your impressions of Eduardo Nunez?
Oppenheimer: “There’s no question that the kid has a lot of natural tools. He can really throw, that’s as good of an arm as you’re going to see in some parks in all the minor leagues and some of the big leagues. He’s got ability to square up a ball and hit. That’s why he’s here, he’s got to get more consistent and I think he’ll do that. There’s life to him and with his athleticism, he’ll be a pretty good player.”
Is there any concern in regards to the amount of errors he’s made? And what’s leading to those errors from what you’ve seen?
Oppenheimer: “I can’t really answer it, because I’ve only been here a couple of days. So I can’t tell you why. But he needs to work on that. We’re addressing it, and we’re going to help him get better at it.”
So when does the process for the 2010 draft start for you?
Oppenheimer: “It already did. Actually, for us, it started the day…the draft was a three day process this year, it started on day three with the showcase in Minneapolis that I had scouts at. It never stops. People will ask, ‘Are you guys done?’ and ‘done’ never happens. It’s constant.”
If you could, can you take me through a regular day for you? You get up, you go to bed…but inbetween then, what happens?
Oppenheimer: “Let’s approach it like it’s the amateur season. If it’s the amateur season, I get up in the morning and it’s probably before five. A lot of times you’re getting ready to catch a plane to go somewhere. You get there, you watch either the batting practice, then you watch the game. Then you probably try to get to a night game, too. Get back to the hotel, you’re usually making phone calls throughout that time. Then I’ll get on the computer and write reports, read every report that’s come in that day, and that usually puts you at 12:30-1 in the morning. You go to sleep and try to start it over again.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com