Spring brings optimism for Wade
When general manager Ed Wade met with some members of the media earlier this week to address the team’s arbitration stance, the discussion didn’t stop there. Wade addressed a number of other topics, including the state of the Major League club, Jeff Keppinger and the young players who will play a huge role in 2011.
Here are Wade’s answers to some of those questions:
On the state of the club: “We like our club. I said when the offseason began that we didn’t expect it to be a headline-busting offseason for us. We very specifically had some things in mind. We replaced the middle of our infield with Bill Hall and Clint Barmes coming on board. We think those are some really good steps in the right direction for us. We’ve created competition for the fifth starter’s spot and we did things that did not create an environment where we could stump the progress of the young guys who came on last year and got their feet wet at the big-league level. We had a good four months last year, the last four months. We need to figure out a way to get off to a better start, and the things we tried to do this offseason were to give us every opportunity to do that.”
On having so many young players in key roles: “People stay away from the phrase ‘rebuilding,’ but I think good franchises are always in some type of rebuilding mode because that means you’re bringing players through the system or have acquired younger players who have begun to establish a new core nucleus of your club. I think it’s a process you have to go through frequently, and I think the fact a number of guys were up in early, late June last year and joined the organization at the trade deadline in July, they should benefit from the experience they had a year ago. I know people look at our club and say they’re not a lot of veterans around and where does our leadership come from, and at some times it’s the mental make up of the younger players, who recognize they have a great opportunity not only to produce on the field but have a presence in the clubhouse. We have a number of players who have indicated a willingness to do that and feel refreshed with the opportunity to step up and show what they’re capable of doing both on the field and in the clubhouse.”
On the progress of Jeff Keppinger, who underwent surgery on his left foot Jan. 14: “When the surgery was performed, the specialist who did the surgery in North Carolina indicated the normal process would call for probably a three-month rehab before he’s running aggressively, and that takes us probably into early or mid-May if everything is moving in a straight line. Keppinger has indicated through Nate Lucero, our trainer, he’s feeling great right now and if we could shave some weeks or months off that rehab schedule, that would be great. It would be dictated by the progress he makes and what the doctors tell us.”
On which players he’s most anxious to see this spring: “Brett Wallace has been talked about a lot from the standpoint of this is a golden opportunity for Brett to step up and win the first base job when he gets to Spring Training, and he’s got to do that because we know we’ve got alternatives. We know we can play Carlos Lee at first base or Brian Bogusevic coming through the organization with the ability to play over there. I think, again, Brett is one of those young guys who will benefit from having been here the second half of last season and find out you have to make adjustments at the big-league level. Every successful young player is challenged at the big league level and the ones who remain successful are the ones who make adjustments. I’m anxious to see him and anxious to see J.A. Happ in our uniform all year long. I think we saw a real good sample of what he’s capable of doing by what he did a year ago. I’m looking forward to seeing the guys who we were counting on to show whatthey’re capable of doing over six months, primarily our outfield trio. Hunter [Pence] and Carlos got off to tough starts last year and came on strong, and I would anticipate you’re not going to see those slow starts again. I’m anxious to see Chris Johnson at third base and given the opportunity to go out there and build on the type of season he had. Newness is always great, and I’m anxious to see the two new middle infielders [Barmes and Hall] as well. I guess what I’m saying is I’m excited to see everybody when I get down there.”
On the top prospects coming to Spring Training, including RHP Jordan Lyles: “The message delivered to these younger guys when we call them up is you’re not going to make the club out of Spring Training. No matter how many times you say that, they’re going to come in and try to make the club. Sometimes we’re reluctant to bring in younger guys like that, but we thought creating an environment for Jordan Lyles, who probably does have a chance to make our club, and some of these other younger guys, it gives them a chance to see what a big-league environment is all about and, in all candor, gives us a chance to pump our chest a little bit that we’ve got a substantial number of young guys who are on the near horizon and have a chance to help this club in the not-too-distant figure. And why not bring them in and show them off and get them in shape and send them back to Fred Nelson on the development side and put them in the right spot to continue their development?”