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July 10, 2007 at 9:21 PM

Q&A with Jethawks Broadcaster Jeff Lasky

Lancaster Jethawks broadcaster Jeff Lasky has agreed to do a series of Question and Answer segments with SoxProspects.com moderator Jonathan Singer. Here is the first installment:

JS: Much has been said about the playing conditions in Lancaster. How have the Lancaster pitchers been able to adapt to the environment considering many of them got off to poor starts except Michael Bowden?

JL: There is no way to generalize how the “Lancaster pitchers” have been able to adapt. Some have done so immediately and effectively, some have struggled but developed, and some have had a tough time consistently. Michael Bowden dominated from day one in a way that few JetHawks pitchers have and he never let up. Justin Masterson didn't pitch poorly at the beginning of the year, but he wasn’t very consistent with his delivery and he a left a few too many balls up. He really learned over the course of the season how to repeat his delivery. We could see the signs even when the numbers weren’t great in early May, but he really clicked in at the end of that month. Kris Johnson is all together different. He was probably a little too tentative, pitching away from contact early in the season. Now he’s learning to be more aggressive and to trust his stuff more and to attack hitters. The two pitchers who have probably pitched the best at home (outside Bowden and Masterson) have been Hunter Jones and Kevin Guyette.

Pitching in Lancaster requires a lot of mental toughness. In my experience and observation I’ve found that the players who do well in Lancaster go on to do very well at the higher levels and into the big leagues. The guys that struggle in Lancaster are the guys who let it all get in their head, which is easy to do. You see a ball that would be an out in most parks go over the wall and you start feeling like you are out of control. The guys that shake it off have done well. I always ask the pitchers when they get promoted if it was worth the difficulties and the answer is always that yes, they felt better prepared to deal with the higher levels. In other words if you can do it in Lancaster , you can pitch anywhere.

JS: Were you surprised with how well Michael Bowden did in the California League considering how hitter friendly the league is?

JL: I don’t think I can say surprised because I had never seen Mike before and didn’t have anything previous to compare him to. He certainly was fun to watch and dominated the league in a way few guys did. He had that rare ability to be in complete control of what he was doing and especially rare for this level, he had the ability to come up with a strong game plan and execute it. He was a pitcher; we see a lot of throwers. So that was fun. You never think every fifth day that you were going to see a great game. I wish we got him more run support. The only other guy I saw dominate in that way for that long a stretch has been Greg Smith, who pitched with us last year and won nine starts in a row and is now at AA. I think Bowden was more dominant than my other favorite two pitchers I’ve called games for. Matt Chico who we had last year and is now pitching for the Nationals and Ryan Feierabend who is with the Mariners (I called his games for a season at Inland Empire).

JS: What is your assessment of Mark Wagner?

JL: Mark has done a very nice job for us. He certainly still has a lot to work on both on offense and defense, but he’s really put it together over the last month. I can’t say it’s the prettiest swing I’ve ever seen, but he hits a lot of line drives, goes the opposite way, and has come a long way with his patience. Mark always does a good job defensively and is also improving working with the pitching staff. The staff as a whole has been significantly better in the last month and a good deal of the credit has to go not just to the pitchers and Wagner, but also to Salvador Paniagua and Zak Farkes. What Pani has done after not playing last year has been great, and Farkes has been handed the tough job of catching John Barnes’ knuckle-ball and he’s risen to the challenge. They are all very fortunate to have Chad Epperson as a manager. Epp is a former catcher himself, of course, and he has really created a clubhouse with the best chemistry of any team I’ve been with. Bob Kipper and Dave Joppie are a big part of that too. These guys have fun every day at the park.

JS: You have seen California League history twice this season with Aaron Bates and Brad Correll hitting 4 home runs each. What was that like announcing both those games?

JL: It was an absolute thrill to call both those games, and really to call this entire last month when the club has been playing so well. The playoff game was great too. But to see Aaron Bates, the day after we had lost 30-0 and see Bubba Bell go to the hospital, it was really special to see Aaron do it. I loved that our fans were into it too. No one had ever seen a curtain call in the minors but our fans demanded it. I don’t think I messed up the call too badly, although I tend to be harsher on myself than anyone else. But yes, that one is going onto my personal highlight reel.

JS: Justin Masterson was recently named the SoxProspects.com pitcher of the month for June, winning the first-half tiebreaker game and earning a promotion. Was he relying on his sinker or was he able to develop his other pitches in order to dominate in a hitters' environment?

JL: A mixture of both. Justin’s sinker took time to get into form this year. I think when he really started putting things together his sinker was great, but that helped him set up some key other pitches. His four-seam fastball at times became dominant with guys swinging under it. The slider also got better as the season went on. I’d say that the sinker is his main pitch, as it should be, but he was able to use the slider as a strikeout pitch. He didn’t use his change-up very often. But that sinker is outstanding. I remember walking by during one of his bullpen sessions and I watched from halfway between the mound and the plate from a side angle and it was fun to see how much that pitch moves.

JS: Who is the most exciting player you've seen in the past month (friend or foe)?

JL: That is a tough one. Masterson’s sinker has been exciting. We all love Bubba Bell in Lancaster and he was very exciting. Antoan Richardson of San Jose (Giants) is pretty electric because if he can get on base, he will find a way to move up. Eric Young Jr. is the same way but doesn’t get on base all that often. But I’ve got to pick one of our players, of course, so I’ll go with Bubba.

Once again, thanks to Jeff Lasky for the session, and we are looking forward to doing it again.