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May 15, 2008 at 5:49 PM

Q&A with Mark Wagner

Mark Wagner is rated by Baseball America as the top catching prospect and the best defensive catcher in the Red Sox organization. Boston’s pick in the 9th round of the 2005 draft, the 23-year-old Wagner is currently with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs where he’s hitting .283/.374/.402 through May 15. David Laurila sat down with Wagner at Hadlock Field this past weekend.

David Laurila: How is your season going so far?
Mark Wagner: It’s going well. We’ve made some adjustments that needed to be made, because as you move up there are things you need to deal with. There are things you need to overcome in order to move up and move on, you know? But it’s been going well, going well.

DL: What have some of the adjustments been?
MW: Dealing with circumstances that you can’t control, and what not. The weather, outside influences, stuff like that. As you’re getting closer to Boston – I was in the Cal League last year, and being so far away from Boston it wasn’t the same kind of atmosphere as it is here in Portland. But it’s a fun place to play.

DL: What was it like coming here from Lancaster from a mental standpoint?
MW: It wasn’t so much of a mental adjustment as just making sure that you take care of your business. If you do that, both mentally and physically, you’ll be fine. It’s not really a big adjustment baseball-wise per se, because it’s still baseball. The pitcher has to throw the ball over the white plate, and we still have to swing, run and throw.

DL: What’s the biggest improvement you’ve made to your game over the past year?
MW: Oh, wow. I don’t think there have been any huge improvements, just gradual improvements in each and every area. I’m just coming out here every single day ready to work and get after it. As long as you’re working hard and going about your business, I think everything should continue to improve.

DL: Has any facet of your defensive game taken a notable step forward?
MW: Again, I don’t think there’s been one certain part. I feel that I’ve had to elevate all of my levels, because as we’re getting closer to Boston, we’re working on everything. We’re going over game calling, situational stuff; we’re making sure that we’re stepping it all up.

DL: Are you going over more than you did at the lower levels?
MW: I don’t know about more of it, but there’s maybe more precision, if that makes any sense. Here you can’t get away with as many mistakes. If your game calling is “we can either do this or we can do that,” up here you’re going to find out which one was wrong if you call the wrong pitch.

DL: Where are you offensively right now?
MW: I’m feeling good, feeling good. Offense is something you have to take day-to-day, because there are some days where you just don’t feel it, but do you know what? You have to be mentally ready to go out there and give it all you’ve got.

DL: What kind of hitter would you call yourself?
: What kind of hitter am I? A good one. No, but to be honest – I don’t know. It depends on the situation and what not. I feel like I’m a hitter who can go up there and do whatever needs to be done at the plate. If there are runners on base, I feel that I can drive them in, and if we’re in a situation where we need to start an inning and get something going, I feel like I can be the guy to do that. I feel like I can pretty much step up to whatever needs to be done.

DL: Developmentally, where is your power right now?
MW: Power is one thing that I’m continuing to work on, from the weight room on down. But as long as you’re squaring the ball up, good things will happen. Obviously we have the nice big Green Monster here, where you have to hit it more in the air as opposed to line drives. We’ve already learned a few lessons from smashing some line drives off of it, trying to stretch things and getting thrown out. But the power is good. I’m still shooting the gaps, so things are working out pretty well.

DL: Let’s talk about a few of the guys you catch, starting with Dustin Richardson.
MW: D-Rich is a hell of a competitor. He goes out there and gives us a chance to win every time, just like the rest of our pitchers. He’s a guy who really plays with his hair on fire; he gets after it every day. The fast, the curve, the change -- they’re all plus pitches for him, so it’s always fun to be on the receiving end.

DL: What is Richardson’s best pitch?
MW: Like all of our guys, I’d say his fastball. When you’re throwing your fastball well it makes everything else look better. Like most of our lefties, he wants to get that good two-seam action. When he stays through it, right down to me, I’ll tell you what -- he gets some good action on it. It opens up the plate for the rest of his stuff.

DL: How about Hunter Jones?
MW: Hunter Jones is another lefty that comes right at you. It’s “here it is.” He’s got the type of mentality you need out of the bullpen, because he comes out there and knows that he’s going to get it done.

DL: What about Chad Rhoades?
: Chad Rhoades, same thing. All of our guys out of the bullpen, man – they bull their neck and give us all they’ve got. Hunter Jones, Chad Rhoades; all the guys out there -- they come in and know that the job has to be done.

DL: Who has the best changeup on the staff?
MW: The best changeup on the staff? I’ll tell you what – it could be anyone on any given day, because we have some guys with pretty filthy stuff. I can’t really try to compare the quality of pitches they have. When our guys are on, they’re all overpowering. That’s what’s so fun about catching them -- their stuff is lights out. It’s just a matter of them being on.

DL: What is Mark Wagner doing away from the baseball field these days?
MW: Away from the baseball field? I don’t even know what that is. What is that? I’m always at the baseball field, working out and staying in shape. If I do that, I’ll get to stay on the baseball field.