Interview with Blue Jays Pitching Coach Bruce Walton: Part Two

Here is the second part of my chat with Bruce Walton. It was very nice of him to do this.

I didn't mention, with the first part, that I solicited questions from, well, everybody. All the folks listed at the bottom of the page here offered suggestions for questions as well as some other SB Nation folks. Thanks to everyone for their help.

The worst part of these interviews is the transcribing, I'm trying to get better at it, but I'm slow. So any thing that doesn't read well, assume the problem is with my transcribing, not Bruce's answers.

It looked, last year, like all the coaches had a great time with each other.

I've been with Butter for my whole career here, since 2001, so we know each other quite well. I knew Torey from playing with him. John, I didn't really know him before we started, but we all really kind of jelled together and Luis Rivera and Pat Hentgen and Dwayne Murphy and all of us just kind of jelled. We don't step on each other's toes because we don't have an toes to step on. That's what is fun about it, you aren't out of line. You can say anything you want behind closed doors as far as 'I don't like how that guys is playing over there' or 'I don't like how this guy is pitching this guy'. We all get together and we all try to figure it out. It's hard to find a group like that, at times. Someone is always going to get his feelings hurt at times. We don't. We don't get our feelings hurt, we all have thick skin. We understand that if someone says something that we don't like that they are just trying to help and they are not trying to embarrass us or put our theory down. They just have a better one. And we accept that. Our meetings go great. Our communication with our players go great. And we all get along and hang out.

It doesn't only look good, it is good. What you see is what we are every day. Obviously we argue about certain things at times. It's all productive.

Do you have a say in defensive positioning?

You know, me and Butter get together before each series and I give my idea what I'm going to do, what my attack is, to the opposing hitters and he takes that and he puts that into his report. So we just speak and every once in a while we be on the bench and we have a couple of conversations about 'what you going to do here, what you going to do here' and I'll let him know what I think we are going to do and he'll plan accordingly. So we do talk a lot about that, there's no surprises, I know where he is playing us. And he knows where I'm pitching them for the most part. That helps us put together the game plan.

Do you have input on the off-season workout programs the pitchers use?

As far as strength and conditioning, it is pretty much individual. A lot of them have personal trainers in the off-season that are in coordination with our team. So I don't really get too much involved in that end. The throwing program I am directly involved in. We don't really start picking up a baseball until after Christmas. Some might start a little earlier than others. Some might start December 10. Some might start December 1. Some might start January 1. We have an off-season throwing schedule that builds them up for the start of spring training. Starters will probably have up to 5 or 6 bullpen sessions before I even see them. Relievers will have 2-3 bullpen sessions before I even see them.

I'll go down to spring training on the 15th and find out where everyone's at a week a week before (spring training starts). Soon as spring training starts, that have to be ready to jump into a pretty good program. You have 10 days to get ready for a game. So their throwing program, in the off-season, is very important to me. So I know more about that than I know about the strength and conditioning. I know Casey Janssen has a personal trainer, I know a lot of guys have personal trainers. I think they do a lot of that as soon as the season is over. The season isn't no over for them, the season's over they start lifting weights and running and doing all that. But my program doesn't start until December, I give them a couple of months off.

Do you suggest they work on a new pitch during the off-season?

No, every once in a while we discuss some stuff going into the off-season, 'we come to spring training, we might try this or we might try that'. I never really recommended that they try something. That's not to say it's never happened. I know guys that in the off-season they play catch with their buddies that are major league pitchers too and they create a pitch. They said I found this, I start holding the ball like this and it just happens. Sometimes they do find a pitch in the off-season. But there's not a whole bunch of times that I recommend it. I like to start at spring training and get the arm in shape. I'm not really big on trying to find a new pitch until the arm's in shape.

What do you think of pitch counts?

I think pitch counts are good. I think it is a guideline to keeping guys healthy, to keeping younger kids healthy and prolong some careers. And it gives you an idea of what their pitch count is and when to get them out of the game. I don't think you can have a straight across pitch count. I think that the pitchers make their own pitch count for you at times. One guy might be a 95 guy, another guy might be a 105 guy. You might have another guy that is a 110-120 guy. So they kind set their own pitch counts, over the course of you getting to know them. But pitch counts are good, you know, it is a long season, there are a lot of bullets coming out of their arm. I think it needs to be monitored.

Sometimes you hear guys like Nolan Ryan sometimes say 'I threw 140 pitches and I was fine.....

You got a lot invested in pitchers these days. Yeah there are some, the top 5%, yeah there are some guys that can go 115-120 a lot, but that's not very many of them. Most of them are within the 100-105 pitch range, to keep them healthy and strong and good though out the course of the season. A lot of times, we'll run a guy, he's having a great game, he might run 125-130, he's having a good game and you let it go, you know, but the next couple of games aren't very good. You give and you take, but if you can train the arm to go 105-110 to 115 that's the perfect range to me. You keep that consistent, I think the arm stays healthy and it prolongs their career and it keeps your investments in tack.

Your bullpen is down there for a reason, you know, if there is 5 outs left or 6 outs left, those guys need to get the job done down there and your starter doesn't have to take it to 130 to get the job done. You have fresh bullets in the bullpen why not use them.

Do you like it if the pitchers know their pitch count during the game or not?

They know, they know what's where they're at. I like it that they know. It is an easy conversation, they know if they are at 105 and it is the 6th inning, their probably not going back out. If they are at 105 in the 8th, they are probably going back out. Unless they are just dying out there and you can tell things aren't going real well. Even if they are having a great game, it is starting to come up a little bit, it is time to come out, but they know where they are at. They know the pitch counts, they know where me and John are at with them. They try to go longer, they never want to come out. They are always trying to talk me into letting them go back out or talk to John. And I'm like no, you are good for today, we gotta strap it back on in 5 games. There are 4 outs left and the bullpen needs to get that done. I don't mind them knowing where they are at.

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