By: Ryan Smith
As I stated in my previous article, I was able to gain access to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Media Day on April 3rd. Throughout the early portion of the day, I was able to conduct a few brief interviews with some of the players on the 2012 Opening Day roster. I figured that, as opposed to giving you a basic gist of what the players said during these interviews, I’d provide a transcript of my conversations with each player. I tried to keep the interviews relatively short since the players had six or seven other reporters waiting to talk to them as well. They also had to head back to the clubhouse to get ready for the scrimmage that would take place later in the day.
So without further ado, here’s what transpired from the four interviews I landed on Tuesday:
One of the first players I spoke with was Timber Rattlers catcher Rafael Neda. Neda is one of the ten players who is returning to Appleton this season. Manager Matt Erickson had mentioned earlier that he thought some of this continuity within the roster could be a strength for the team early on in the season. Between his time with the Timber Rattlers and the Brevard County Manatees, Neda put up a 2011 line of .177/.320/.226.
RS: First off, welcome back to Appleton. I know you must be excited about the upcoming season. What have you been doing to prepare for the 2012 season?
Rafael Neda, C, #12 (9th Round, 2010 First-Year Player Draft): It’s been a lot of rehab and just trying to keep my body in shape, my legs especially. Basically, I’ve been doing a lot of everything. A lot of catching drills, hitting off the tee with all of my coaching staff. Overall, I feel pretty good and I’m ready to kick off this next season.
RS: So before we started talking, you said that this is a little cooler than what you’d like. Where have you been doing your training during the offseason?
RN: In Mexico or Arizona. So, it’s been really warm weather down there. This is a little chilly.
RS: I hate to tell you, but this is warm for Wisconsin in April, so the first month might be a little rocky. Back to baseball, what would you say is your best skill or attribute that you bring to the Timber Rattlers organization?
RN: Well, I feel like I’m really consistent behind the plate. One of my goals this year, definitely, is to try and be a better leader, especially with all of the pitchers on the pitching staff.
RS: It’s always nice to have a catcher who can handle his business behind the plate like that. Okay, hypothetical question for you now: if you could choose any pitcher to step into the batter’s box against, who would you like to step in and face? You know, to test your mettle?
RN: Oh, definitely I would like to face (San Francisco Giant Tim) Lincecum. I think he’s really intense on the mound, a really intense guy. SO I would definitely like to step in and face him.
RS: And one final question: what are your goals for 2012, for the season ahead?
RN: One of my goals is to have a good year personally as a team player. I want to help us get to the playoffs and hopefully get that championship.
RS: Sounds like a plan. I know you have to run now. Thanks for taking some time to talk with Cream City Cables. Good luck this year!
*You can follow Rafael on Twitter @RafaelNeda88
I was also able to get a few minutes to speak with shortstop prospect Yadiel Rivera. Rivera also spent some time in Appleton during the 2011 season, though he spent most of the year with the Helena Brewers in the Pioneer League. Over the course of his 2011 campaign, Rivera posted a line of .236/.271/.372. Within the entire Brewers’ organization, Rivera is ranked 15th in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook.
RS: I’m here with Yadiel Rivera, shortstop for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. There are a couple shortstops on the roster for the Rattlers. What do you think is your best quality that you bring to the field every day?
Yadiel Rivera, SS, #13 (9th Round, 2010 First-Year Player Draft): You know, I have fun. If you’re having fun, you’ll have a good game. So I try to have fun and do my job the best that I can.
RS: I’ve read quite a bit that you’re pretty good with your glove and that you have a pretty strong arm over at shortstop. Is that something that just kind of comes naturally to you or is it something you specifically work at each day? If so, what are some of the ways you approach improving that area of your game?
YR: Well, with the glove, it’s kind of natural, but I still work at it all the time to get even better. As for my arm, that’s something that I work on every day at the park. You have to work at something if you want to get better.
RS: What specific area of your game have you been trying to improve from last year to this season?
YR: I’m been focusing on getting better with my hitting, trying to be more consistent at the plate. I don’t want to strike out as much as I did a few years ago. I’m focusing on making more contact, making better swings. Just trying to do well this year (at the plate).
RS: So what are your goals for the 2012 season?
YR: First of all, I want to make the playoffs, help the team make the playoffs. I just want to do my job. Try to go out there, have fun, do my job, and help the Timber Rattlers win a lot of games.
RS: Thanks for your time, Yadiel. Good luck out there.
I spoke with Timber Rattlers right-hander David Goforth. Drafted last summer out of Mississippi, Goforth appeared in 19 games for the Helena Brewers, posting a 0-4 record with a 4.43 ERA while striking out 42 over 40.2 innings pitched. Coming into the 2012 season, Baseball America has Goforth ranked 17th among the prospects in the Brewers’ system.
RS: I’m here with Timber Rattlers pitcher David Goforth. David, you hear a lot about pitchers and their superstitions. Do you have any superstitions or rituals that you go through before a game?
David Goforth, RHP, #17 (7th Round, 2011 First-Year Player Draft): Not really. I don’t really. I wouldn’t say that there’s any superstition I have before games. I don’t do anything that most other players don’t do as well before they have a game.
RS: So, Baseball America has you ranked 17th in the Brewers’ farm system.
DG: Yeah, I’m kind of aware of that. I try not to pay much attention to prospect rankings and stuff like that. I just try to take it day-by-day and game-by-game. Just try to do the best that I can do and let everything else take care of itself. But yeah, I’ve heard from a few different places and my agent and a few other people have told me. A lot of times you don’t even know which rankings to look at. Like I said, I just let that stuff take care of itself. It doesn’t change my approach at all.
RS: I’ve heard you say that you think your fastball is your best pitch right now. Are there any particular secondary pitches that you’ve really been trying to focus on to pair up with that fastball?
DG: Really, my changeup. That’s going to be a big pitch for me here in this league, at this level. Just being able to work off the fastball with the changeup. I’ve spent a lot of time during Spring Training working on that pitch, and I think it’s gotten a lot better than what it was before. We changed the grip that I had been using to throw my changeup, and I think it’s going to be a big pitch for me here.
RS: Okay. Just to wrap things up, what’s one of your main goals for this season?
DG: Honestly, just to throw as well as I can and help the team in any way I can. I just want to help us win. Throw the ball well, command the strike zone, and do whatever I can do to help the team win.
RS: All right. Thank you and good luck this year!
*You can follow David on Twitter @Brew_Crew72
Finally, I took a few minutes to speak with right-hander Drew Gagnon (pronounced “Gah-nyo”). Gagnon, drafted last June out of Cal State Long Beach, appeared in eight games for Helena in 2011. Gagnon compiled a 0-3 record while recording one save. He had an 8.05 ERA while striking out 27 in just 19.0 innings pitched. Coming into the 2012 season, Gagnon was ranked 23rd among the prospects in the Brewers’ organization, according to Baseball America.
RS: I’m here with Drew Gagnon of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Thanks for taking a moment to speak with me, Drew.
Drew Gagnon, RHP, #24 (3rd Round, 2011 First-Year Player Draft): Not a problem at all.
RS: You’re actually one of the higher-rated players in the Brewers’ organization as far as prospects are concerned. Upon hearing that, how do you react to that type of information? Do you feed off of that or do you just try to block it out?
DG: Obviously, it’s a good feeling to know that you’re liked in the system. It gives you a feeling that you have a chance to go through the system pretty well. But at the end of the day, it’s not about your status, it’s not about how much money you’ve made. It’s about what you do on the field and how you get the job done. You can be that guy. You can be a first-rounder, but if you don’t find the strike zone or get the ball over the plate, you’re not going to go anywhere. So while it’s nice to hear about those rankings, in the end, it’s all about what you do on the field. That’s all that matters.
RS: What would you say is your “go-to” pitch? Especially if you get in a jam. You know, a couple of runners are on and you need a big out. What pitch do you turn to first?
DG: I like my changeup. I like my changeup a lot. I still need to work on it a little bit, find the strike zone with more consistency. But right now, actually, I’m starting to like my curveball a lot more. I’m getting a better feel for it with the delivery. It’s coming along nicely. But, right now, I think my “go-to” pitch would still have to be my changeup.
RS: What have you been doing this offseason to get yourself ready for 2012, for your first full season of pro ball?
DG: Well, since this was my first offseason, I haven’t really had that much time without baseball. I’ve just been trying to relax, taking care of my arm. Once baseball started back up, I just started throwing again. I was following the program, doing the lifting, doing all the running. Basically just trying to get ready for the season any way I can.
RS: If you could pick one player to face, where you had to pitch against him, who would you like to pitch against?
DG: Well, am I trying to get the win or just trying to push myself?
RS: You’re trying to challenge yourself.
DG: Justin Verlander would be nice. See what I could do going up against a guy of his caliber. That would be a good challenge for anyone.
RS: What about a hitter? What hitter would you like to pitch to?
DG: Oh man, I really don’t know. I’ve never really thought about that one. That’s a dangerous question.
RS: Well, if it were Prince, you could feel free to pitch high-and-inside. As a Brewer fan, I would be okay with that. Finally, what are your goals for 2012?
DG: My goals are to come prepared every day, just being able to reach my ability each day. I want to get better every day and help this team win. I want to help us get to the playoffs and win a championship.
RS: Sounds like a good plan. Thanks for your time. I’ll let you head to the clubhouse and get ready for the scrimmage. Good luck this year!
* You can follow Drew on Twitter @DGags24
I’d like to thank Rafael, Yadiel, David, and Drew for taking the time to speak with me. I’d also like to thank Chris Mehring once again for providing me with access to Media Day. Be sure to check back with Cream City Cables for all of your Timber Rattlers coverage, as well as information about the other teams in the Brewers’ farm system. I speak for everyone here at Cream City Cables when I say good luck to the 2012 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers!