PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage joined “The Fan Morning Show” Tuesday to talk about the state of his staff and the work he’s been doing with individual pitchers.
Searage said that he has been really impressed by A.J. Burnett this season.
“He is in a really good place with himself right now,” Searage said. “Even his bullpens in between starts, he does the same things over and over again. One of the things that I really enjoy is when the other starters are there like Jeff Locke and [Vance] Worley and [Gerrit] Cole and even Franky [Francisco Liriano] at times, they just watch the way he goes about his business. If he misses a pitch, he doesn’t get freaked out. He doesn’t get angry at himself. He just goes back and repeats his delivery and gets the feel of his breaking ball, gets the feel of all his pitches, really. It’s just like real easy, good stuff, and he just repeats everything. It’s really good to see.”
Searage shared what he’s been working on with the staff as a whole.
“We have to strive for perfection with the realization of never achieving it,” Searage said. “One of the biggest things that I want them to do is just have a little bit more relaxation mentally. They are trying real hard, moreso now than they had before, because the runs are coming, but they are just not there yet. They are trying to make perfect pitches in certain situations and the execution is faltering. There are times where we need to make that pitch, we put a little extra on a pitch or try to make it break sharper, and then we miss the location or the quality of the pitch wanes. And that’s one thing I want them to do, is go out, control what you can control, go out there and be yourself, stay within yourself and execute pitches, one pitch at a time.”
Searage then expanded on his work with a few individual pitchers, starting with Jeff Locke, who he thinks needs to stay true to Locke.
“We had a great session in Chicago on his [bull]pen,” Searage said. “He got back to his delivery, getting downhill and being aggressive to both sides of the plate with his fastball. He thinks he has to make adjustments in his delivery to kind of make them not see his pitches more. He tried to make adjustments, and I told him, I said that’s not you dude. I said, when you go out there, you go out there, and if you go down in flames, you go down in flames. You go down as Jeff Locke, but if you have to change your whole delivery, in the long-term baby, that’s not going to work. And you can see, it hasn’t worked. So, let’s just stay with Jeff Locke.”
When it comes to Mark Melancon’s rough start to the season, Searage is confident that a return to form is in order.
“I know in the long run he’s going to get back where he was,” Searage said. “These things happen during the season. Mark is just happening to go through in the early part and everyone is like, ‘Oh my gosh, time to back up the truck.’ No, it’s not. This guy is a winner. Even when he didn’t have his velocity, his command was good, and he only had one bad game. And yeah, there are things that he’s got to make sure he put the ball here and puts the ball there, but Mark is capable of doing that. Mark is probably one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. He knows how to handle himself and he has a real good grip on what he is capable of doing out there.”
Searage said that he advocated for having Charlie Morton make another rehab start before returning to the majors.
“I would rather make the error on the side of caution with Charlie,” Searage said. “We have had a good start. We had one in Double-A which was good. It was the progression. Then we had one in Triple-A, which was good. It was the progression, the raised level of competition. I really was on the side of getting another one under him so this way, we could put a bow on it and just say okay, he’s ready to come back. Let’s just make sure everything is going the right way, as opposed to throwing him right in the fire right from one start to Triple-A.”
Searage also gave an inside look at how he has dealt with Morton since his early days in Pittsburgh.
“In the beginning, there were a lot of things going on with Charlie that if I told you, I’d have to kill you,” Searage said with a laugh. “The way I handled Charlie was different. I would say I would bend a little bit more. But, we’re at the point in time now in Charlie’s career and also with Charlie personally I feel – and this is my opinion only – is that I have to be a little bit more strong-fisted with him in order to get things, because he is a very intelligent guy and sometimes that can get in the way because he over-analyzes stuff. We’re just going to try to keep this simple. We are going to be aggressive from pitch one until Clint takes the ball from his hand, and then go out there and have your information, pitch to what you are capable of doing, know your strengths, and don’t start making adjustments to the hitters before they have because that’s what gets you into trouble a majority of the time.”
The interview can be heard here: