Q&A with Trenton Manager Tony Franklin

Franklin isn't worried about Austin Jackson

We sat down with Trenton Thunder Manager Tony Franklin for a Q&A session to get his thoughts on why he thinks Jose Tabata has gotten off to a slow start, if he's seen glimpses of the player Austin Jackson was in Tampa last season, how Daniel McCutchen has been different this season, how George Kontos has turned things around in his last few starts, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jose Tabata has been a very, very good hitter so far in his young career but he got off to a surprisingly slow start to this season. Why do you think that is?

Tony Franklin: I really don't know, it could be a combination of a lot of things. Probably the biggest thing I could point my finger at is it's his first time in the league. It's probably the first time he's ever played in any cold weather and that may have something to do with it, which is no excuse, but he's a young guy in terms of baseball experience, this is the first time in this league seeing some different pitching - in fastball counts he may see some breaking balls - so that's probably all contributing factors to why he got off to a slow start. He's coming around recently and he's starting to put some nice swings on the ball, laying off of some bad pitches, so we still think he's going to have a good season here and of course he's a really talented young player.

PinstripesPlus: Austin Jackson had such a successful stint in Tampa last year, and while he's done a solid job, it hasn't been anywhere near the same type of production. Have you seen glimpses of the player he was in Tampa, either in Spring Training or during the season this year?

Franklin: With all of these guys we're going to probably talk about, the first thing you notice is their ability to play the game. They've got pretty good talent - they run well, they throw well, and they can certainly hit. I think it's a matter of consistency with all of them. As far as the power numbers are with Austin, I think that's the last thing to come for a youngster. I think once they hone their swing, get comfortable with their swing and stroke, the power numbers will increase simply because they're more confident. I've always felt good swings hit the ball out of the ballpark, not so much strength. They certainly have the strength but once they find their swing and do it more consistent, they'll hit home runs. I don't know how many they're going to hit but I'm sure it will be 10-15.

PinstripesPlus: You had Colin Curtis for the second-half of last season and now you have him once again this year. What differences have you seen from him between the two years?

Franklin: Consistency. He's a little bit more familiar with the league. He was one that got an opportunity to come up [last year] and I think it helps tremendously to get an idea of what the league is all about. When you come back to the league you're a little more comfortable with it, you know what to expect, and so Colin has had a jump start on the other two guys and I think that has helped him tremendously. I think he knows the ins and outs of the league and he's been consistent for us for the most part this season, and I think he's going to have a consistent season but he's pretty settled, he doesn't deviate from his routine on a daily basis, and he puts his time in. He puts his time in with his hitting and certainly he does the same thing with his defense. Those two things combined, I think we're going to have a pretty good player, a very consistent player throughout the year.

PinstripesPlus: Reegie Corona seems to be putting things together recently. Do you think it's the same reason, that he's simply getting more comfortable at this level or do you think the switch back to second base has helped?

Franklin: I think that has a lot to do with it. When you have a familiarity with what's going on, the confidence factor is a little bit higher. When there is a little bit of doubt with what's going on, there is some doubt with what you're going to do. Reegie's certainly swinging it pretty good right now. He's swinging really, really well from the right side, so his ability to be comfortable in a familiar setting here, I think it helps. Everyone says he's going to be a pretty good second baseman but I think he's a really good shortstop as well. I think he plays them both equally well but second base seems to be a pretty good spot for him and I could see him being there for a long period of time. But if the opportunity arises for him to go play shortstop, he can do that as well.

PinstripesPlus: On the subject of shortstops, Ramiro Pena is back in Double-A for his third straight year and he's still a young guy. What adjustments have you seen him make over that time?

Franklin: Well he's had some injuries. He had a season-ending injury last year and he was playing pretty good at the time he got hurt. I think it's a matter of Ramiro having a full season under his belt to find out exactly what he can do. The talent is certainly there. He got off to a real hot start offensively and slowed down a little bit, but here again here's a young guy who competes in peaks and valleys. I think as the season continues, I think he's going to maintain a pretty good level of offense. Certainly his defensive ability is right there at the top of the line. He's an extremely gifted defensive player and boy, I'm glad he's on our club.

PinstripesPlus: Cody Ehlers was the Florida State League Hitter of the Year two years ago and really struggled last year, but now he's returning to form of sorts, at least power-wise. What differences have you seen from Ehlers this year?

Franklin: Some of the luster he had in Tampa is coming back. The guy certainly has some great offensive potential. I don't know what the problem was last year, who knows, but it wasn't what we all expected. I think he's back now, he's swinging well, he seems to be very settled in his approach to the game, and I think he's going to wind up with a pretty good season.

PinstripesPlus: A guy who might never ever be in the top prospect mix is Christopher Malec, but he plays a ton of positions and always seems to be a big contributor. Talk about his game.

Franklin: All he does is help you win and I think every team needs a guy like that. Here's a guy who is extremely versatile, he plays first base, he can play second, plays third base, he's a switch-hitter, and he can play the outfield if you need him. He's great in the clubhouse and he's a nice guy - what more can you ask for? As I said all he does is help you win ball games and every team needs somebody like that. You don't count out anybody in this game, whether you're talking about him numbers-wise or prospects-wise, you just don't count out guys like him out because every club needs them.

PinstripesPlus: Can you give us an update on Francisco Cervelli? Do you know what he's doing and when he'll be back?

Franklin: I have no idea. I've got 24 guys I've got to deal with on a daily basis. I'm sure he's down in Tampa working like crazy to get back here. I know the injury was a devastating injury to him and to us as well. Here's a guy everybody thought was going to have a great year and certainly help our club here, and very highly touted prospect-wise. To receive or sustain an injury like that is heartbreaking. I think he'll make it back for a little more than half of a season and I think if he can get that under his belt we'll all be pleased.

PinstripesPlus: George Kontos got off to a rough start but he seems to have turned things around in his last few starts. What differences have you seen from him recently?

Franklin: I think it's the same thing with every young player in his first time in the league, I just think they need to get settled and figure out how they're going to approach hitters on the night they pitch. It takes a little getting used to. A lot of these guys haven't played in cold weather like they've experienced here. It's a tough league weather-wise and travel is not always the easiest. It takes a little getting used to and I think George has settled down and found a consistent level of comfort. I think it's showing in his ability to pitch. His last three or four outings have certainly been consistent. Here we go, we've got a lot of baseball left and I expect he's going to get more comfortable as the season goes on.

PinstripesPlus: You had Daniel McCutchen last year and he posted great numbers and he's going it again this year. Have you seen any differences in his game this year as opposed to last?

Franklin: Attacking the zone, throwing more strikes, being able to command a little bit better, being able to throw his breaking ball in fastball counts - he's pitching, he's not just throwing and he's pitching with a lot of confidence. I see a guy out there who is just going right after guys and not backing off of anything. It's really worked well for him so far.

PinstripePlus: Chase Wright is another guy you've had a couple of times now. He's gotten off to a great start this year - has it been because of the breaking ball he's been working on?

Franklin: I think Chase just knows how to pitch. The guy is going to find a way to win and I think his record proves that. When you talk about hard throwers, he certainly isn't that, but he's a guy who can get people out. I think he can pitch to his spots, and like the majority of the guys we've got, he's got the ability to throw the breaking ball in a fastball count. When you're doing that against young and inexperienced hitters, you're going to win, which is what he's doing. Don't count this guy out! He knows how to pitch and he's got a chance.

PinstripesPlus: Jason Jones is another guy who has gotten off to a hot start. What have you seen from him?

Franklin: Just look at the numbers, that's all I can tell you. If you look at the numbers, people are going to look at you. They're going to want to know 'what is it about you that you're doing', and because of that you're going to command to look; scouts are going to come see what you're all about. Numbers are one thing but coming to see themselves is another thing and I think that's why we're scouted as much as we're scouted, simply because we've got guys putting numbers up. Here again, don't count him out because he has enough stuff to pitch, there's no doubt in my mind. You're always going to talk about guys like McCutchen, and Kontos, and Coke, and unfortunately some guys will be pushed to the back burner, but when you look at the overall pitcher those numbers aren't going to lie.

PinstripesPlus: You brought him up so let's talk about Phil Coke. He's had a couple of solid seasons now and he's gotten off to another solid start this year.

Franklin: The guy wins. He started off slowly but once Phil got settled and got the ability to throw his breaking ball over for strikes he's been very good for us. I'm very pleased.

PinstripesPlus: I realize he's pitched in just one game so far but what were your immediate impressions of Mark Melancon?

Franklin: He just got here so there's not a whole lot I can say about his first outing except for he pitched two innings for us and got us out of a jam. We needed him and he did very well. He threw strikes and the big thing is, if you're not walking guys and throwing strikes you've got a chance to pitch a little bit.

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