Dust Devils pitching coach has high hopes for his staff

June 15, 2013 

Though his playing days are behind him, Tri-City Dust Devils’ pitching coach Frank Gonzales still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

During a workout last week, the former Detroit Tigers prospect was throwing batting practice to Dust Devils first baseman Ben Waldrip, a left-handed slugger who was drilling line drives to the wall in deep right field and one that cleared the fence in foul territory.

That’s when the playful Gonzales decided to strike a blow for BP pitchers across the nation, getting Waldrip to tap a weak grounder to first.

“Damn, Gonzo, what was that? A power slider?,” Waldrip said, smiling as he walked away from the cage.

Later, Waldrip expressed his admiration for his fellow southpaw.

“He’s got a tough arm action. He’s always had nasty movement, especially when he slings it from 3/4 to half-slide,” Waldrip said.

Gonzales has always been able to deal with hitters, winning 58 games with a 3.94 ERA in a 10-year professional career with Detroit (1989-95), Boston (1997) and Pittsburgh (1997). This year, he hopes to make the biggest impact with his pitchers.

“I coined a phrase. I don’t know if it’s been used before, but I’m going to put it out there publicly,” Gonzales said. “You have to have a mentacal moment. I started using that word about a year ago. Your mental and physical have to come together. If our pitchers can naturally combine what they do physically and can use their minds and makeup to make pitches, we’re going to get outs.”

The fact that Gesa Stadium is renowned as a pitchers park doesn’t play too much into the Colorado Rockies’ philosophy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

“What really matters is doing the same things we’ve been, which is staying down in the zone,” Gonzales said. “In this park, which has traditionally been pitcher-friendly, we’re going to invite early contact and go get hitters.”

The Dust Devils staff aren’t the only young pitchers Gonzales is advising. His son and former Gonzaga standout Marco Gonzales was recently selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round — with the 19th overall pick — of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.

The pitcher/first baseman is also one of three finalists for the John Olerud Award, which goes to the top two-way player in college baseball.

The former Bulldogs standout signed a contract with the Cardinals on Tuesday with a reported signing bonus of $1.85 million.

“He’s very competitive. Whatever team he’s on, he’ll help them win,” his dad said.

NOTES: The Hillsboro Hops lost its first game in franchise history, a 3-2 decision at Salem-Keizer on Friday night. The Hops used to be known as the Yakima Bears until last year, when the city failed to upgrade County Stadium, resulting in a new ownership team stepping in.

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