The way most professional clubs handle player development is backwards. Typically organizations pair their least experienced managers and coaching staff with their youngest and most inexperienced players in the lower minors. Likewise, the guys who are theoretically the best coaches and managers in your system are paired with the guys that theoretically require the least amount of coaching at the Major League level. This is not the case in the Tigers organization as former Tiger skipper Larry Parrish is at the helm of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
Parrish rejoins the organization after a two-year hiatus that included a stint as the hitting coach for the Atlanta Braves. Having coached or managed at basically every level of the Tigers organization from Detroit down, he was a logical choice to rejoin the Tigers. While most coaches and managers share the major league dreams of their young prospects, Parrish is more than happy to spend this season in West Michigan teaching and developing the Tigers future. I had a chance to talk to Larry prior to a game recently about his return to the organization as well as some of the talent he has in the Midwest League that fans should keep an eye on.
TPR: My first question for you Larry is that you left the organization for a couple of years, what made you decide to come back to the organization especially to manage at West Michigan?
LP: They called me up and offered me a chance to come back. It’s an organization that I spent a long time with and I’m very familiar with the organization from top to bottom. It was just a comfortable situation. For me, managing here is no different. When you’re in the Minor Leagues it about coaching and teaching and that is what I like to do.
TPR: After spending the time that you did in Toledo, do you have to manage different here? The guys in Toledo are a phone call away where these guys are a couple of years away.
LP: The game is the same, but consistency is the big key here. You have to have a little bit more patience because there are going to be things that happen where they don’t know quite what to do. They’re going to make more errors here and do things that you just have to be patient with and have them hopefully learn from their mistakes.
TPR: Coming back to the organization, how do you feel it ranks now compared to a few years ago when you were in it with Toledo?
LP: There are always good players in the organization and some drafts are better than others. That is true with every club and every organization. Sometimes you can have a good draft and injuries turn it into a bad draft, especially with pitching. I’m not into scouting and I’m not really concerned with that, my job is to handle what we have here and make them better and get them to where they can go to the next level.
TPR: Speaking of what you have here in West Michigan, do you have a feel for what kind of team you have on your hands here?
LP: No, not really yet. I like the work ethic here. I think we are putting in the work and have the enthusiasm. That part has been good. The pitching has been pretty good so far. The infield defense has been shaky so far, but part of that could be attributed to the weather that we have had. We haven’t been on the field that much. Our goal here is to get better as the season goes along.
TPR: As you stated, there have been a lot of weather challenges in the Midwest League so far. How do you keep these guys fresh and ready to go given the fact that I’m sure you’re not getting in as much early work as I’m sure you would like to.
LP: No. We were home for seven days and we got on the field one day. We’re making errors and we can’t get out and work on it because of the weather. That part is disappointing and a thorn, but eventually it’s going to warm up we hope and we will be able to get our work in.
TPR: You have a couple of young guys that have eyes on them in Austin Schotts and Danry Vasquez. They might be a little young for this level, but what is your opinion on how those guys have performed so far? Can you even have expectations with them being so young?
LP: You don’t really have expectations with them when they are that young. You’re hoping more than anything that they will be able to handle where they are at. If they do and they handle it really early, then they have a chance to be something special. Both of those kids have had games where they look really good and games where they look really young and I don’t foresee that changing in the immediate future. Hopefully by the All Star break and going into the second half we would expect to see them make strides forward.
TPR: Everyone knows Schotts’ and Vasquez’s name here, but are there other guys that you see here that fans should be paying attention too? I guess who is the next Nick Castellanos or Bruce Rondon that fans will be waiting for their arrival to Detroit?
LP: These guys obviously are a bit further away than that. Pitchers sometimes can come fast. The game doesn’t get any tougher as you move up per se. The ball doesn’t get any heavier and the plate doesn’t get any further away. Guys that have what you call a slider speed bat are always going to have that. Position player wise, those guys typically have to hit every level. They might be able to jump one, but as a rule, they have to work their way up. So far, the second baseman here Devon Travis has played very well both offensively and defensively. We really like what we see so far there.
TPR: Last question for you is around the pitching. I know you touched on it earlier, but you have some big arms on your staff in guys like Montreal Robertson, Endrys Briceno, etc. What have you seen so far from your rotation?
LP: Our pitching has been fine top to bottom. The guys in the bullpen have thrown the ball well and the starters are throwing the ball well. Like I said, the defense has let them down a little bit for a couple of games. Briceno the other day was trying to get through five and he got two double play balls in a row that should have gotten him out of the inning, and he still didn’t get out of the inning because we didn’t make the plays. Those are things that, as the season goes along, we will hopefully be able to get better behind them.
Detroit Tigers Prospect Report would like to thank Larry for his time to answer our questions. We look forward to following the progression of his players not only this season, but future ones as well.