This is the second part of my interview with Oklahoma City Dodgers broadcaster Alex Freedman. After previously getting updates on various Dodgers prospects, in this part we are talking about some of the changes made to the minor league schedule, rules and some of the rehabbing Dodgers.
Q: The Dodgers did not participate in a big trade at the deadline, what was that like to be watching from your seat with all of the rumors and different combinations of players that could be dealt? And when it was done, did you get a sense a relief that this is what the team will be like for the rest of the year?
AF: I would say for at least a month leading up to the trade deadline, when the team was playing well, I would caution by saying, “Let’s see what this team looks like after the trade deadline.” And then it came and I went into that day, just preparing for, mentally prepared for absolute chaos. That there’d be about four different lineup changes, that this guy would be pulled and scratched, and this and that. Just completely expecting the Dodgers to make quite a few moves. And maybe they weren’t necessarily a headlining move, but ones that, where it’s like, hey, you do a one for one for maybe a bullpen piece, or this or that, because there’s a lot of players that are attractive on the Oklahoma City roster.
So I guess, it’s one of those expect the worst and hope for the best. And really, the only change that was made was, was Vargas getting scratched from the original lineup. That’s because he went up to the big leagues.
And then when I first got the text of the new lineup, and I saw he wasn’t in it, I’m like, “Oh boy.”
But then someone told me shortly thereafter, “No he’s actually going to San Francisco.” So yeah, I was anticipating kind of a really crazy day there and for this team to change quite a bit, and it never happened. So yeah, like you said, it’s at least from our standpoint, I think we have a pretty good idea of what this roster’s going to be like for the rest of the year as they try and win a division, and hopefully go to that unique playoff they’ve got in Las Vegas this year, and all that stuff.
So yeah, that’s definitely, it was a little bit of comfort, I guess you could say. From my standpoint, because of course I know I’m not oblivious to the fact that it is all about the big league team and doing what they need to do for them to be successful. But it was nice that there wasn’t a whole lot of change on that day.
Q: One of the recent changes is playing one team a week, to know that you are playing the same team at the same place, what has that been like for you and team?
AF: World of difference. World of difference. Love it. Absolutely love it. Like you said, the logistics, the travel, all that stuff. I will definitely take the trade off of having the schedule go longer in terms of the actual calendar, deeper into September whereas opposed it ended at Labor Day, than just playing the schedule we used to.
And now that we’re a couple years removed for it, it’s kind of like, “How did we do this for so many years? Who thought this was a good idea?” Where every three, four days you’re playing a new team, you’re traveling. We don’t have the benefit, of course, of the private travel like they do in the big leagues and all that stuff. So to be able to be in one spot for a week is huge. And just having that day off for travel and for guys to rest and reset, it’s been huge and I’ve certainly enjoyed it.
It’s been a big plus in my book. I think it’s here to stay, in terms of the minor leagues, at least. It does sometimes create some scheduling challenges and making sure that each team has the equal amount of weekend dates. And, of course, the schedule really revolves around July 3rd or 4th, to make sure that all teams have a home game on July the 3rd or 4th. So for those with MLB, and who do all the scheduling, I know it sometimes can throw a little bit of a wrench in that, but it’s just been huge.
The changes have been great, and I’ve really enjoyed them. And it just, we’re all going to be tired throughout the season, but the energy level I feel, at least for me, is much higher. Especially now, this late in the season, where you were having one or two off days a month that
And sometimes those were impacted by travel. But just the fact that we’re not traveling on the days we’re playing games is huge, because you always just feel like you’re just constantly catching up when you’re doing that. When you’re flying at 6 a.m., and playing that day, and playing for three straight days, or you’re busing overnight and playing that day, you don’t have that anymore.
Q: Other changes include no longer being able to expand your active MLB roster to all 40 players and limitation on options and recalls, how do you think that impacts Oklahoma city current play and in their chase for the postseason?
AF: Yeah. I know that just having the expanded roster in the big leagues, plus really we have an expanded roster here. So the way it works at Triple-A, is that we can have up to 33 players, but only 28 can be active for a game. But the reason they have those five extra spots is because sometimes there’s a guy who’s technically on a roster, but he is on taxi squad, or he is in a holding pattern, if they need him in the big leagues and stuff like that.
And it’s just nice to have the clarity of when someone gets optioned to Oklahoma City, they go on your roster instantly. In the past, there would just be all this juggling and machinations like “Oh, this guy gets sent down, but it was just a 25-man roster limit.”
I think everyone gets it now that they know that, “Hey, just because September 1st rolls around and you’re on the 40-man roster, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be in the big leagues,” but how it pertains to us, and the playoffs, we don’t really know. Because last year we didn’t have them, there were no playoffs, so. And this year, it’s kind of a series of one game playoffs as well.
So a little bit different than it is at the other levels of the minor leagues. Because like you said, in the past, your team could have a really good season, win your division, but then the playoffs are in September after all your best players have been called up, and you’re suddenly playing with a totally different team than you were for most of the year.
We really haven’t experienced that in the way that they’re doing Triple-A. I don’t know if we will. I do know this, that last year, when they extended our season by 10 games in the middle of the year, and you saw how teams could keep their 40 man guys playing, or other guys that they wanted to keep getting in extra games.
Or there’s certain guys who — you know very well that postseason rosters are constructed differently than they are during the regular season. So if there was a guy that they would be evaluating for a potential postseason roster spot to keep him playing, I knew that as soon as that was done last year, it was probably here to stay, to be able to have the Triple-A season line up pretty closely with the end of the big league season. So those guys could keep playing.
Q: Also, before if you had a player who could use a rehab assignment and it was September, you had really nowhere to go but now there are games being played all through September, so that must be helpful too?
AF: Yeah, no doubt.
Q: A couple more questions, you’ve seen both Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen in rehab assignments, when you are watching players in their rehab games, do you notice them working on certain things or do they get caught up in the actual game they are pitching?
AF: These guys are all intense competitors, so it is that fine balance. Because they do obviously want to build up their workload and eventually be contributors back at the big league level, but you also don’t want to mess things up for the rest of the team.
I think we definitely saw that with Dustin May. He was out there. I mean, if he wasn’t executing a certain pitch, you know his demeanor out there on the mound. So it was obvious. It was not necessarily “spring training” for Dustin May.
He was treating like he was back in the big leagues in terms of that stuff. And yeah, I mean, I think, obviously when you’re an older guy, like Treinen, and they’re definitely slow playing this because he’s been out since mid-April, so he’s only made a couple of starts and all that stuff.
And I think those guys know that, especially in a Treinen, or a Victor González who we saw the other night, it’s like if the peak stuff is not there right away, they’re not going to panic.
They know that it’s going to be a buildup process and things like that. Graterol’s a little bit different because he wasn’t out a whole lot, and even his injury was not caused by pitching. It was from a workout and all that stuff. So he looked like he normally does and all that stuff.
So, yeah. I think, like I said, the guys, they obviously are cognizant of that they’re on rehab assignment, but at the same time, they are still competing out there and want to get those game reps. And that’s why guys are set on rehab assignments, so they can get some game reps. So the first time you’re not doing that, whether it’s weeks or months, is in the big leagues where the stakes are a lot higher.