In November, I sent a letter to Ricky Bennett, Houston's Director of Player Development. My questions to him centered around player development in Lancaster, specifically if the club does anything differently with players because of Lancaster's hitter-friendly ballpark. I was pleasantly surprised this week when I received Bennett's reply to my questions via Sally Gunter in the Media Relations Department.
Here is a synopsis of what Ricky Bennett had to say:
The most informative answer concerned how the team deals with pitchers in that environment. I have often wondered how they will decide where to send Lyles, Seaton and others on April 8. According to Bennett, the biggest factor for pitchers is not the numbers they put up. It is their ability to control their fastball down on both sides of the plate. In addition, it is important for them to throw their second and third pitches for strikes consistently.
In regards to Lyles, Seaton and others who were in Lexington in 2009 and may have Lancaster in their near future, Bennett indicated that some consideration may be given to the ballpark, but not much. "We can do more harm with our pitchers if we send them to AA before they are ready as opposed to sending them to Lancaster because of ballpark size." He commented that a pitcher who locates their fastball well will be fine in Lancaster.
Bennett also addressed the development of hitters in California. "We focus on the individual's approach more than anything else." I specifically asked about players who put up big power numbers in Lancaster. Bennett said power numbers don't "change our focus or thought process when it comes to teaching and getting a player to make adjustments offensively."
My thanks to Mr. Bennett for his cooperation and to the Astros Media Relations Department for their assistance.