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May 30, 2010
Managing in the Minors, with Trent Jewett
Trent Jewett is more than just Stephen Strasburg’s current manager. The Syracuse Chiefs skipper is a grizzled veteran when it comes to running a minor-league club, having taken his first managerial position in 1992. He is in his second season with the Nationals organization after spending 21 years with the Pirates, including two-plus as the Bucs’ third base coach and 15 as a minor-league manager.
David Laurila: What is your priority as a Triple-A manager?
Trent Jewett: Preparing the players to help the big-league club. I think that’s the number-one key. The second is to maximize the abilities and get the most out of them as individuals.
DL: To what extent does winning matter in the minor leagues?
TJ: I think that winning ways, winning-type players, winning work habits -- those type of things -- are important, and generally you do come out on top when you do enough things right and you’re executing the important factors of the game. You’re pitching well, throwing strikes, holding the opposition to three outs per inning; those types of things. Winning in winning ways does come into play.
DL: Are your priorities here any different than they were when you managed in A-ball and Double-A?
TJ: There’s more of a foundation to be laid at the lower levels. The foundation, for the most part, has been set with players of this level of experience, and this age group, so it’s certainly different.
DL: What is the biggest difference between an A-ball player and a Triple-A player?
TJ: Experience. I think the skills are similar, but they’re not honed, they’re not seasoned. There’s not a full understanding of themselves at the A-ball level. Here, I think there is a willingness to take calculated risks and they understand themselves and the opposition, and how they’re trying to combat those things.
DL: What is the most challenging level to manage at in the minors?
TJ: Probably this one, because there are just a lot of issues, a lot of emotions. There is big money at stake, there is ego at stake; there are guys that have time in the big leagues. Those things are important, but there are just a lot of issues that are on the line on a daily basis.
DL: Are minor-league veterans harder to manage?
TJ: No, I don’t think so. I think that minor-league veterans understand the process and understand and appreciate the things that are going on, so I don’t necessarily think they’re difficult.
DL: When a player gets sent down to your team from the big leagues, do you make it a point to check in with him to see where he is mentally?
TJ: I think it’s important to listen to him, and communicate with him and let him get his feelings out. And at that point, it’s time to move on. You have to do those things, and communication is certainly vital, but at some point you have to pick up the pieces and improve whatever it is that you need to improve so you’re not in the minor leagues any longer than you have to be.
DL: What about coaches and managers? You came back to the minors after coaching in the big leagues for a couple of years.
TJ: I don’t think it’s a tough adjustment. There is some adjustment, but I had a lot of experience at this level previous to going and I’ve gotten a lot more since. It’s a matter of, to me, that you signed your contract and you know what your job detail is, and you do it.
DL: Does the front office dictate anything you do as a manager?
TJ: Some things. Some things are dictated and some things are less, and in your hands, because they trust you. But there are things that come from the top, where there is no grey area, and you do those things. They’re often times discussed and there is nothing that we differ on. Generally, they’re very understandable.
DL: Are those things usually playing time and pitcher usage?
TJ: No, I think there are a vast array of things that are a necessity for a big-league club. The one thing that the front-office types have that we don’t is a perspective of the organization, where I’m just here to guide the 24-man roster here in Syracuse.
DL: What is like to have one of those 24 players be Stephen Strasburg?
TJ: Nothing surprises you once you’ve done this for awhile, but it’s refreshing to get the level of talent that he brings, and also the person, because he’s a special young man in a lot of ways, both physically and personality-wise. He filters, and handles things so well, and at the end of it he just wants to maximize his abilities. He wants to get the most out of his contributions to the game.