With opening night in a little over a week, final preparations for the new season are underway down at spring training. Broadcaster Joe Ritzo caught up with manager Andy Skeels at the Giants minor league training complex in Scottsdale to get the skipper's thoughts on the spring, the new coaching staff and some of the possible impact players in San Jose this year.
Joe Ritzo: So how anxious are you to break camp and get back to San Jose where you can begin playing games that count?
Andy Skeels: We're looking forward to getting out of spring training. So far, it's been a successful one. It's always fun to see a lot of the new guys and players you haven't seen a lot of. You want to see how everything is going to fit together. We've played pretty well this spring and are looking forward to kicking things off shortly.
Ritzo: With so many guys in camp and players moving around, is it difficult to prepare for the season and implement your plan?
Skeels: I think one of the strong suits of this organization is the way we prepare all of our players. Spring training is very much geared towards getting ready for opening day and doing all of the things that are necessary from a fundamentals standpoint, from our hitters programs and the way we set up our pitching. As far as the team getting together, gelling, understanding each other and getting comfortable with different personnel, that's going to take a little bit of time. We should have a little time while we're here, but that's always subject to change even once the season starts. From a baseball standpoint, our players will be ready. As far as the team goes, we'll see how that all fits together the first month of the season.
Ritzo: You're working with an entirely new coaching staff this year with Mike Couchee (pitching coach) and Lipso Nava (hitting coach). How has that been so far? Is there an adjustment process for you as the manager?
Skeels: With Lipso, I had him as a coach for me in 2008 in Augusta. We already have a lot of familiarity with each other. He knows what I want and vice versa. He's a great coach and works extremely hard. I'm fortunate to have him this year. He's going to be a really nice addition. Mike Couchee, our pitching coach, we're still getting to know each other. He's got such a strong background and is a great pitching guy. He's got an established reputation and brings a lot of experience and success with him, so it's going to be fun getting to know him and working together as well.
Ritzo: Are you expecting the starting rotation to be a strength of this team? You look at what the starting pitchers did in Augusta last year and a lot of those guys should be moving up to your club. Is it something you're excited about with this group?
Skeels: Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing these kids out there. Certainly that's anticipated to be one of our strengths. Having a lot of starting pitching makes the manager sleep a little bit better at night. I'm looking forward to getting out there, teeing it up and see how these kids throw. We're heard a lot of good things - they're some of our best kids.
Ritzo: You've got Angel Villalona in your group right now playing first base. How's he been looking this spring?
Skeels: He's been looking very good. He's been swinging the bat great during spring training. He's doing all of the things we've asked him to do. His attitude and work ethic have been great and the talent is still there. We're really looking forward to getting him out on the field against some competition and seeing where it all falls. He's working his way back into playing shape and all of the things that go with that. So far, so good.
Ritzo: Mac Williamson, last year's third round draft pick, is playing right field for you right now. He's been generating a lot of buzz this spring. What have you been seeing out of him?
Skeels: Mac swings a big bat. He's got bat speed. He's got power. He's just a good hitter. In my limited look in spring training, I've been really impressed and I'm looking forward to seeing if he makes it to San Jose. I'd love to have him in the outfield. He'd be a really nice addition, especially sitting in the middle of the lineup for us. This kid is going to be a really good hitter and somebody who can provide some thump.