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Pioneer notes: McDowell learning on the fly
Ogden's first-year manager mentoring, experimenting in dugout
07/17/2014 10:00 AM ET
Jack McDowell, a 12-year Major League veteran, is in his first season as the Ogden Raptors' manager.

Jack McDowell built a high school baseball juggernaut at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, California, a pitcher's haven on the outskirts of San Diego.

But by the time his oldest son Lucas graduated, McDowell had other plans. The three-time Major League All-Star and 1993 American League Cy Young Award winner felt the itch to return to the pro game, though he never envisioned it'd be as a manager.

But here he is, having jumped feet-first into his first season managing Ogden in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization.

"I was kind of looking to see what I wanted to do," said the 48-year-old McDowell, a Van Nuys, California, native. "I'd known (Dodgers VP of Player Development) DeJon Watson for a long time -- from the time we were kids. He had been trying to get me to come to Spring Training to kind of mix back into things, and I was looking to get back into it on one end or another.

"I didn't really go into it with any expectations. Both ends went into it originally trying to get my feet back into pro ball and see what I liked, what I was good at, and see what was the best fit for both. The managerial job opened up, they threw it by me and it didn't take long to decide."

McDowell's Raptors were 10-18 entering Wednesday and out of contention for the first-half title for the Pioneer League's South Division, but the team isn't short on skill. Outfielder Devan Ahart, who was batting .342, is proving to be one of the best leadoff hitters in the league, and catcher Julian Leon, at just 18 years old, is one of the Dodgers' prized prospects.

As a former pitcher, McDowell would like his staff to shrink its plus-5.00 ERA and cut down on its walks, which total more than 100. McDowell acknowledges the teaching aspect of his job, but has also tried to instill a winning attitude.

"You can look at rookie ball any way you want, but we're trying to get their feet wet into this whole thing," he said. "The bottom line is if you're not training a player to become a winner and win games, you're not doing things right."

McDowell, a right-hander, won 127 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox, Yankees, Indians and Angels. He went 22-10 with a 3.37 ERA to win the Cy Young Award in 1993.

He's not sure how long his managerial experiment will continue, but he's learning as he goes, too.

"I didn't come in here thinking I'm going to be a big league manager someday," McDowell said. "Do I think I can do it? Yes. I don't think it's anything crazy. As far as being a pitcher, people have already been knocking down those walls and realizing that it doesn't make a hill of beans what position you played. Ninety percent of managing a team from the baseball end of it is managing a pitching staff anyway.

"I'm just going to do the best I can, learn as much as I can, spread as much knowledge as I can this year, and I think we'll both probably evaluate it at the end of the year and see where the match is."

In brief

More on Mahle: Billings right-hander Tyler Mahle's shutout on July 13 was the first nine-inning shutout for the Mustangs since Jim Paduch threw a no-hitter in Game 2 of the 2003 league championship series against Provo on Sept. 12, 2003. Mahle allowed just three hits while striking out six and not giving up a walk. He required just 80 pitches.

Strong start: Grand Junction lefty Kyle Freeland, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2014 Draft, threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts in his pro debut July 9 against Missoula. He followed it up five days later by allowing one run in three innings against Helena. Freeland, renowned for his control, has yet to walk a batter.

Making it count: Orem shortstop Zach Houchins is a run-producing machine. Through 28 games, Houchins led the league in both runs scored (29) and RBIs (28). His 57 runs accounted for 27 percent of the team's league-high 211 runs scored. Entering Wednesday, Houchins was hitting .371, third-best in the league.

Greg Rachac is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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