The Hickory Crawdads open their tenth playoff run in 23 seasons as they start a three-game series with the West Virginia Power. Game one is at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, WV with games two and three coming to L.P. Frans Stadium Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.
I took a moment to talk with Crawdads manager Corey Ragsdale about the series, as well as how the team ended the regular season heading into the playoffs.
You guys have been waiting for the playoffs since June and here we are finally. First, let me ask how did the guys adjust to the second half when they knew they were going to be in the playoffs? There wasn’t really anything to play for, although they’re playing for development purposes.
Ragsdale: I think they’ve done good. Yes, coming out of the break and had won the first half, it’s tough when the team goes and they decided at some point we’re going to win this thing and they win it. They completed their mission right there. It took a few days to kind of get back in line and refocus.
They know now that there’s still work to do. There’s a job to do and I’ve got to get better for myself and continue to get better as a player. So it took a few days, but they’ve done very well. Obviously, we haven’t won as many ballgames this half as we did the first half, but overall they competed well and the efforts been there. Honestly, I’ve got no complaints.
Obviously the big story of the year has been pitching, pitching, pitching. I’m guessing that looking ahead to West Virginia, that will be the make or break for y’all.
Ragsdale: We’ve been very fortunate, yes. Our starters, our pitching has been very good all year. The first half of the year we were so good, primarily because of pitching and defense and timely hitting and things like that. But there’s no doubt that pitching and defense carried us. Going into the playoffs, we like our chances. We’re running out three guys that have had very good years. Whatever happens is going to happen, but we’ve got as good a shot as anybody.
This first round we’re running Yohander (Mendez), (Ariel) Jurado and (Collin) Wiles out there 1-2-3. We like our chances.
When y’all get here on Saturday, you’re going to win this because____?
Ragsdale: In any playoff situation pitching and defense is always number one. We’re running three guys out there that we have a lot of confidence in and we’ve also got to play defense behind them. If we do that and take care of things that we need to, we’ve got a pretty good shot.
You played West Virginia a couple of weeks ago after not seeing them since the first half, what did they bring that maybe has concerns for you?
Ragsdale: I know we’re going to see (Yeudy) Garcia and (Stephen) Tarpley one-two. Obviously they’re two of the better pitchers in the league. So they’ve got some good arms going out as well. They probably do a little bit of the same stuff we do. Their pitching has probably carried them a little bit. I think they’ve swung it a little bit lately.
When we played them the last time, we definitely weren’t playing our best. But, that’s no excuse. We’re definitely going to have to be on our A game. They’re playing very well. They’re steamrolling everybody they’ve played. We’re definitely going to have to come out and play our best games and play a good series to win. But, I think we’ll be alright. It’ll be a fun series.
In the first half you had a pretty set group of guys but in the second half for various reasons you’ve had a lot of in and out.
Ragsdale: We lost some of the guys in the first half, which is good. Some guys went up that did well. It is stuff, not necessarily about finding players. That group in the first half, they were all playing for the same thing. When you get an influx of new guys coming in there and switching around and all that stuff, it’s tough to make sure everybody’s on the same page all the time. That’s tough, but I think the guys that have come in, we’ve had great guys come in, guys that pretty much fall in line that want to do good and be good teammates. It hasn’t been hard on me or anything like that. I just think for them there’s a little bit of an adjustment for each guy having new teammates in and getting them comfortable.
On the infield, I know you’ve toyed around with some different arrangements, especially at first, and trying to find a mix and the lineup. How do you see this playing out?
Ragsdale: To be honest, the alignment took a hit the other day when (shortstop Michael) De Leon went down. With Dylan (Moore) coming in, we have a chance to move some things around. To be honest, at first base we’re still trying to figure that out. The other three positions, it’s probably going to look like what it looks like tonight. We’re trying to figure out just what gives us the best options and who’s most comfortable where. Obviously De Leon and J-Mo going down, that’s two very good defenders – two guys on the left side of the infield that were very good for us. It’s a little swift kick, but I think we’ve got guys that can step up and fill the void. It’s kind of like, “next man up, here we go.”
In the outfield (Luke) Tendler, (Jairo) Beras, (Jose) Cardona with (Eduard) Pinto at DH?
Ragsdale: I think Eric (Jenkins) gives us a nice new dimension. He’s obviously playing very well. He’ll be a guy that can possibly come off the bench and do something like that. He can run; he has very good speed. He’s shown some very good at bats and has shown some spark being in the leadoff position… he gives us something that, to be honest, we don’t have. So we’ll see over the next couple of days how that plays in and how that mixes in. We may try to get him some at bats and get him in there as well.
We’ve still got a couple of days. With those new guys, we’ll just see what they can and what they can’t do. It’s not exactly the position you want to be in going into the playoffs, but we’ll get it done.