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Fightin Phils manager Al Pedrique talks Phillies prospects, 45 years in professional baseball

Al Pedrique is in his first season as manager of the Reading Fightin Phils, the Phillies’ Double-A Affiliate.

Pedrique has been with 10 different organizations as a player or coach, starting with being signed by the Mets as a 17-year-old shortstop in 1978 after coming to the United States from Venezuela.

He also played for the Pirates and Tigers and has coached in both the majors and minors since 2000 including as a minor league manager with the Yankees from 2013-17. He led the Trenton Thunder during the 2015 season.

Trentonian reporter Greg Johnson caught up with Pedrique at a Somerset Patriots game about his memories of Trenton, his managing style, his thoughts on Reading’s top prospects, and more.

GJ: The first time you were in Somerset in May, Yankees pitcher Luis Severino was here rehabbing, former Yankees prospect Dan Fiorito has been here as a roving instructor. Has it been a lot of memories being back in the Eastern League?

AP: Well just the fact that back then we were in Trenton, New Jersey. I remember that the front office people were outstanding working with them. We had a nice stadium, nice facility, and the players that I had, it was a special group. I had Severino, I had Fiorito — a guy that played everywhere — Dante Bichette Jr., also had Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird. We had a good team. Jake Cave was also on the club. We had a couple good arms. Overall, it was a great group of players to work with.

GJ: You had Aaron Judge for a little bit, too.

AP: Judge was there in 2015, you’re right, and Mason Williams, center fielder, also was there. So like I said, we had a lot of talent — position players, pitching-wise. I mean, it was great. And now a lot of those guys are playing in the major leagues right now.

GJ: Aaron Judge, what he’s become now, could you ever have imagined it back then?

AP: You could tell that he had a chance because of his makeup: great attitude, hard worker, always asking questions, always wanting to do something that would make him better day in and day out. So definitely you see that kind of attitude, makeup. It’s a chance that the player will make it. You can see every year. I had him the year before in Tampa a little bit, and then the following spring training, he showed some improvement with his swing approach. He made some adjustments, and once the season started, he was a guy that showed a lot of confidence and he was trusting the fact that it was gonna be a long process, but he never stopped working.

GJ: The first time you were in Somerset, did you get a chance to talk to Severino or Fiorito?

AP: Severino, I didn’t, because he came down, we faced him and he was on a rehab assignment. Those guys are pitching, I know how they’re coming through the park, they don’t want to talk to anybody (laughs). But I have talked to Fiorito a couple times already. For me he was a special kid because he was one of the guys who was bouncing up and down. And he was doing well in Double-A or in Triple-A, he would be sent down, and he never complained. He was always ready, so any time I had him in my club, it was a pleasure. He was a true professional, great person, and I’m glad that he decided to stick around the game because he’s very smart. He knows the game well.

GJ: Yeah, he was the manager here last year and he told me that you were really his most influential manager in terms of just your love and care for the players, the way you taught. Is that something that makes you happy, and is that part of why you do this — because you want to rub off on players like that?

AP: Definitely. It makes me happy, it makes me proud of them when I see them succeed and to accomplish their dream. And also as a person, it makes me better each year when I stick around and I get a chance to work with the players because it’s my dream to help them to get better and hopefully they will make it to the majors. But yes, that’s why I’m still doing it. I still have passion for teaching. And not so much the teaching part, but how to play the game the way right way, to respect the game. Then the human part, the relationship that you build with these kids, it sticks with you, and you see them doing well whether you’re in one organization or with somebody else. Personally, it’s a great accomplishment just to see them having success in life.

GJ: Those five years overall that you had with the Yankees — you’ve been with so many organizations — what did that time with the Yankees really mean for you and your career?

AP: The whole time I was with them, they treated me with respect, they trusted my knowledge, they let me work with the players, and definitely, it was a special time that I spent with them in the minor leagues.

Al Pedrique, second from right, managed the Trenton Thunder during the 2015 season. (Trentonian File Photo)
Al Pedrique, second from right, managed the Trenton Thunder during the 2015 season. (Trentonian File Photo)

GJ: When you left the Yankees, there was at the time some speculation you might become a big league manager again (was the Diamondbacks’ interim manager in 2004). Is that something you’re still hoping to do at some point, or at this point in your career, are you just happy to manage really anywhere?

AP: I still definitely have the hope that I will get a fair shot to manage a major league team. I’ve been in this game for so long, I’ve got the experience, I build good relationships with the players, the staff, the front office people. So who knows? If it happens, that’ll be great. And if it doesn’t, I’m happy where I am right now. As long as I can help the players and make a difference on their career, definitely I’ll be wanting to do it.

GJ: Being in Reading, this is your 10th organization in the major leagues as a player or coach. What’s it been like here?

AP: It’s been great. Reading is a baseball town. Working with the front office back in Reading is outstanding. They’re baseball people. They understand what we go through on a daily basis. They leave you alone because they know when we come to the park, we have a lot of things to do, take care of the players. So they’re not really in the middle of your job or trying to bother you with too much. They do a great job. And the town, my wife and I are really enjoying it. People are very nice, very polite. And the park, the atmosphere, when you come in every day, you can feel it’s a baseball town. It’s awesome.

GJ: Just to speak on some of your prospects here, right-handed pitcher Mick Abel (No. 2 Phillies prospect), what have your thought of his development?

AP: Abel, he’s only 21, and for him to be Double-A already means a lot. Great kid that has great stuff, great arm. He has a bright future. He works very hard, his work ethics are outstanding. And now he’s learning how to pitch. He’s learning how to prepare on a daily basis, keep up with a routine, be able to make adjustments on the spot. So the mental part, it takes time, and he understands that and we’ve seen some sign any time he goes on the mound that he’s learning how to be tough and how to challenge the hitter, understand the game situation, and I think so far he’s done a good job.

GJ: Right-handed pitcher Griff McGarry (No. 4 Phillies prospect), what about him?

AP: McGarry, he’s a tough one. He reminds me of when I had Roy Oswalt as a rookie with the Houston Astros. The mindset that, ‘I’m going to go get you. I’m going after you. I’m gonna challenge you with a fastball.’ And the mental part, he’s advanced. He understands the game, and he’s not afraid to go out there and compete. The same with Abel, they both love to compete, and McGarry has got great stuff, big league stuff, and I’m sure he’ll be up in the majors pretty soon.

GJ: Carlos De La Cruz (No. 9 Phillies prospect), one of your outfielders, big guy at 6-foot-8, does he remind you of anybody, or what do you think of his chances to get to the big leagues?

AP: Well for a big guy he reminds me of Aaron Judge. When I had Judge in Tampa it was the same type of swing: strikeouts, but you can see the power potential. You can see the potential of a guy that can hit the ball out of the park anywhere, hit for average. I think De La Cruz, he’s heading in the right direction. He’s trying to understand himself as a hitter, be consistent with his strike zone and be disciplined, and be more aggressive going after fastballs. I think he’s gonna be a great athlete. He has a good chance to get in the major leagues.

GJ: And Johan Rojas (No. 6 Phillies prospect), one of your other outfielders, what have you thought working with him?

AP: He’s great. Defensively right now, we know he can play in the big leagues. This guy can go get in the outfield, covers a lot of ground. His routes are outstanding. His arm strength is getting so much better. That’s another kid, he’s started understanding the key of throwing to the right base, keeping the double play in order. Obviously that’s a process that you learn while you’re playing, and the older you get, the higher the level you go, you know the competition is gonna get better. And then that’s where he’s paid more attention to be successful on the little details. And hitting, he’s been working very hard with our hitting coach, and I think he’s coming a long way.

GJ: I know way back when you were doing some scouting with the Astros in 2007, you found Jose Altuve in Venezuela. What have you thought of the career he’s had, and that has made you happy to see a guy that you pinpointed way back in the day become the player he is?

AP: I’m very proud of everything he’s done in the game. Back in the day when he was 16, I saw a kid that maybe, maybe has a chance to go to Double-A, Triple-A and higher. He worked so hard, he worked against all the odds, he knew that he had to show people that he can play some baseball. And I’m glad that we gave him the opportunity. He took advantage. He’s the kid that, back then, the only thing he wanted was just an opportunity. His signing bonus wasn’t very high. Back then the Astros’ international pool, they didn’t have a big budget, so what we gave Altuve, he took and he was happy with. And the rest is all his credit because he worked very hard, he believed in himself and he trusted the process.

GJ: You touched on this earlier with relationships with players, but going a little more into your style as a manager, what do you want your legacy to be as a manager? Just how do you feel like you’ve really stood out maybe as a manager?

AP: I treat people the same way I want to be treated. I understand that this game is hard, understand where these kids come from. Some of these kids, it’s their first time away from home. And I always feel like I want to put a smile on their face and make them feel good when they come to the park or when they leave the park. So my goal is treat people the same way you would like to be treated.

GJ: So you don’t have any plans to retire from the game any time soon, I guess?

AP: I don’t think so. As long as my body holds in there and people still believe in my knowledge and my experience and I’ve still got the passion for teaching the game and competing, I think I’m gonna stick around (laughs).

GJ: Last thing, Trenton, they obviously used to be the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate until Somerset took their spot. They’ve been in the MLB Draft League now for a few years. Just from what you remember of the people there, the front office, do you feel like that’s a franchise that deserves to be affiliated again at some point?

AP: Oh, definitely. I mean, no doubt. When I was there, like I said, they treated me well. They treated the team, the players well. Fans show up. The attendance that year, I think it was very good, big crowds. Weekends you can tell when school was out, weekends were packed. And like I said, the front office people took care of the team, and I had a great time that year in 2015 in Trenton.

Source: Berkshire mont

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