Jimmy Gonzalez’s second season as manager of the South Bend Cubs has gone extremely well. Gonzalez piloted his team to the best record in the Midwest League and was the first half Eastern Division Champions. While player development is the focus for all minor league managers and coaching staffs, Gonzalez has put the players in position to win ballgames. And the South Bend Cubs have won a lot of games which makes coming to the park fun for the players, coaches and fans.
With the conclusion of the first half of the season, it seemed like a good time to sit down with South Bend Cubs’ manager Jimmy Gonzalez and get his assessment of the team’s progress.
Tom Usiak: Congratulations on a great first half of the season. Can you sum up your feelings? Have there been any surprises?
Jimmy Gonzalez: Thank you. We have had a great first half, and the players are progressing on a daily basis. I don’t really have any surprises, because each and every player is expected to perform.
TU: Coming into the season, there was a lot of focus on the talent in your outfield. How do you assess their progress to this point?
JG: Our outfield has played great defensively. We are seeing a lot of progress with Eloy [Jimenez]. I had him down in the AZL [Arizona Rookie League], and the improvement has been noticeable. He is getting better at getting to balls down the line, and in cutting off angles.
Donnie [Dewees] is just amazing in center field. He does not always get the best jumps, but has incredible speed. He has made some amazing catches. Donnie is a great hitter to have in your line-up because you can bat him lead-off, you can bat him third, and you can even bat him second.
TU: Sticking with the outfielders, can you tell the readers a little more about Daniel Spingola?
JG: Dan is in the outfield rotation, and he is very even keeled. He’s flying under the radar right now, but he can play all three outfield positions, is very confident, and is an above average runner. Dan has won some games for us with his defense. [Daniel Spingola has since been promoted to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans]
TU: There was also some anticipation of the pitching rotation. However, some things have not worked out. Where do you see the rotation now, and who seems ready to break out?
JG: The early season weather played a big factor, as a lot of our pitchers are “feel” pitchers, and they just couldn’t get the right feel in the cold. Preston Morrison is now getting better with the warm weather, as is Kyle Twomey.
TU: As a follow up, Carson Sands has been one of your most consistent starters, has he emerged as a leader?
JG: Carson is one of our leaders. He can execute his game plan and pitches, and is very consistent.
TU: Going forward, who looks to become your sixth starter?
JG: Right now, Casey Bloomquist is our sixth starter.
TU: One of the most pleasant surprises is how well your bullpen has performed. Can you let the readers know a little bit more about this unexpected strength of South Bend?
JG: The bullpen has been great, and we can count on a number of players to step up. One look at our stats shows how many have saves up to this point. We are losing Casey (Bloomquist) out there, but we have pitchers who are able to handle multiple roles. James Norwood, Greyfer Eregua, and Craig Brooks can all close out games.
TU: One more question about the bullpen, can you inform us a little about your newest member, Pedro Araujo?
JG: For right now, we see Araujo solely in the bullpen. He’s a big guy with a power arm. He is much improved from when I had him in the AZL. He is now very confident, and shows when he is on the mound.
TU: Some final questions. What is the outlook for the second half, and are there any other prospects we might see with South Bend?
JG: At present, we want to finish the first half strong, continue to play hard, and eliminate mistakes.
I have heard about a few players, but you cannot get consumed on who will or won’t be on your roster. Last season, injuries played a bigger factor than this year. We are glad at this point for our good fortune, and hope it continues.