The High-A Frederick Keys finished the 2013 campaign with a 27-43 record in the Northern division of the Carolina League. But with plenty of depth within Baltimore’s minor league farm system, the Keys have plenty to look forward to in the coming years.
Orioles-Nation was given the opportunity to speak with Keys pitching coach Kennie Steenstra regarding the present and future of Frederick’s pitching prospects, and what he does to keep himself busy during the off-season.
Orioles-Nation: How much time during the off-season do you usually spend thinking about baseball and/or the upcoming season?
Kennie Steenstra: I spend a great deal of time thinking about baseball in general, watching the transactions, and keeping up with some of the pitchers I have had over the years. As winter winds down and spring training approaches, I tend to start thinking more about what pitchers I might have and what the upcoming season will look like.
ON: Do you have certain things you like to focus on most during the off-season, maybe things to improve upon or adjustments to make with certain pitchers?
KS: Generally my focus is on taking a break and spending time with my family. I do put thought into how things went with certain pitchers and some things to suggest for next year to further advance their development. Sometimes it is good to step back and think about a new approach when someone has been struggling.
ON: You’ve jumped around the Orioles’ organization as a pitching coach over the years (Shorebirds, Keys, Baysox), who would you say are some of the pitchers that have stood out most to you in terms of developing?
KS: I’ve been fortunate to have some talented staffs over the years, especially the last few of them. Obviously guys like Kevin Hart, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Pedro Beato, and Brad Bergesen, etc. jump out to me. Tim Berry and Eduardo Rodriguez made huge strides this past season, as evidenced by their Arizona Fall League results recently. Mike Wright and Jake Pettit also made wonderful progress back in 2012.
ON: As a former minor league and major league pitcher yourself, what lessons (that you learned or experienced firsthand) are you now applying to the pitchers that you’re coaching?
KS: After pitching in the minor leagues for over 10 seasons, and now getting ready to coach my 10th season, there aren’t too many situations that arise that I either did not go through myself or have seen someone go through. I feel that my experiences definitely help me relate better to the pitchers that are under my watch.
KS: They are both incredible talents and we are lucky to have them. I’ve spent more time with Dylan, but got to know Kevin some at the end of the 2012 season when he pitched for us in the Eastern League playoffs. Both of them have electric stuff and are super-competitive. Should be fun to watch both of them for many years to come.
ON: Have you seen or heard much about 2013 First-Round pick Hunter Harvey yet? If so, what’s your take on him?
KS: I have not met him or seen him personally. I have heard/read wonderful things about him. Obviously, he comes from good bloodlines, which can only help him as he moves forward.
ON: When working with new guys, whether they be young draft picks such as Harvey, or veterans that are brought into the organization from another team, what are some of the things that you do to get acclimated with them?
KS: No matter the situation, players are all similar in one regard. They want to get better and are looking for ways to move forward and reach their goals. My approach is to get to know each pitcher personally and attempt to give them insights on how to improve. I feel you need to talk with players about their backgrounds, what has/hasn’t worked for them in the past, and just a general knowledge of what drives them. The tricky part is figuring out each player’s personality and what motivates them.
ON: What are your expectations for the Keys heading into 2014?
KS: It is so hard to predict at this time. Our roster will depend so much on what moves are/aren’t made above us, and who ends up coming our way. The good news is that I feel our organizational depth has increased so much in the last few years, that the odds of us having some quality players/pitchers is strong.
ON: During your playing career you spent time with several different organizations, including the Orioles. Was there anything specific that drew you to Baltimore’s organization when you decided to get into coaching?
KS: When I decided to get into coaching after my playing days were done, I obviously contacted the organizations that I had played for first. Unfortunately, the process took longer than I would have liked, and I actually spent a year coaching Independent ball in Lincoln, NE. That fall I was contacted by Dave Stockstill about a possible opening, and after an interview or two, was hired to coach in Delmarva the next spring.
ON: Any final thoughts on the improvements that the Baltimore Orioles should make in order to make a playoff push in 2014?
KS: I have a great deal of confidence in our leadership to make the additions/subtractions that we need to help us get back to the playoffs. As far as the player development side of things, I feel that we have made great strides the last few years to have players ready to compete at the big league level.