Shane Matheny could effectively play several positions and was probably the most productive offensive player among Richmond Flying Squirrels. The San Francisco Giants promoted him to Triple-A Sacramento Friday.
Before Matheny, other Double-A Richmond players moved up to Sacramento. This delights Dennis Pelfrey, the Flying Squirrels’ first-year manager. That’s his goal: develop players.
But upward movement in the system from Richmond invariably creates talent gaps, at least temporarily, at Double-A. And with other Giants’ affiliates being on the West Coast, Pelfrey sometimes works with a less-than-full roster.
Two of his top run-producers — Sean Roby and Frankie Tostado — are on the injured list. Infielder Riley Mahan arrived from High-A Eugene Saturday at about 5 p.m. and played that night against Somerset.
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“It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle without a map,” Pelfrey said. “You’ve got to kind of figure it out along the way.”
Being a Double-A manager involves complexities most folks who observe from The Diamond’s stands do not consider. Among them:
Double-A is the pivotal tier
- for players. Fail at Double-A and you will likely be passed by younger players and buried in — or separated from — the organization. The manager tries to balance giving all players opportunities, and directing a successful operation.
“From day one, I preach, ‘We have to be able to win with everybody,’” said Pelfrey.
He talks about “increasing values” of players, convincing them that a pinch-hit opportunity in an RBI situation during a tight game could be a career-enhancer, for instance.
“Not saying he has to be happy about it,” Pelfrey said. “But understand that it’s part of his development, too.”
To Pelfrey, having a roster full of completely satisfied players is as feasible as a five-run homer, but he consistently advises his reserves to stay ready for situations he envisions and explains to them.
“If that spot comes up, do it. If it doesn’t, we won’t,” he said. “But he’ll be prepared and ready to get in the game.”
- The lineup card is filled out by Pelfrey, who led Eugene to a league title last year in his first season with the Giants, but his superiors are in on it, too.
“We have a few guidelines we have to go by, but other than that, there’s a lot of freedom in there, especially in Double-A here for me,” said Pelfrey. “Last year, I had a little more guidance, if you will, on what to do. Coming here, whether it’s because we’re on the East Coast and everybody else is on the West Coast, or the fact that they liked the job I did last year … “
- In Double-A, releasing a player may mean the end of a career and a lifelong dream. If San Francisco determines a Flying Squirrel must go, Pelfrey delivers the news, as he has a few times this season.
Pelfrey played and managed in independent baseball, whose teams are not affiliated with MLB organizations, and he counsels players released by the Giants to try to hook on there.
“You trained the whole offseason for this season, so at least play the season out,” said Pelfrey, who helps released players find independent-league jobs. “Then, maybe you get picked back up. If not … Why not end your baseball career on a really good note, just have some fun and not have all the pressure on you to perform?”
- Players should receive the positive feedback that accompanies winning, and it’s the manager’s responsibility to absorb the negative feedback when the team struggles, Pelfrey believes.
“I want all the players to have the credit because those are the guys we’re trying to push to the big leagues,” he said. “That’s who everybody here comes to see. They don’t come here to see me manage.”
Afternoon rain in Richmond canceled Sunday’s scheduled game involving the Flying Squirrels and the Somerset Patriots.
Each of the teams already qualified for the Eastern League playoffs by capturing first-half divisional championships. Somerset (New York Yankees) and Richmond do not meet again this regular season.
The Flying Squirrels leave Monday morning for New Hampshire (Toronto Blue Jays), where they begin a six-game series Tuesday night.