Dodgers to Use Humidor at Albuquerque in 2013

Dodgers Vice President of Player Development De Jon Watson announced on Wednesday that their Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes will begin using humidor baseballs in 2013, just as the Colorado Rockies have done since 2002 at mile-high Coors Field. Watson made the announcement while being interviewed on MLB Network Radio’s Power Alley hosted by Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin.

De Jon Watson is considered among the best player development people in the business. Every year his name comes up as a possible general manager but fortunately for the Dodgers he has remained with the organization. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

De Jon Watson is recognized as one of the best player development people in the MLB.
(Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)

At an elevation of 5,300, Isotopes Park has long had a reputation for being a launch pad which, as Watson noted, is great for hitters, but not so great for their young pitching prospects.

“We knock a full run off of their ERA at Albuquerque when we evaluate them but that doesn’t help their confidence,” said Watson. “When our pitchers get hit hard, they end up changing the way that they pitch and we don’t want them to do that. Sure, there have been some guys who have done well there, but it’s a tough place to pitch.”

Watson said that they do their best to try to encourage their young Isotopes pitchers.

“We tell them ‘you can’t roll a ball over the fence,'” he kids. By this, of course, Watson means that if they keep the ball down in the zone and induce ground balls instead of fly balls, they will fair much better.

Watson said that the high elevation and dry air at Albuquerque can actually have an adverse effect on their hitters as well.

“Jerry Sands would hit balls out in dead center at Albuquerque that would be warning track fly outs at Dodger Stadium. We try to get our hitters to hit line drives in the gap instead of trying to lift the ball.”

While pitchers hated Isotopes Park, hitters like Jerry Sands loved it. On July 29, 2012, Sand hit two grand slams and collected 10 RBIs to tie a PCL record. (Photo credit - Evan Chavez)

While pitchers hate Isotopes Park, hitters like Jerry Sands loved it. On July 29, 2012, Sands hit two grand slams and collected 10 RBIs to tie a PCL record. (Photo credit – Evan Chavez)

The Isotopes won’t be the first minor league team to use humidor baseballs. In 2012, the Rockies Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs, which is almost the exact same elevation as Albuquerque, began using humidor baseballs. By the end of the season nearly every Sky Sox pitcher had lowered their ERA by a full run.

Longtime Colorado Rockies engineer Tony Cowell is in charge of the 400 dozen baseballs kept in the Coors Field humidor. (Photo credit - Ed Andrieski)

Longtime Colorado Rockies engineer Tony Cowell is in charge of the 400 dozen baseballs kept in the Coors Field humidor. (Photo credit – Ed Andrieski)

Over the past several years, the Dodgers have purposely kept their top pitching prospects away from the thin, dry air of Albuquerque, opting instead to promote them directly from Double-A Chattanooga to the major leagues – most notably Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez and several others. That being said, former Isotopes right-hander John Ely won the Pacific Coast League triple crown last season pitching at Albuquerque, thus earning the Dodgers prestigious Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. Spot starter Stephen Fife also pitched well at Albuquerque, but both Ely and Fife had excellent control at keeping the ball down in the zone. Ely was traded to the Houston Astros during the off-season where he hopes to earn a spot in the starting rotation for the American League West newcomers.

Whether using humidor baseballs will help the Isotopes pitching staff remains to be seen, but it’s pretty safe to say that it probably won’t hurt them.

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5 Responses to “Dodgers to Use Humidor at Albuquerque in 2013”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    It’s worth a try.It would be most useful to have young pitchers pitch in Albuquerque when there gets to be a glut of pitchers in AA. It would allow the pitchers to meet better hitting competition in preparation for MLB rather than stalling in Chattanooga. Plus, the loyal ‘Topes fans would have the opportunity to watch these next generation pitchers live. This may help. Seemed to help somewhat at Coors. Would also be helpful to the Isotope hitters.

    From USA Today: “The humidor has taken away Coors Field’s reputation as a hitter’s paradise and a pitcher’s purgatory. For a time, especially when Blake Street Bombers Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga and Larry Walker were batting for the Rockies, the park was known as Coors Canaveral.

    The number of home runs hit at Coors Field has dropped from 268 in 2001, tops at major league ballparks, to 185 this season, which ranks 10th. Runs overall are down as well, from 13.4 per game in 2001 to 10.58 this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau”

    Then, of course, there is this: Giants Accuse Rockies Of Cheating

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      Got a hat tip from MSTI. How cool is that?

      • Ron Cervenka says:

        I need all the hat tips I can get – especially if I’m going to buy a new BP hat. :lol:

        I was actually surprised that no one else picked up this story from Power Alley. Cranbrook Mike texted (is that a word?) me asking if I had heard De Jon’s interview which, of course, I had. I told Mike I was going to do a blog article on it so that I wouldn’t have to say “There goes that blog article.”  photo icon_eek.gif

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