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Player development remains a focus in Bees’ win over Isotopes

SHARE Player development remains a focus in Bees’ win over Isotopes

SALT LAKE CITY — In the second inning of the Bees’ series-opening 9-5 win over the Albuquerque Isotopes on Friday night, there was a ground ball hit to Salt Lake second baseman Alex Yarbrough. It was a slow roller, and the young prospect fielded the ball with his eyes, put his glove on the ground and made a routine throw to register the out at first.

It was an elementary play for Yarbrough, and it didn’t bring any “oohs” or “aahs” from the fans at Smith’s Ballpark.

But one person who intently watched Yarbrough throughout the play was Director of Player Development Bobby Scales. The former Chicago Cubs second baseman never quite made it as a player, but developed a skill for optimizing talent during that time, hence the hire by the Angels back in 2012.

Scales was in Salt Lake City for the Bees; win on Friday, and according to him, his position is exactly what it sounds like it is — developing players.

“It’s not a trick title or anything. My job is to ensure the proper development of all these guys in our uniforms,” Scales said.

The words development and change can somewhat be related, especially when it comes to sports, but that’s not the case when developing these minor-league players.

“I think its refining what they do, and what they do well,” Scales said. “Identifying what they need to work on, and then going to work to try and make them the best baseball players they can be.”

But that's easier said than done. A lot of the time, teams either have young players coming into an organization that have been playing the game a certain way their entire lives, making it difficult to adjust, or they have older players who have changed their game already, but are still on the fringe of making it to that next level.

On the current Salt Lake roster, there are a number of players who have been called up and sent back down between here and Anaheim, which is tough to handle physically and mentally.

One Bee in particular who has admitted to struggling with this is utility man Grant Green. The USC product has been swapped back and forth between Salt Lake and Anaheim more times than he would have hoped throughout his career, and it’s been hard on him.

“It’s definitely tough,” Green said. “I’ve actually been struggling with it this year, a little bit more than last year. But just playing with the name on the front of the jersey.”

Scales' job is to come in and convince the 27-year-old Green, or any other Bee enduring similar situations, that by making slight changes to his game, those short-lived stays may turn into permanent ones.

“I think they need to keep in mind that the goal is not to get to the big leagues. You want to stay in the big leagues,” Scales said. “When you’re a Triple-A baseball player and you’ve been up and down, you’re one of the better baseball players in the world. The improvements that you need to make at this level to get there and stay there are not huge jumps, but they are incremental increases.”

The tiny battles and small successes that players for Salt Lake go through daily are starting to pay off, as the minor-league system has made a turn for the better. Not long ago, the Angels farm system was viewed as one of the weaker ones in the country, but in the last two seasons, five of seven Angel affiliates qualified for their respective postseasons.

Scales claims that while the ultimate goal is to develop these players so that they can play at the major-league level — with or without the Angels — winning is still important to this ballclub.

“These games count. There’s a scoreboard up there, the other team is out there,” Scales said. “At that point as a minor-league player, it’s just like you’re playing a wiffle ball game in the backyard with the kids in the neighborhood — you’re just trying to find a way to beat them.”

While the Bees got the win on Friday, there is still a lot of work to be done. Scales claims that the farm system is in a good place moving forward, despite Salt Lake's losing record.

“Really excited about what’s coming, it’s coming," Scales said. “It’ll be fun when it gets there,"

GAME NOTES: Former Ute C.J. Cron laced a triple to left to give the Bees their first two runs of the game … Yarbrough went 3-for-5 at the plate … Starting pitcher Drew Rucinski struck out seven in his outing ... The attendance was 8,493 … The Isotopes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

Twitter: @GriffDoug