Feb 21, 2018; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Houston Astros Class A manager Mickey Storey (93) poses for a photo at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A conversation with Sugar Land Space Cowboys manager Mickey Storey: Part I

Former Astros pitcher Mickey Storey is in his fifth season as a minor league manager in the organization, fourth at the Triple-A level. Storey sat down with Gallery Sports on Sunday and discussed organizational changes brought on by new general manager Dana Brown and the progress of Forrest Whitley in the first part of our conversation.

Gallery Sports: You have a new general manager in Dana Brown. Have you seen any changes that have trickled down to you yet?

Mickey Storey: “Not as much. I played for a lot of GMs, coached under a lot of GMs. It’s early in the season, still, and obviously early in his tenure, so it’s normal operating business at this point. We’ve been a good organization for a bunch of years, so it’s kinda just everyone doing what we’ve been doing. It’s worked through three GMs, so I’m sure this is going to be more of the same and probably even better with what we’ve got, so not a whole lot of change, just normal operating business.”

Obviously, (player development director Sara Goodrum) is still here, but has (Brown) signaled any philosophical changes he might have (for player development) that you haven’t done in the past?

“I don’t know if it’s anything different. I think every GM has the same intentions to build the farm, strengthen the big league team, and sustain winning. Obviously, we’ve sustained winning over the years, and I don’t see any change moving forward, except change for more of the same and potentially better, locking up some of these one-of-a-kind talents we have at the big league level and trying to get some of these young players better on our end in player development, but it’s a good spot and a good organization to be a part of, so it’s a good foundation to start your career in any role, so nothing I can put my finger on that’s different or going to be different. We’ve got a pretty good foundation here, and I’m sure we’re going to run with it.”

The GMs that you’ve worked for in the past they haven’t necessarily had a scouting background, so does that change anything for you? Does he give you different insights on players that maybe you haven’t gotten in the past?

“I haven’t gotten anything directly, but I think it changes things for the good. I’m a big believer in scouting in general. Even as a manager, even in player development. If we don’t have a little bit of a scouting eye then things can be challenging, and if you do have that, it gives you definitely an edge on the field just knowing what you see initially and then where it can grow to with player development and for what’s out there. You can make really strong decisions, really strong predictions on players if you have that scouting background and have that scouting eye, which obviously Dana has numerous amounts of years under his belt in scouting, so I think it’s all for the benefit. He’s been with some good organizations in the past and done some really cool things, so we’re lucky to have someone like that at the top of the organization, utilizing his skill set, being in scouting as his main source of knowledge, I think it’s going to help us drastically.”

I was at Forrest Whitley’s first spring start in West Palm Beach and his last start at Minute Maid. Talking to him after those starts he seemed to be in a really good place mentally. Have you seen that carry-over to the season?

“100 percent. He’s been in a really good mental space since spring training. He’s still young, but it’s almost like he’s been with us forever. He’s had his ups and downs, but this year I definitely noticed a change in maturity, just mental capacity of understanding that there’s going to be struggles no matter how good your stuff is, and the importance of being in the strike zone, and he’s been phenomenal in my opinion. His last outing, he went through normal pitcher stuff. Didn’t have his slider, didn’t have his changeup, so the results weren’t as good. He grinded through that outing with a fastball, and it wasn’t a terrible outing where we’ve seen him have some tough outings with all his stuff and pitch selection not working, and one pitch here, one pitch there, it escapes him and tarnishes the outing, but I think he’s in a really good spot moving forward. It’s the best I’ve seen out of him, best stretch I’ve seen out of him in a number of years, probably since his first or second full season, so I like what I see out of Forrest. His work ethic has always been good, but he seems really locked in, in all areas right now.”

Is the big thing for him just keep him on that rotation to where he’s making a full season of starts?

“Sure. The injuries have been part of his struggles as well. He’s had some hiccups with injuries, so keeping him in rotation, getting the ball every time it’s his turn, keeping his routine, all those things are very important. He’s a (40-man) roster guy. He’s someone we’re going to look to for roster depth at the big league level, and then keeping him a space where he’s productive and feeling good about his outings, and all those boxes are checked right now, so everything is in a good spot for Forrest.”

The strikeout numbers are really good, so does that indicate the stuff is where you guys, as an organization, thought it would be years ago?

“Any time you’re striking guys out that indicates that your stuff is better than the hitter’s equipped for, so when you’re striking guys out at the rate he is, it shows that the stuff is pretty electric. He had that exhibition start against the Astros and the hitters, I talked to a couple of guys, and they’re like, ‘Dude, his stuff was unbelievable,’ and it’s never been a question for Forrest if the stuff was good, or even better than most. I think we always knew that. It was more of putting it all together and sustaining the one good outing after another, and I think he’s reeled off a good amount of those right now, dating back to spring training.”

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