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Bandits' Warner learning from the best of the best
Phillies prospect taking notes from some of baseball's to arms
03/14/2012 11:37 AM ET
Warner delivers a pitch during the 2011/12 season for the Bandits.
Warner delivers a pitch during the 2011/12 season for the Bandits. (SMP Images / Ryan Schembri)
CLEARWATER, Florida, 14 March - It was just a regular Monday morning at the office.

That is, if you call chatting with three of baseball's biggest names regular, and if your office happens to be the Philadelphia Phillies minor league training complex in Clearwater, Florida.

Brisbane Bandits starter Josh Warner is back on the farm for the Phillies, getting ready for the upcoming season after just a short break between Australian Baseball League action, pitching for Surfer's Paradise, and heading to spring training. Helping him prepare on Monday morning were three of the National League's All-Stars from last year.

"We had a meeting today with Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels," Warner said, after a morning workout at Carpenter Complex. "That was good. It was great hearing the stuff they had to say about their routines and how they approach the game and all that kind of stuff.

"It was really good hearing some of the stuff from the best pitchers in baseball. That was an experience. That was phenomenal."

Though the 19-year-old's first impressions of the Phillies top pitchers likely came from watching them on the mound, Warner saw an entirely different side of the hurlers on Monday.

"All three of them are completely different personalities," the young right-hander said. "Cole Hamels is kind of laid back, but he gets into it. Roy Halladay doesn't say much. He's pretty intense but we had a few laughs today and stuff. And Cliff Lee, he's pretty funny. He doesn't really have a care in the world but he's probably one of the most confident guys that you're ever going to meet."

Not only did Warner have the chance to get to know the triad of pitching aces a little bit better, he got the opportunity to take pitching advice from the best in the game.

"There were a whole bunch of things about how to slow the game down, working on pitches, and what they do to work on pitches," he said of the meeting. "They said when they would work on the cutter or something, when they first throw the cutter, they just go to the extension side of the plate. That's all they throw.

"They don't even bother with the inside part of the plate until they know they have command and they can hit that spot every time. There were a lot of things, also their workout habits and how to take care of your body and stuff. It was really good."

Sitting amongst peers and listening to the greats talking about baseball is a unique opportunity given to young players at Phillies camp and Warner is grateful to have had the opportunity.

The righty knows firsthand how difficult it can be to approach older, more experienced pitchers, though he does have the added benefit of familiarity with his fellow Brisbane Bandits players at camp.

"I try to where I can but I don't want to bother them too much," Warner said of advice-seeking. "I don't want to be that kid that they're like, 'Ugh that Warner kid won't leave me alone.'"

"I've talked to Drew [Naylor] as much as I can, and he helps me out with a lot of my pitching. I tell him how my outings were, he watches me a lot, and he helps me with my alignment. He's been pretty good. It's good having him here."

Another advantage for the native of Surfer's Paradise stemming from his time with the Bandits over the season is that he is ahead of the curve when it comes to pre-season preparedness.

"It's good because a lot of these guys come into spring training not facing any hitters," he said. "But playing in the ABL back home you get to face hitters. You get to work on your pitches and they're a higher-class hitter than a lot of the guys I face here for the rookie ball. We've got some A-ball and Double-A guys [at home], so it's good to get in front of some older guys just to see where I'm at."

Warner was a spot starter this year in Brisbane, and went just 8 2/3 innings over his three starts. In total for the Bandits over the summer, he tossed 12 2/3 innings, fanning 12 hitters along the way. Though the right-hander isn't overly happy with how his season went, he attributes some of his struggles to the fact that he came in late in the year.

"It was tough," Warner said of his Bandits season. "Because last year, the first season of the ABL, was good because I had the whole year and I kind of started my season and finished it with the Bandits. So I had time to really work on everything and I was better for it.

"But this year I started, my first outing wasn't until January, so I wouldn't have control of my pitches like I would in the normal season. And it was tough to pitch against [the hitters] when they were in mid-season form."

During his time playing down under, Warner also faces a calibre of competition higher than any he's been up against so far in Philadelphia's minor league system.

Through one season with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, the young hurler has a 2-6 record to go with a 6.91 ERA in 10 games started. He made 12 appearances last season, throwing a total of 54 2/3 innings, walking just 12 batters while striking out 48. He will look to move up to the organisation's Class-A affiliate this year, hopefully getting a chance with the Lakewood BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League.

"A lot of the hitters in the [Aussie] lineups, mostly the guys like the No. 1 to 6 guys, those guys are a lot better than hitters I've faced, but I was only in the GCL last year," Warner said of the level of competition in Australia. "But facing people like [Allan] de San Miguel and guys like that from Perth, and [Adelaide's Denny] Almonte and everyone like that, it's just so much different when they have a plan when they're up at the plate.

"When you get these guys in the GCL, they're just free swingers and they're just trying to hit for the fences every time. It's really good. I think I learn a bit more in the ABL season from the more experienced hitters than I do in the season over here where guys are just swinging at anything."

The benefits of the league down under are obvious to Warner, but have also stirred an interest among other players at Phillies camp this spring.

"Everyone asks about the ABL," he said. "They're like, 'I heard one of my mates from the Twins or Kansas City played in the ABL this year.' And they're always asking me and [Phillies minor league coach and manager of the Canberra Cavalry Steve Schrenk] and all the other guys, 'Hey, what's going on with the ABL? Can I get a ticket? How do I get there next year?'

"They want to come to Australia because it's such a great place. And we're just like, 'Yeah, we'll see what we can do, maybe talk to [Bandits manager and Phillies minor league coach Kevin Jordan] or something.' They're all really interested in it. They love it. It would be a good chance for them too."

As much as Warner enjoys putting on the Philadelphia uniform, he will always have a special affinity for his ABL team, and looks forward to another season with the Bandits as he climbs up the Phillies ladder.

"Bandits is always fun," Warner said. "You can always expect to have a pretty good time. Because over here, everyone's competing for a job and it's a bit more intense. You have laughs with the guys but it's just not the same as with the Bandits, where everyone is just chilled and we all know each other. I definitely love getting back and playing with the Bandits. It's pretty exciting."

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.