NYMIP Mag: Clubhouse Chatter -- Tyler Yates

When Jae Weong Seo struggled in spring training, Art Howe didn't have to look very far for a potential replacement. Rookie Tyler Yates carried an 0.64 ERA into his final start of the Grapefruit League schedule, leading Howe to anoint him the Mets' No. 4 starter. <P> Yates sat down with Inside Pitch to reflect on his strong spring and the long road to the major leagues, kicking off the 2004 season with our first edition of Clubhouse Chatter. (Preview of Inside Pitch Magazine Content)

Clubhouse Chatter: Tyler Yates

Full Name: Tyler Kali Yates
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 220
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Birthplace: Lihue, HI
Home: Koloa, HI
I definitely feel like I made an impression this spring with the Mets coaching staff. I was able to put up just as good numbers as anyone on the pitching staff, and I don't think I could have done any better.

I'm starting the year with the Mets, but no matter where I am this season -- whether it's in New York or at Norfolk -- as long as I can keep going out there and pitching well hopefully I can continue to make an impression. I want my name to be out there as a guy who can get the job done.

I had Tommy John surgery on my pitching arm almost two years ago, and it's been a long road back -- a quick, but long, road. Last year, I pitched at three levels, but I didn't really look at it as a rehab year. It was more like a year learning another position, because I went from being a reliever to a starter. It's been interesting and it's been fun, too.

I now consider myself a starter. I know that if I'm not up with the big club as a starter, I'll be back down at Norfolk in the rotation. If I had to choose between the chance of being in the big leagues and being in the minors, obviously I'd rather be in the majors. But it doesn't look like there's any room for me in the Mets' bullpen, so in that case I'd rather be starting at Norfolk.

Growing up in Hawaii, I never really had anyone to take me under their wing and teach me the finer points of baseball. My dad played softball and he would take me out to the diamonds and play catch with me, that kind of thing, but I never really had a coach who made a huge impact on me. Basically, I got through high school and college ball just on talent alone, and it wasn't until I signed professionally that I really got serious about learning baseball as a game.

Playing high school ball in Hawaii is a lot different than the schools on the mainland. Where I went, we only had three teams in the area, so I'd face the same lineups 15 or 20 times a year and just make adjustments to keep getting those guys out. Then, when the summer would come and I'd join leagues, I'd find myself facing a lot of the same hitters, so I'd just keep making those adjustments. Looking back, I think learning to make those changes to the way I went after hitters has helped me out a lot.

Rick Peterson has been a big help to me since he's come here to the Mets. What Rick and other coaches along the way, like Randy Niemann and Al Jackson, have taught me is that it's all about location and not just velocity. Even though I can throw the ball as hard as anyone in the game, it doesn't matter because in the big leagues anyone can hit a 97 MPH fastball.

It all comes down to where I can place my pitches, and the crispness of those pitches, that will make the difference. If you can throw the ball 92 MPH and follow it with an 80 MPH change-up, you'd be almost unhittable -- that's what Pedro Martinez does, and Eric Gagne too. I watch those guys on TV, and I just think, ‘Those guys are unbelievable.'

When I'm on the mound, I don't really think about my arm strength. It's great to have and I know I can throw the ball hard, but to me, it's just the way I pitch. God's given me a gift, and I'm lucky to have it. I'm the most worried about just trying to hit the catcher's glove and execute a quality pitch, because that's what I try to do.

- As told to Bryan Hoch

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