Q&A with Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits

We sat down with Mets' Minor League Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits in Hagerstown to get some updates on injured pitchers like Scott Hyde, Matt Durkin, Matt Lindstrom, and Greg Ramirez, and to get his thoughts on the progression of Miguel Pinango, Jonathon Niese, and Alay Soler. Rick also names which pitchers impressed him the most in Spring Training.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: What's the status of Scott Hyde? How is he progressing from the Tommy John surgery, when can we expect to see him back in game action, and will he start off in Hagerstown when he does return?

Rick Waits: He had the surgery and was coming back. He was feeling great and had started throwing batting practice. He was getting close to getting into a game and he was on the bench in Spring Training and just got up and popped his back out. He had a little bulge in his back. That seems to have calmed down but he missed a couple of weeks there. He's back to throwing now.

He looked fine[before the back injury]. The main thing is he didn't have any pain, he felt great, and he didn't have any setbacks. He was ready, not to break Spring Training [with a long-season league team] even without the minor back injury, but he would have been real close. Right now I'm not exactly sure. We need to get him into some games and get him up to four or five innings also. Definitely we'd like to get him up to this league [South Atlantic League] for sure because of his age and experience. It is just a matter of what's happening here [Hagerstown] at the time.

Inside Pitch: What is the status of Matthew Durkin? How is he feeling?

Waits: 'Mac' is still having some setbacks with his arm. He's getting closer to throwing some BP's. He's just taking a little longer than we though he would, but he's been a little stiff in the shoulder. Hopefully he'll be back within the month, I hope, with Hagerstown.

Inside Pitch: How does Miguel Pinango, also coming back from Tommy John surgery, look to you so far this year?

Waits: He looks great. I saw him pitch the other night in Binghamton. He went five shutout innings and threw the ball great. He was throwing it [his fastball] at 88-91 MPH, had his great changeup as normal, and he's got that big smile on his face. We're really glad to have him back because he's a terrific pitcher and being in AA, he's on his way.

Inside Pitch: Matthew Lindstrom was throwing in pain last year and it now seems the experiment with him as a starter is over. What are your thoughts on him and is his transition to the bullpen now permanent?

Waits: I think he's got a better chance to get to the big leagues as a reliever than as a starter at this point. And you know, he loves it. He loves being in the pen since we made that change midway through last season. He's just about to get activated. He's throwing in games down there [Extended Spring Training] so it will only be a few days before he's activated and it will probably be in St. Lucie. A lot of our rehab guys, once they get ready, they go across the complex and pitch with the A-ball club to get a few innings under their belt before you decide where else you want to send them.

Inside Pitch: Which of the pitching prospects impressed you the most in Spring Training this year?

Waits: Jorge Reyes really impressed me and he always does. I think he's going to have a terrific year here with the Hagerstown team. I think Bryan Edwards is a kid at AA, who during the winter went to Puerto Rico and put up some great numbers down there. He just threw six shutout innings tonight [Monday] for Binghamton. You know, there's really quite a few guys that are going well. Down in St. Lucie of course you've got Mike Pelfrey, our number one pick from last year. We've got quite a few younger pitchers that are on their way.

Inside Pitch: Talking about the younger pitchers, what have you seen from Jonathon Niese so far?

Waits: Well we've always like Jonathon since he came out in the draft out of high school in Ohio. He went down to the Gulf Coast League and really had a terrific year for them and helped them to the playoffs. He's right where he should be right here [Hagerstown]. It will be good competition for him. I think he's going to put up a lot of good numbers this year. I see him being one of the leaders on the Hagerstown pitching staff. He's got real good command of all three pitches. He's got a good breaking ball but knows he has to get his breaking ball a little sharper. His changeup is another thing he needs to do. He was throwing it great last Spring and all through the summer last year. He throws the ball down low, he throws it hard, and he's strong. I don't think there's anything holding him back.

Inside Pitch: About Greg Ramirez, what was the thought process about sending him back to St. Lucie?

Waits: Well, he's not really in St. Lucie yet. He's in rehab right now. The very first day of Spring Training, he didn't look right. He had a real stiff shoulder and he still hasn't gotten over that. He's still down in Florida trying to find out why he's stiff in his shoulder. We're not quite sure why. He's seen the doctor a couple of times and now we've given him about seven to ten days off for complete rest before we start him back up again.

Inside Pitch: Finally, talk to us about Alay Soler. What are your thoughts on him so far and can you tell us about his repertoire?

Waits: Well, it is his first time in the states pitching. He spent the last year and half down in our Dominican Academy trying to get a visa. We got a visa for him. He also had a good game in his first start in St. Lucie. I think he went five shutout innings also. For him it is just getting acclimated to the states and acclimated to the type of pitching he needs to do here versus the places he has played. He's a big kid that's got really good potential, but he just needs to put it all together.

He's got a fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball has been from 88-93 MPH. Earlier in the Spring he wasn't throwing as hard as we remembered but the last couple of outings in Spring Training his velocity was back up and he was looking better. His slider is really, really good. He just needs to build up a little arm strength because he was off for so long, not from pitching, but from competition. And he needs to develop a better changeup. That's what we've been working on hard.

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: What's the status of Scott Hyde? How is he progressing from the Tommy John surgery, when can we expect to see him back in game action, and will he start off in Hagerstown when he does return?
\r\n
\r\nRick Waits: He had the surgery and was coming back. He was feeling great and had started throwing batting practice. He was getting close to getting into a game and he was on the bench in Spring Training and just got up and popped his back out. He had a little bulge in his back. That seems to have calmed down but he missed a couple of weeks there. He's back to throwing now.
\r\n
\r\nHe looked fine[before the back injury]. The main thing is he didn't have any pain, he felt great, and he didn't have any setbacks. He was ready, not to break Spring Training [with a long-season league team] even without the minor back injury, but he would have been real close. Right now I'm not exactly sure. We need to get him into some games and get him up to four or five innings also. Definitely we'd like to get him up to this league [South Atlantic League] for sure because of his age and experience. It is just a matter of what's happening here [Hagerstown] at the time.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: What is the status of Matthew Durkin? How is he feeling?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: 'Mac' is still having some setbacks with his arm. He's getting closer to throwing some BP's. He's just taking a little longer than we though he would, but he's been a little stiff in the shoulder. Hopefully he'll be back within the month, I hope, with Hagerstown.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: How does Miguel Pinango, also coming back from Tommy John surgery, look to you so far this year?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: He looks great. I saw him pitch the other night in Binghamton. He went five shutout innings and threw the ball great. He was throwing it [his fastball] at 88-91 MPH, had his great changeup as normal, and he's got that big smile on his face. We're really glad to have him back because he's a terrific pitcher and being in AA, he's on his way.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Matthew Lindstrom was throwing in pain last year and it now seems the experiment with him as a starter is over. What are your thoughts on him and is his transition to the bullpen now permanent?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think he's got a better chance to get to the big leagues as a reliever than as a starter at this point. And you know, he loves it. He loves being in the pen since we made that change midway through last season. He's just about to get activated. He's throwing in games down there [Extended Spring Training] so it will only be a few days before he's activated and it will probably be in St. Lucie. A lot of our rehab guys, once they get ready, they go across the complex and pitch with the A-ball club to get a few innings under their belt before you decide where else you want to send them.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Which of the pitching prospects impressed you the most in Spring Training this year?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: Jorge Reyes really impressed me and he always does. I think he's going to have a terrific year here with the Hagerstown team. I think Bryan Edwards is a kid at AA, who during the winter went to Puerto Rico and put up some great numbers down there. He just threw six shutout innings tonight [Monday] for Binghamton. You know, there's really quite a few guys that are going well. Down in St. Lucie of course you've got Mike Pelfrey, our number one pick from last year. We've got quite a few younger pitchers that are on their way.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Talking about the younger pitchers, what have you seen from Jonathon Niese so far?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: Well we've always like Jonathon since he came out in the draft out of high school in Ohio. He went down to the Gulf Coast League and really had a terrific year for them and helped them to the playoffs. He's right where he should be right here [Hagerstown]. It will be good competition for him. I think he's going to put up a lot of good numbers this year. I see him being one of the leaders on the Hagerstown pitching staff. He's got real good command of all three pitches. He's got a good breaking ball but knows he has to get his breaking ball a little sharper. His changeup is another thing he needs to do. He was throwing it great last Spring and all through the summer last year. He throws the ball down low, he throws it hard, and he's strong. I don't think there's anything holding him back.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: About Greg Ramirez, what was the thought process about sending him back to St. Lucie?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: Well, he's not really in St. Lucie yet. He's in rehab right now. The very first day of Spring Training, he didn't look right. He had a real stiff shoulder and he still hasn't gotten over that. He's still down in Florida trying to find out why he's stiff in his shoulder. We're not quite sure why. He's seen the doctor a couple of times and now we've given him about seven to ten days off for complete rest before we start him back up again.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Finally, talk to us about Alay Soler. What are your thoughts on him so far and can you tell us about his repertoire?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: Well, it is his first time in the states pitching. He spent the last year and half down in our Dominican Academy trying to get a visa. We got a visa for him. He also had a good game in his first start in St. Lucie. I think he went five shutout innings also. For him it is just getting acclimated to the states and acclimated to the type of pitching he needs to do here versus the places he has played. He's a big kid that's got really good potential, but he just needs to put it all together.
\r\n
\r\nHe's got a fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball has been from 88-93 MPH. Earlier in the Spring he wasn't throwing as hard as we remembered but the last couple of outings in Spring Training his velocity was back up and he was looking better. His slider is really, really good. He just needs to build up a little arm strength because he was off for so long, not from pitching, but from competition. And he needs to develop a better changeup. That's what we've been working on hard.
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