Q&A with Rick Waits - Part I

Rick Waits, the Mets Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with InsidePitchMagazine.com for a long Q&A session. In Part One of a four-part series, Coach Waits talks about the future he sees for Bobby Parnell, the growth he has seen in Jonathon Niese, why Brad Holt is so impressive and much, much more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: Bobby Parnell is a guy right on the cusp. What are the strides he still needs to make? How important is consistency with him? Is the bullpen the ultimate spot for him or will he continue to be worked as a starter for the future?

Rick Waits: I think first off all, whether he's a starter or a reliever, that'll be a decision of our front office and the major league staff. I've had him since day one since he was drafted and seen his development right up to the big leagues and seen him pitch good innings in the big leagues. Right now, he's still a starter, he's pitching as a starter in the Arizona Fall League and he can pitch as a starter in the big leagues. I think when he comes around to Spring Training, he will be a starter when camp comes. However, whether he goes into the bullpen will be up to how the rotation has needs and what will make our pitching staff the best it can be. I think right now he's still a starter.

The biggest change for him is shortening up his slider. Sometimes his slider gets big and he has a hard time throwing it for strikes. That's one of the biggest things he's working on the Arizona Fall League is shortening up that slider and getting it tighter. He loves the slider right now. I saw him pitch four shutout innings last week and he got a number of swings and misses with the slider.

Inside Pitch: Jonathon Niese is a guy who obviously came along in a big way this year as he made his debut with the Mets. What were the areas of significant growth with him and what he does he need to do to be more successful the next time he is with the big league club?

Waits: I think the main thing with Jon is that he's ready. He's ready to compete at the upper levels. Of course when he gets to Spring Training it will be a matter of making the club or not making the club, but I think what he has realized is that it's the combination of all his pitches together that make him such a good a pitcher. He's certainly got a plenty good enough fastball at 88-92 MPH, but I think he's really understood how good his curveball can be. Also, I think the cut fastball he is using inside against righties and his changeup are making his fastball and curveball even better. With him understanding that, it will open up all new avenues for him.

Inside Pitch: Brad Holt came into Brooklyn with a powerful fastball and very good extension, but it seemed the curveball was a sticking pinot with him. How do you see his curveball, as well as his changeup coming along? Is it fair to say he is beyond the idea that he is a "one-pitch pitcher"? Do you envision him in staying in the rotation long term?

Waits: There's no doubt that he's more than the fastball. Coming in, he had a breaking ball that he wasn't sure was a slider or a curveball, and it's definitely a curveball. It really improved to where by the end of the year he really felt it was as effective as his fastball when it comes to its use. He really came a long way with it. I think with guys like him, and other pitchers who throw hard like him, they have tendencies to live on their fastball while the other pitches aren't as important. The thing with Holt is, he realized how important it is to have two or three or four pitches. But now he has utmost confidence in his curveball.

As far as his changeup, he had a changeup coming in. He had a good feel for the pitch but he hadn't thrown it much. Hector Berrios worked with him on the pitch and he got to a point where he'd throw the changeup any time it was called and he's at the point now where he has three solid pitches.

But he's definitely a guy who should stay in the rotation. One of the things is that regardless if a pitcher is a starter or a reliever down the road, you always want a pitcher to be a starter when they get to pro ball because they get more innings and have an opportunity to use all their pitches.

Inside Pitch: Eddie Kunz is another fast mover. He had the strong season in Binghamton before getting called up to New York and going back to New Orleans where you got to work with him one-on-one. How do you feel about the quality of his slider and changeup? Are those secondary pitches his last hurdle?

Waits: I think nobody has more confidence in his sinker than Eddie and he knows that's a positive thing, that he can go out there and throw his sinker and get outs. But he also knows that if he's going to pitch 75-80 innings per year as a reliever, he needs more than the sinker. Last year, he went to the Arizona Fall League to really learn the slider. Then, he was getting really flat with his slider but he really concentrated on the pitch from day one this year and really made a lot of progress. I got a chance to see him pitch this last Friday and he struck out two batters with his slider. He's getting real good depth with the pitch, he has it with him game to game and I think that's key. Before, he would have the slider for one game and then lose it for a couple games. Now, he seems to have the slider every game out.

I think the main thing with Eddie is that he realizes that he needs a third pitch. Towards the end of the season, we tried to find a changeup grip that's suitable and workable to him. I think he finally found a grip that benefits him. At the end of the year in Triple-A, it really started to come around and it's even better now. He's able to throw it more here in the Arizona Fall League, and he's throwing more on the side and in the bullpens. I think this upcoming year, we'll see a guy with two very solid pitches and a third that's on its way.

Inside Pitch: Brant Rustich is a pitcher with loads of potential and tremendous stuff, but injury has not allowed him to really open it up as he would like to. What are some of the steps you continue to take with him?

Waits: It's a matter of getting Brant healthy. Otherwise, I think he's got everything needed to make it to the major leagues, but we need to find a way to get him healthy. In his first year in Brooklyn, he was as good a pitcher as anyone in that entire league. He's got a very hard slider, a good curveball that he doesn't use much, a very tough changeup and of course his fastball which can be middle-90s. I think the main thing with him is health.

Sometimes when you have a setback with you arm, especially in Spring Training like he did, you try to make up for lost time. He's just got to understand that it was a year that he had some injuries and where he didn't get a lot of innings, but he's got the stuff and it's a matter of getting healthy and staying in shape. He just needs to have a good year no matter the level. Here's a guy who for sure had two major league pitches right out of college with his fastball and slider. He knows how to pitch, but it's a matter of getting innings under his belt to get him up to pro ball.

Inside Pitch: The early returns on Scott Shaw have been very favorable with his deep repertoire and good approach. What other steps are being taken with him?

Waits: I think he's probably one of the most prepared pitchers that we have in the organization, and that's really amazing coming in. I don't think anyone studies the game more or is more meticulous about his preparation. When he goes out there, he's really, really focused all the time. Now, he is a guy I didn't see pitch very much during the season since I went to Triple-A, and I didn't get to see him or really work with him until the Instructional League.

But I think the main thing with him is believing in his fastball. He can sink his fastball, he's got a good four-seamer and a very good breaking ball, the changeup, but I think it's a matter of him realizing he's a fastball pitcher. He's a pitcher with real good size and great determination and I think it's a matter of him just getting innings, to go out there and get experience. I think this is going to be a fast track guy.

Inside Pitch: Tobi Stoner is a guy who continues to persevere. He works hard, has strong control of a deep repertoire, but particularly the changeup has been a focus for him this year. Is the changeup a pivotal pitch for him? Overall, what are the strengths you see in him as he continues to move up?

Waits: I think it was in the middle of the 2007 season that he really understood how important the changeup was for his repertoire. He had a good changeup for a probably a year and a half, but now he's realizing how it helps his other pitches and helps him get deeper into games and really believe how good it is. It's not a matter of whether the changeup is there; it's a matter of how he uses it. He's got four solid pitches, but how he will use them together is the main thing about the next step in his development. There are some innings where he can use them all or some innings where he won't. He too is pitching really well in the Arizona Fall League. I know I've been saying that about all our guys in the Fall League, but it's really been something how well they've all pitched.

As for Stoner, he really understands that not only are his secondary pitches good, but he's got a very good fastball. He's beginning to understand that he's a fastball pitcher first with very good secondary pitches. Once he gets that locked in his head then he'll really get used to using all four pitches in an appropriate way. Lastly, he's a guy who is very hungry to make it to the big leagues and he's a guy who works very hard and has exceptional passion for the game.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: Bobby Parnell is a guy right on the cusp. What are the strides he still needs to make? How important is consistency with him? Is the bullpen the ultimate spot for him or will he continue to be worked as a starter for the future?
\r\n
\r\nRick Waits: I think first off all, whether he's a starter or a reliever, that'll be a decision of our front office and the major league staff. I've had him since day one since he was drafted and seen his development right up to the big leagues and seen him pitch good innings in the big leagues. Right now, he's still a starter, he's pitching as a starter in the Arizona Fall League and he can pitch as a starter in the big leagues. I think when he comes around to Spring Training, he will be a starter when camp comes. However, whether he goes into the bullpen will be up to how the rotation has needs and what will make our pitching staff the best it can be. I think right now he's still a starter.
\r\n
\r\nThe biggest change for him is shortening up his slider. Sometimes his slider gets big and he has a hard time throwing it for strikes. That's one of the biggest things he's working on the Arizona Fall League is shortening up that slider and getting it tighter. He loves the slider right now. I saw him pitch four shutout innings last week and he got a number of swings and misses with the slider.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Jonathon Niese is a guy who obviously came along in a big way this year as he made his debut with the Mets. What were the areas of significant growth with him and what he does he need to do to be more successful the next time he is with the big league club?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think the main thing with Jon is that he's ready. He's ready to compete at the upper levels. Of course when he gets to Spring Training it will be a matter of making the club or not making the club, but I think what he has realized is that it's the combination of all his pitches together that make him such a good a pitcher. He's certainly got a plenty good enough fastball at 88-92 MPH, but I think he's really understood how good his curveball can be. Also, I think the cut fastball he is using inside against righties and his changeup are making his fastball and curveball even better. With him understanding that, it will open up all new avenues for him.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Brad Holt came into Brooklyn with a powerful fastball and very good extension, but it seemed the curveball was a sticking pinot with him. How do you see his curveball, as well as his changeup coming along? Is it fair to say he is beyond the idea that he is a \"one-pitch pitcher\"? Do you envision him in staying in the rotation long term?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: There's no doubt that he's more than the fastball. Coming in, he had a breaking ball that he wasn't sure was a slider or a curveball, and it's definitely a curveball. It really improved to where by the end of the year he really felt it was as effective as his fastball when it comes to its use. He really came a long way with it. I think with guys like him, and other pitchers who throw hard like him, they have tendencies to live on their fastball while the other pitches aren't as important. The thing with Holt is, he realized how important it is to have two or three or four pitches. But now he has utmost confidence in his curveball.
\r\n
\r\nAs far as his changeup, he had a changeup coming in. He had a good feel for the pitch but he hadn't thrown it much. Hector Berrios worked with him on the pitch and he got to a point where he'd throw the changeup any time it was called and he's at the point now where he has three solid pitches.
\r\n
\r\nBut he's definitely a guy who should stay in the rotation. One of the things is that regardless if a pitcher is a starter or a reliever down the road, you always want a pitcher to be a starter when they get to pro ball because they get more innings and have an opportunity to use all their pitches.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Eddie Kunz is another fast mover. He had the strong season in Binghamton before getting called up to New York and going back to New Orleans where you got to work with him one-on-one. How do you feel about the quality of his slider and changeup? Are those secondary pitches his last hurdle?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think nobody has more confidence in his sinker than Eddie and he knows that's a positive thing, that he can go out there and throw his sinker and get outs. But he also knows that if he's going to pitch 75-80 innings per year as a reliever, he needs more than the sinker. Last year, he went to the Arizona Fall League to really learn the slider. Then, he was getting really flat with his slider but he really concentrated on the pitch from day one this year and really made a lot of progress. I got a chance to see him pitch this last Friday and he struck out two batters with his slider. He's getting real good depth with the pitch, he has it with him game to game and I think that's key. Before, he would have the slider for one game and then lose it for a couple games. Now, he seems to have the slider every game out.
\r\n
\r\nI think the main thing with Eddie is that he realizes that he needs a third pitch. Towards the end of the season, we tried to find a changeup grip that's suitable and workable to him. I think he finally found a grip that benefits him. At the end of the year in Triple-A, it really started to come around and it's even better now. He's able to throw it more here in the Arizona Fall League, and he's throwing more on the side and in the bullpens. I think this upcoming year, we'll see a guy with two very solid pitches and a third that's on its way.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Brant Rustich is a pitcher with loads of potential and tremendous stuff, but injury has not allowed him to really open it up as he would like to. What are some of the steps you continue to take with him?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: It's a matter of getting Brant healthy. Otherwise, I think he's got everything needed to make it to the major leagues, but we need to find a way to get him healthy. In his first year in Brooklyn, he was as good a pitcher as anyone in that entire league. He's got a very hard slider, a good curveball that he doesn't use much, a very tough changeup and of course his fastball which can be middle-90s. I think the main thing with him is health.
\r\n
\r\nSometimes when you have a setback with you arm, especially in Spring Training like he did, you try to make up for lost time. He's just got to understand that it was a year that he had some injuries and where he didn't get a lot of innings, but he's got the stuff and it's a matter of getting healthy and staying in shape. He just needs to have a good year no matter the level. Here's a guy who for sure had two major league pitches right out of college with his fastball and slider. He knows how to pitch, but it's a matter of getting innings under his belt to get him up to pro ball.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: The early returns on Scott Shaw have been very favorable with his deep repertoire and good approach. What other steps are being taken with him?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think he's probably one of the most prepared pitchers that we have in the organization, and that's really amazing coming in. I don't think anyone studies the game more or is more meticulous about his preparation. When he goes out there, he's really, really focused all the time. Now, he is a guy I didn't see pitch very much during the season since I went to Triple-A, and I didn't get to see him or really work with him until the Instructional League.
\r\n
\r\nBut I think the main thing with him is believing in his fastball. He can sink his fastball, he's got a good four-seamer and a very good breaking ball, the changeup, but I think it's a matter of him realizing he's a fastball pitcher. He's a pitcher with real good size and great determination and I think it's a matter of him just getting innings, to go out there and get experience. I think this is going to be a fast track guy.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Tobi Stoner is a guy who continues to persevere. He works hard, has strong control of a deep repertoire, but particularly the changeup has been a focus for him this year. Is the changeup a pivotal pitch for him? Overall, what are the strengths you see in him as he continues to move up?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think it was in the middle of the 2007 season that he really understood how important the changeup was for his repertoire. He had a good changeup for a probably a year and a half, but now he's realizing how it helps his other pitches and helps him get deeper into games and really believe how good it is. It's not a matter of whether the changeup is there; it's a matter of how he uses it. He's got four solid pitches, but how he will use them together is the main thing about the next step in his development. There are some innings where he can use them all or some innings where he won't. He too is pitching really well in the Arizona Fall League. I know I've been saying that about all our guys in the Fall League, but it's really been something how well they've all pitched.
\r\n
\r\nAs for Stoner, he really understands that not only are his secondary pitches good, but he's got a very good fastball. He's beginning to understand that he's a fastball pitcher first with very good secondary pitches. Once he gets that locked in his head then he'll really get used to using all four pitches in an appropriate way. Lastly, he's a guy who is very hungry to make it to the big leagues and he's a guy who works very hard and has exceptional passion for the game.
\r\n
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