Q&A with Rick Waits - Part II

Here is Part Two of InsidePitchMagazine.com's Q&A session with Mets Pitching Coordinator Rick Waits. In this next group, Waits explains the strengths of Jenrry Mejia, why Dillon Gee's stock is rising, the continued steps Michael Antonini needs to take and much more.

InsidePitchMagazine.com: Michael Antonini was a fast mover. What became stronger for him over the year and how has his slider come along?

Rick Waits: I think he came in out of the draft very tired after throwing a lot in college last season, and we only saw 86-88 MPH during his first year and his slider was a little flat and didn't break much. But he's got a great changeup and has a great feel for the pitch and isn't afraid to throw it. But after going to our winter conditioning program last off-season, he came into camp stronger, rested and he was a totally different pitcher I thought and took off from there.

This year, he still throwing his great changeup a lot, but his slider got a lot sharper and he began throwing 92 MPH with his fastball. Here he comes throwing 90-92 MPH when last year he was throwing 86-88 MPH. He was a great surprise for all of us and he's a guy who is pitch efficient. In his good games, he does not throw a lot of pitches. He goes right after the hitters and figures out how to get them out with the least amount of pitches as possible. But I agree his slider was one of the keys this year because always had the good fastball and good changeup.

Inside Pitch: Dillon Gee really had a big year in his second season getting up to Double-A and having success there. He added the breaking ball at his own discretion. What are your thoughts on his overall growth and complete tools as a starting pitcher?

Waits: I think the main thing with Gee is that he's got a great delivery with great balance. Therefore, he's able to locate as good as any of our other pitchers at the levels he was at. Again, he's another guy who is really knowledgeable of the game, studies the game and comes well-prepared. I think over the time he went from Brooklyn to finishing in Double-A this year, I think every part of his game got a little better. With some pitchers, it may be a case of making one pitch better or adding a pitch, but in his case, to me, his already strong delivery got better and all of his pitches got a little better. He did a better job holding runners, fielding and everything improved. He's got a solid approach to hitters. He's not out there to strikeout hitters even though he can, he's out there to get hitters out quickly.

He understands the importance of first-pitch strikes and he is one of the best pitchers in our organization with first-pitch strikes and putting hitters away. I think the last part he needed to learn at this stage of his career is improving his pitch sequences. Earlier in the year he was getting ahead and was putting hitters away, but by the end of the year he was really putting it all together pitch-by-pitch. He's a guy whose on his way and is a real tough competitor.

Inside Pitch: Jenrry Mejia was awfully impressive this year. He's on the shorter side, but throws very hard. What are the steps needed to fill out his game?

Waits: He's not very tall, but he's an extremely strong kid with a strong body and strong arm. He's probably got one of the best arms in the organization. He seems to never tire, get sore or tight and he's got a very sharp curveball. We've seen him hit 96-97 MPH and he pitches at 94-95 MPH, but what he needs like many young pitchers out of high school, or the academies, is innings. He just needs innings and game experience. I don't think we need to rush him or do anything but put him in the five-man rotation and let him understand the routines of day-to-day preparation for a game. He's shown to be an incredibly quick learner and knows he still needs work on his changeup. Everything that we've put before him over the winter and before the season, he took and improved. He improved his routines, he improved his breaking ball for strikes, he improved his changeup and his fastball command. But the main thing for him next year, and it doesn't matter to me at what level, it's a matter of having a good, solid year and game experience.

Inside Pitch: How do you continue to work with a guy like Scott Moviel? Obviously, his size is a big factor in his game, but is he getting the most of his size? Did you see more consistency in his delivery this year?

Waits: What you find with really tall pitchers is that there is a lot to coordinate there with a lot of moving parts and proportions. To be able to time all that and get in a position to the deliver the ball and use your bottom half is a little more difficult than a shorter pitchers. However, Scott Moviel is one of the most flexible pitchers that we have and he's really become stronger over the year. For me, he's probably the most improved pitcher from the beginning of the year to the finish. He started the year in Savannah and things were not going well. He was having a little trouble with every part of his game including fielding and throwing the ball to first. His breaking ball wasn't as sharp as it should be, he had trouble getting his pitches down, but he kept working and ending up leading the team in wins. His improvement was really amazing. I think he realized he could get movement on his fastball and sinking the fastball is what really helped him turn around have a strong year. I don't think we've even touched the surface of what this kid can do.

Inside Pitch: Dylan Owen got up to Double-A as well this year but seemed to lose consistency with his fastball when he got there. What kind of steps need to be taken to solidify his fastball and changeup given his strong breaking pitches?

Waits: His breaking balls are swing-and-miss pitches and he knows he has confidence in those pitches. He probably wants to throw them the breaking balls too much, but one thing I see in him that just glows when he's out there is that he's a winner. Even when he's off in his game or having trouble getting his fastball down, he finds a way to win ballgames and that's a great trait to have. Not only do we want to develop good, sound pitchers with good deliveries and good pitches, but we want to produce winners who will go out and help us win at the major league level.

I think in a nutshell, and he knows this, is that he needs to have better fastball command down in the zone and also start using his changeup a little bit more than his breaking balls. But it's great that when he gets in trouble he does have a very good breaking ball to go to. I think he just elevates his fastball a bit too often and he knows that in his good games when he had fastball command down in the zone, he would cruise through games.

Inside Pitch: Eric Niesen had a bit of a rocky year, but how do you see his repertoire maturing which will give him greater consistency?

Waits: I think the thing with Eric was that during his college days he was going back and forth starting and relieving and I think he pitched more in relief than he started. This year was a challenge for him of starting for the whole year. I think by the end of the year, he got very tired but I think he learned a lot of things about himself and his ability which is very important for a pitcher. I think he realizes he has a very good slider when he's going right but it's a very hard one to command when he's throwing it wrong. He threw a lot of sliders and learned that.

He likes to throw his changeup and wasn't afraid to throw it, but it's a pitch that needed to improve and it did—it improved during the year. He was also a little erratic with his fastball at the start of the year and last year in Brooklyn, but he understands that fastball command is going to be the foundation for his pitching. I talked with him the other day and he was excited about what he learned this year. He would have a good game, then a bad game, then two good games followed by two bad games so he went back and forth with consistency but he knows in mind what it will take to improve. At the same time, he knows he has very good stuff and can be a very good pitcher.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nInsidePitchMagazine.com: Michael Antonini was a fast mover. What became stronger for him over the year and how has his slider come along?
\r\n
\r\nRick Waits: I think he came in out of the draft very tired after throwing a lot in college last season, and we only saw 86-88 MPH during his first year and his slider was a little flat and didn't break much. But he's got a great changeup and has a great feel for the pitch and isn't afraid to throw it. But after going to our winter conditioning program last off-season, he came into camp stronger, rested and he was a totally different pitcher I thought and took off from there.
\r\n
\r\nThis year, he still throwing his great changeup a lot, but his slider got a lot sharper and he began throwing 92 MPH with his fastball. Here he comes throwing 90-92 MPH when last year he was throwing 86-88 MPH. He was a great surprise for all of us and he's a guy who is pitch efficient. In his good games, he does not throw a lot of pitches. He goes right after the hitters and figures out how to get them out with the least amount of pitches as possible. But I agree his slider was one of the keys this year because always had the good fastball and good changeup.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Dillon Gee really had a big year in his second season getting up to Double-A and having success there. He added the breaking ball at his own discretion. What are your thoughts on his overall growth and complete tools as a starting pitcher?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think the main thing with Gee is that he's got a great delivery with great balance. Therefore, he's able to locate as good as any of our other pitchers at the levels he was at. Again, he's another guy who is really knowledgeable of the game, studies the game and comes well-prepared. I think over the time he went from Brooklyn to finishing in Double-A this year, I think every part of his game got a little better. With some pitchers, it may be a case of making one pitch better or adding a pitch, but in his case, to me, his already strong delivery got better and all of his pitches got a little better. He did a better job holding runners, fielding and everything improved. He's got a solid approach to hitters. He's not out there to strikeout hitters even though he can, he's out there to get hitters out quickly.
\r\n
\r\nHe understands the importance of first-pitch strikes and he is one of the best pitchers in our organization with first-pitch strikes and putting hitters away. I think the last part he needed to learn at this stage of his career is improving his pitch sequences. Earlier in the year he was getting ahead and was putting hitters away, but by the end of the year he was really putting it all together pitch-by-pitch. He's a guy whose on his way and is a real tough competitor.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Jenrry Mejia was awfully impressive this year. He's on the shorter side, but throws very hard. What are the steps needed to fill out his game?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: He's not very tall, but he's an extremely strong kid with a strong body and strong arm. He's probably got one of the best arms in the organization. He seems to never tire, get sore or tight and he's got a very sharp curveball. We've seen him hit 96-97 MPH and he pitches at 94-95 MPH, but what he needs like many young pitchers out of high school, or the academies, is innings. He just needs innings and game experience. I don't think we need to rush him or do anything but put him in the five-man rotation and let him understand the routines of day-to-day preparation for a game. He's shown to be an incredibly quick learner and knows he still needs work on his changeup. Everything that we've put before him over the winter and before the season, he took and improved. He improved his routines, he improved his breaking ball for strikes, he improved his changeup and his fastball command. But the main thing for him next year, and it doesn't matter to me at what level, it's a matter of having a good, solid year and game experience.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: How do you continue to work with a guy like Scott Moviel? Obviously, his size is a big factor in his game, but is he getting the most of his size? Did you see more consistency in his delivery this year?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: What you find with really tall pitchers is that there is a lot to coordinate there with a lot of moving parts and proportions. To be able to time all that and get in a position to the deliver the ball and use your bottom half is a little more difficult than a shorter pitchers. However, Scott Moviel is one of the most flexible pitchers that we have and he's really become stronger over the year. For me, he's probably the most improved pitcher from the beginning of the year to the finish. He started the year in Savannah and things were not going well. He was having a little trouble with every part of his game including fielding and throwing the ball to first. His breaking ball wasn't as sharp as it should be, he had trouble getting his pitches down, but he kept working and ending up leading the team in wins. His improvement was really amazing. I think he realized he could get movement on his fastball and sinking the fastball is what really helped him turn around have a strong year. I don't think we've even touched the surface of what this kid can do.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Dylan Owen got up to Double-A as well this year but seemed to lose consistency with his fastball when he got there. What kind of steps need to be taken to solidify his fastball and changeup given his strong breaking pitches?
\r\n
\r\n Waits: His breaking balls are swing-and-miss pitches and he knows he has confidence in those pitches. He probably wants to throw them the breaking balls too much, but one thing I see in him that just glows when he's out there is that he's a winner. Even when he's off in his game or having trouble getting his fastball down, he finds a way to win ballgames and that's a great trait to have. Not only do we want to develop good, sound pitchers with good deliveries and good pitches, but we want to produce winners who will go out and help us win at the major league level.
\r\n
\r\nI think in a nutshell, and he knows this, is that he needs to have better fastball command down in the zone and also start using his changeup a little bit more than his breaking balls. But it's great that when he gets in trouble he does have a very good breaking ball to go to. I think he just elevates his fastball a bit too often and he knows that in his good games when he had fastball command down in the zone, he would cruise through games.
\r\n
\r\nInside Pitch: Eric Niesen had a bit of a rocky year, but how do you see his repertoire maturing which will give him greater consistency?
\r\n
\r\nWaits: I think the thing with Eric was that during his college days he was going back and forth starting and relieving and I think he pitched more in relief than he started. This year was a challenge for him of starting for the whole year. I think by the end of the year, he got very tired but I think he learned a lot of things about himself and his ability which is very important for a pitcher. I think he realizes he has a very good slider when he's going right but it's a very hard one to command when he's throwing it wrong. He threw a lot of sliders and learned that.
\r\n
\r\nHe likes to throw his changeup and wasn't afraid to throw it, but it's a pitch that needed to improve and it did—it improved during the year. He was also a little erratic with his fastball at the start of the year and last year in Brooklyn, but he understands that fastball command is going to be the foundation for his pitching. I talked with him the other day and he was excited about what he learned this year. He would have a good game, then a bad game, then two good games followed by two bad games so he went back and forth with consistency but he knows in mind what it will take to improve. At the same time, he knows he has very good stuff and can be a very good pitcher.
\r\n
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