Q&A with Yankees 14th Round Pick Andrew Benak

The Yankees selected right-handed pitcher Andrew Benak in the 14th round out of Rice University. He sat down with us for a Q&A session to talk about being drafted by the Yankees, who he would compare his game to at the big league level, what his strengths are on the mound, and a whole lot more.

PinstripesPlus.com: How did you feel once you got selected by a team like the Yankees? What was going through your mind?

Andrew Benak: I was so excited. I still am so excited, it hasn't worn off yet. There's been so much going on these past few days. I'm flying down to Tampa tomorrow to get everything started. I can't wait. It's pretty hard to describe.

PinstripesPlus.com: Had you and the Yankees talked much before the draft? Or where you totally surprised?

Benak: I was actually very surprised. We didn't talk much. I spoke to a scout a few weeks back but I didn't know they were all that interested. So when my name was called for that pick I was very surprised and excited.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's get right to the good stuff. What type of pitches do you throw and at what speeds? Give us a detailed description and highlight your strengths, please.

Benak: Okay, my fastball is my best. I throw both a two-seam and a four-seam, anywhere from 88 to 92 mph, sometimes getting to 93. Those are as a starting roll. My slider is anywhere from 79 to 83 and my changeup is around 80 to 83. My curveball is my 4th pitch and it's usually around 75 to 78, I need to work on it a bit. My slider has got a two-point break, it's closer to a hard, tight curve ball. You know, if they want something else, I have it, it's just I haven't perfected it or gotten to a point where I could use it all the time. As far as my strengths go, I feel like I can throw any of my pitches, especially my fastball, my slider, and my changeup, for a strike at any time. I'm able to pitch backwards if they need it. I'm focused on doing whatever I can to get people out, and I'm consistent on the mound.

PinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is your weakness, or the thing you need to work on the most? Is it your curve ball?

Benak: Well, up until this year my change-up was my best pitch and I kind of got away from that this year because I liked to throw a better slider. So I'd like to get back to working on my changeup and being able to locate it for both righties and lefties.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about your history a little bit. Two of your teammates, Tyler Duffey and Matthew Reckling, who are also pitchers, got selected in this year's draft alongside you, as well as five of your other teammates. You clearly come from a very successful team. What was it like playing with these guys and how did it help shape your career and attitude toward the game?

Benak: All those guys are like family. Reckling and I came in together. Duffy was a freshman when I was a sophomore, and we've kind of played off each other and pushed each other. Reckling and I were the two starters this year so it was one of those situations where we went out there and said, ‘Alright, let's get at least two wins this week and worry about the rest.' Duffy's a great guy. We did everything we could do to help each other out, and like I said they are like family to me and the past four years playing with them as taught me a lot and been amazing.

PinstripesPlus.com: You suffered an injury your second year as a Rice Owl, correct?

Benak: Correct.

PinstripesPlus.com: What was it like having to bounce back from an injury and how do you think dealing with that stress will help you prepare for the future?

Benak: Well I've actually had to bounce back from two injuries while I was at Rice. The same injury reoccurred from my sophomore year after I was medically red-shirted, and it persisted into the next year, which was two seasons ago. So it's one of those deals where it's tough for the time being and you hate it, all that rehab and physical therapy. But it's going to help me down the road being able to persevere through tough times. And being healthy and pitching is so unbelievable and it's been a while since I had done that until this year and so it's really helped me with my work ethic and to stay on top of all I need to do to be successful.

PinstripesPlus.com: Did you have a favorite team growing up or a favorite player? How about your favorites today?

Benak: My favorite player growing up, and actually a good family friend, who passed away a few years ago, was Ken Caminiti. He played for the Astros and the Padres. I've obviously had other players as well, but we was my all-time favorite.

PinstripesPlus.com: You said he was a family friend?

Benak: Yeah, him and his whole family. We actually still stay in contact with his family and try to get together once or twice a year. He's got three daughters and we are all really good friends.

PinstripesPlus.com: Wow, that's really great. Did he have any influence in your decision to play baseball?

Benak: No actually. That would be credited more to my grandpa. He played at Rice way before I did so I grew up watching Rice baseball from, I mean, before I even knew what baseball was. [Laughs] he got me hooked on it and, well the rest is history.

PinstripesPlus.com: Who would you compare your stuff to at the Major League level so our Yankees' fans can get an idea of what you're like on the mound? And why?

Benak: Oh wow that's a tough one. To be honest I don't know who would be the best comparison. Jeff Niemann from Tampa Bay actually went to Rice and over the past couple of years during the offseason he comes back. So, I've had the opportunity to throw with him a couple times a week and talk to him. He's helped me out a little bit preparing for this next step. I wouldn't say our game is comparable but he's a big tall guy just like I am. I mean, he has a couple inches on me, I'm 6-foot-5, but he's had a lot of influence on me with my mechanics and getting to where I want to be.

PinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is your best moment in baseball and why?

Benak: My best moment in baseball is the past three years playing for Rice. I wouldn't say there is one specific moment, but there are so many moments in there that were awesome and my whole experience while I was there is probably my favorite part of playing baseball, the camaraderie and being able to play with a great team, the friends, the family.

PinstripesPlus.com: Are you feeling any pressure at the thought of pitching in New York?

Benak: I actually haven't thought about it yet. I obviously know it's hard to win the hearts of the New York fans, but I'm ready to embrace it and, you know, whatever happens, happens. Hopefully they'll love me [laughs].

PinstripesPlus.com: As a senior I'm sure you are looking to sign quickly and get your professional career started right away, no?

Benak: Well, I'm leaving tomorrow for Tampa to meet up. I have my physical Monday morning and hopefully if everything goes as planned I'll be signing with them that night.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: How did you feel once you got selected by a team like the Yankees? What was going through your mind?
\r\n
\r\nAndrew Benak: I was so excited. I still am so excited, it hasn't worn off yet. There's been so much going on these past few days. I'm flying down to Tampa tomorrow to get everything started. I can't wait. It's pretty hard to describe.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Had you and the Yankees talked much before the draft? Or where you totally surprised?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: I was actually very surprised. We didn't talk much. I spoke to a scout a few weeks back but I didn't know they were all that interested. So when my name was called for that pick I was very surprised and excited.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's get right to the good stuff. What type of pitches do you throw and at what speeds? Give us a detailed description and highlight your strengths, please.
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Okay, my fastball is my best. I throw both a two-seam and a four-seam, anywhere from 88 to 92 mph, sometimes getting to 93. Those are as a starting roll. My slider is anywhere from 79 to 83 and my changeup is around 80 to 83. My curveball is my 4th pitch and it's usually around 75 to 78, I need to work on it a bit. My slider has got a two-point break, it's closer to a hard, tight curve ball. You know, if they want something else, I have it, it's just I haven't perfected it or gotten to a point where I could use it all the time. As far as my strengths go, I feel like I can throw any of my pitches, especially my fastball, my slider, and my changeup, for a strike at any time. I'm able to pitch backwards if they need it. I'm focused on doing whatever I can to get people out, and I'm consistent on the mound.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is your weakness, or the thing you need to work on the most? Is it your curve ball?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Well, up until this year my change-up was my best pitch and I kind of got away from that this year because I liked to throw a better slider. So I'd like to get back to working on my changeup and being able to locate it for both righties and lefties.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about your history a little bit. Two of your teammates, Tyler Duffey and Matthew Reckling, who are also pitchers, got selected in this year's draft alongside you, as well as five of your other teammates. You clearly come from a very successful team. What was it like playing with these guys and how did it help shape your career and attitude toward the game?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: All those guys are like family. Reckling and I came in together. Duffy was a freshman when I was a sophomore, and we've kind of played off each other and pushed each other. Reckling and I were the two starters this year so it was one of those situations where we went out there and said, ‘Alright, let's get at least two wins this week and worry about the rest.' Duffy's a great guy. We did everything we could do to help each other out, and like I said they are like family to me and the past four years playing with them as taught me a lot and been amazing.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You suffered an injury your second year as a Rice Owl, correct?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Correct.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What was it like having to bounce back from an injury and how do you think dealing with that stress will help you prepare for the future?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Well I've actually had to bounce back from two injuries while I was at Rice. The same injury reoccurred from my sophomore year after I was medically red-shirted, and it persisted into the next year, which was two seasons ago. So it's one of those deals where it's tough for the time being and you hate it, all that rehab and physical therapy. But it's going to help me down the road being able to persevere through tough times. And being healthy and pitching is so unbelievable and it's been a while since I had done that until this year and so it's really helped me with my work ethic and to stay on top of all I need to do to be successful.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Did you have a favorite team growing up or a favorite player? How about your favorites today?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: My favorite player growing up, and actually a good family friend, who passed away a few years ago, was Ken Caminiti. He played for the Astros and the Padres. I've obviously had other players as well, but we was my all-time favorite.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You said he was a family friend?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Yeah, him and his whole family. We actually still stay in contact with his family and try to get together once or twice a year. He's got three daughters and we are all really good friends.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Wow, that's really great. Did he have any influence in your decision to play baseball?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: No actually. That would be credited more to my grandpa. He played at Rice way before I did so I grew up watching Rice baseball from, I mean, before I even knew what baseball was. [Laughs] he got me hooked on it and, well the rest is history.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Who would you compare your stuff to at the Major League level so our Yankees' fans can get an idea of what you're like on the mound? And why?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Oh wow that's a tough one. To be honest I don't know who would be the best comparison. Jeff Niemann from Tampa Bay actually went to Rice and over the past couple of years during the offseason he comes back. So, I've had the opportunity to throw with him a couple times a week and talk to him. He's helped me out a little bit preparing for this next step. I wouldn't say our game is comparable but he's a big tall guy just like I am. I mean, he has a couple inches on me, I'm 6-foot-5, but he's had a lot of influence on me with my mechanics and getting to where I want to be.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: What would you say is your best moment in baseball and why?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: My best moment in baseball is the past three years playing for Rice. I wouldn't say there is one specific moment, but there are so many moments in there that were awesome and my whole experience while I was there is probably my favorite part of playing baseball, the camaraderie and being able to play with a great team, the friends, the family.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Are you feeling any pressure at the thought of pitching in New York?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: I actually haven't thought about it yet. I obviously know it's hard to win the hearts of the New York fans, but I'm ready to embrace it and, you know, whatever happens, happens. Hopefully they'll love me [laughs].
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: As a senior I'm sure you are looking to sign quickly and get your professional career started right away, no?
\r\n
\r\nBenak: Well, I'm leaving tomorrow for Tampa to meet up. I have my physical Monday morning and hopefully if everything goes as planned I'll be signing with them that night.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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