Mullee Proving It To Himself

One of the best stories from the Yankee farm system in 2014 was the healthy and productive return for reliever Conor Mullee. The former college shortstop had one of the more arduous journeys, succumbing to not one but three Tommy John surgeries over the years. He bounced back in a big way though this season, however, posting a combined 1.38 ERA over two levels and proving to himself he belongs.

"Honestly, it was awesome being healthy again," he exclaimed. "It had been a long time since I had been healthy. It was fun proving to myself that I could play at that level. It was a frustrating three years for me prior to this year and just being healthy was good for me. I was real happy with how it went."

He posted a 2.01 ERA for the Staten Island Yankees and struck out 28 batters in just 22.1 innings before earning a promotion to low-A Charleston where he posted a 0.54 ERA for the RiverDogs in his first ever taste of the long-season leagues.

"It had been three years in the works," he said. "I tried to get there before my first surgery so it was a big deal getting to Charleston for me and my parents. That's the first goal, that's the first step. Staten Island is a big deal too but Charleston is the first real step to get to the next level.

"You really start moving from there. That's kind of where you might be able to do it. It was a big deal for me because I had been hurt for so long. I had talked to my dad about quitting [baseball before 2014], I'll be honest with you.

"I just kept going, kept throwing, and it was amazing getting to Charleston. It was a few years later than I wanted it to be obviously but I think it helped me confidence-wise getting settled and [believing] that I can do this thing."

The numbers were right there for him out of the proverbial gate despite the fact that his stuff never fully recovered, at least fastball-wise.

"It didn't get quite back to what it was before," he admitted. "Before the surgeries my fastball was 93-97 mph. After the surgeries three years later it was 88-90 mph to start, then on my good days it was 91-94 mph, and on bad days it was 88-92 mph. It was just kind of up and down for a little while.

"I told myself before the season that if I could throw 90 mph consistently again going into this season that I would be happy, and I did that, and I got the outs that I needed. I'm excited about that, I'm excited that I could show -- 90 mph isn't something to be upset about -- so I'm hoping after an offseason that I can be more consistently 92-93 mph, maybe even higher that.

"I'm happy with where I'm at after being healthy for a whole season. I'm very encouraged with how my velocity and offspeed pitches went this season."

Beyond the radar gun there was some real progress with his stuff, however. His slider, once a loopy 80 mph in his debut season, actually saw more bite and more power as the season went on this year, sitting more in the 84-86 mph range. And his changeup, a pitch he never even threw years ago, began showing plus potential with the movement and run it was getting.

"I wasn't a pitcher before. My first year I just felt I threw hard in rookie ball and I could get guys out [that way]. This year I felt like my offspeed pitches were to the next level where I needed them to be. I'm really happy with how my coaches helped me along. I wasn't a pitcher before, they helped me get my pitches to the next level with my pitching.

"My slider and my changeup really came along this past year. I wasn't sure to know what to expect, I had been hurt for three years. Before [the injury] I could throw really hard and my offspeed pitches were whatever, I had never pitched before. And now they came a long way, honestly."

Seeing huge progress made with his secondary pitches and overall feel for pitching, as well as seeing some signs of his once plus velocity beginning to come back, were all welcomed sights. But nothing comes close to the feeling of completing his first full healthy season; it was his first time ever.

"I feel awesome now," he revealed. "It had been so long that I had been healthy for an offseason. I just got done with the season, I'm healthy, I'm ready to work out and get ready for next season, and it was good getting through a whole season to where I could build towards the next season.

"Normally I'm going into the offseason and I have rehab, and this year I just got through a whole season, I'm healthy, I can do my workouts, I can build my shoulder strength, I can build my elbow strength, and I'm just happy to be healthy and strong going into the next season."

This is all uncharted territory for the former position player. While a bit older than most, he's never accomplished what he has thus far and, while he also realizes there is still a long road ahead of him, he feels good about proving it to himself that he just might have what it takes to go even further.

"I think so. I'm excited, I really am, for next year. There were some doubts coming into this past year about if I could stay healthy. Being 26 years going into Staten Island, you have your doubts, let's put it that way. But after this year pitching the way I pitched and getting through it, I'm really confident going into next year to see what happens.

"I understand I'm older than most guys at the level that I'm at. Believe me, I understand I'm with guys that are younger than me, but I'm really excited for what next year has to give. I don't know what's going to happen but I finally proved to myself that I can do this. I'm really excited about it so we'll see what happens next year," he concluded.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories