Q&A with Mario Garza - Part Two

We sat down with Staten Island Yankees Manager Mario Garza for a Q&A session. In part two of this two-part series we concentrate on the pitchers, including his thoughts on Ty Hensley's comeback bid, what he thinks of the development of David Palladino so far, who among his pitchers does he see 'sleeper' potential, his initial impressions of Jordan Montgomery, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to the pitchers. I want to ask you about Ty Hensley. I know he only pitched in a few games up there in Staten Island but I'm sure you got some looks at him in Extended Spring Training too. A former first round pick and finally healthy, did he look to you like a guy who could start moving up a bit now?

Mario Garza: I do. What I saw was a breaking ball that plays. I know that's been one of his strengths and I got to see that first-hand, and I think that's going to play. What really encourages me and got me excited is that he was up to 96 [mph] this year with his fastball up in Staten Island. That's really, really encouraging. And it's a fastball that plays. If you're up to 96 mph that's exciting but he pitched probably at 91-93 mph in several of his outings and that's exciting.

PinstripesPlus.com: Does he just need more innings at this point?

Garza: I think so. He showed the ability to own it at the lower levels and I think that's what you want to see from a guy like him. He just needs some innings, get some experience. He's a great kid. I don't think there's going to be any issues off of the field and he's a great competitor. He's got everything there, he just needs to stay on the field and do it.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jordan Montgomery, this year's fourth round pick, was another guy who only pitched a few times for you but what were your early impressions of him?

Garza: Really good changeup, that was exciting to see. He mixes that in with the potential to be a bit of a power arm too, not a real power guy but a guy who can pitch with his fastball. He may have some more life in his arm than what we saw. He's another guy who was coming off of a long season so you really don't know how they're going to bounce back in their first full year. I think he's got the chance to show some more velocity with his fastball. The changeup is special though.

PinstripesPlus.com: Justin Kamplain, another lefty who didn't pitch all that much for you in Staten Island since he got called up quickly to Charleston, is another guy who put up numbers. What did you see from him before he went up there?

Garza: He's a guy you love having on the mound every five days. He threw three pitches for strikes. When you watch him in the bullpen you can see he can puts the ball wherever he wants to. I remember standing in on a couple of bullpen [sessions] he had and it was impressive. He could repeat his delivery, he's got some deception. It comes across on lefties and with righties I think he relies on his deception to get outs. I don't know what we have there. We might have something pretty special if he can continue to pitch the way he does. That's another gamer, competitor. He's got the mound presence that you want from a pitcher.

PinstripesPlus.com: He's not a very big guy. Do you think he could be one of these guys that just pitches his way up through the minor leagues as a starting pitcher but could wind up as a reliever?

Garza: I hope so. I think that's a possibility. He's pretty athletic. You have a guy who might be able to do some different things. And I don't know that it would get to this point but I think he could be a guy who could change arm angles if you wanted him to so he could be one those guys who [becomes] a lefty specialist but he's got a good changeup so hopefully, like you said, you ride him out as long as possible as a starter and see where that goes, but I do think he'd have the ability to pitch out of the pen when needed too.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let me ask about right-hander Jordan Foley because he was another reliever turned starter. For me he's a bit of a 'sleeper'. Talk about the progress you saw from him.

Garza: He's more the power guy. He's got the fastball that can be in the mid-90s. The slider showed some signs of being really good. It wasn't always there but it showed some signs. He threw some sliders that were just flat nasty. I think a big thing for him is to be able to control that slider and be able to throw it over the plate when needed, and throw it as a put-away pitch when needed. I think as he develops he's got the chance to be pretty good, to be real good.

PinstripesPlus.com: Do you see him being a starter long-term or do you see this as a way to help develop his secondary pitches quicker?

Garza: That's a really good question. I don't know. I think he's got the chance to be [a starter] but I definitely think you have a reliever [at minimum]. I think he could easily fall into those Pinder-Kahnle-Burawa guys at worst but I also think, like with Kamplain, you ride it out. I'm not sure his secondary pitches are good enough to get hitters out at the upper levels [right now] as as a starter two or three times through a lineup, but shoot he's only thrown very few innings in professional baseball so maybe as he continues to throw more innings the secondary pitches will grow too.

PinstripesPlus.com: Jonathan Holder also fits into that same category as a reliever turned starter. What were your initial impressions of him?

Garza: I'll tell you what, during Instructional League he had some of the best outings that I've seen from anybody all year long. I know he was working on his cutter which could be a game-changer for him. Stuff-wise, he's a guy whose arm I think got a little tired so I don't think we saw the velocity that I think he's capable of. He got a little bit of time off after the season, came back for Instructional League and his velocity was up, [sitting] in the low-90s. But he also had the cutter which was nasty. If he can combine that with his breaking ball, which he has a real good feel for, and I think he has a feel for his changeup too, but I think the cutter could be a real game-changer, I think he could be a 'sleeper'. He's got a repeatable delivery, there's no doubt about that, and he has a good feel for pitching.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's talk about Sean Carley. He had the reputation enter his debut season as one of these wild card guys and wound up not having the greatest numbers. Did you see any signs of him being a potential breakout candidate?

Garza: Absolutely, he had our single best outing in Staten Island. He was 93-96 mph with movement, ease, command of the slider, it was out of this world. He also had the worst outing of the summer too [though], but to focus on the positive he absolutely did show that sign. It's in there. One thing he did which really helped him was he changed his pre-game routine. Throughout his college career he finished out of the bullpen so making that transition [to starting] it took him a few outings to learn how to prepare himself. The first few outings he was 88-91 mph, we didn't really see the power arm that was in there. But after 'Norty' [pitching coach Tim Norton] made a little suggestion and adjustment to him in his pre-game routine we started to see more of a power arm. I think what he was doing was blowing out a little bit early before the game but when he left a little more in the tank and made that little tweak to his pre-game routine we started seeing that power arm. I've known Sean for a long time. We're both from the same high school. I've always seen that there's some potential there.

PinstripesPlus.com: At 6-foot-7, Matt Borens would seem like a power pitcher, no?

Garza: I wouldn't classify him as a power pitcher. I would classify him as a guy who can pitch. The velocity can get up there but when he's at his best he's down in the zone, changing speeds. He showed the ability at times to put away hitters with his slider. He likes to throw in. While he does have some stuff, I don't think he's a guy who tries to overpower guys. I think he can pitch.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Joe Harvey out of the bullpen?

Garza: We'll see what we have there. It might be a stretch but he could slide into that category of Pinder-Kahnle type guy. I don't think he has quite the fastball those guys have but he might get it up there in the mid-90s when his arm is fresh. He falls into that grouping too we saw some flashes of velocity but after a long college season you really don't know what they have or what they're going to bring, but he's definitely a guy I'll take special notice of in Spring Training. If his velocity is up there like I think it can be then yes, we have a kid because he's real aggressive, he attacks hitters, etc.

PinstripesPlus.com: Does Matt Wotherspoon fall into that category too?

Garza: He's more of a guy that can pitch to me. He's a guy that you could spot-start if you needed him to. He's got command of three pitches and not as much as a stuff guy as some of those other guys as far as the fastball. The fastball can play but I don't think we're going to see a mid-90s fastball out of him.

PinstripesPlus.com: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about David Palladino. He's been in Staten Island for two years now. It seems the overall pitch-ability has gotten better but at least in my opinion I haven't seen the stuff progress the way I though it could come along. What are your thoughts?

Garza: I can agree with that. He played around with some things this year which is all part of the process of him learning as pitcher. He played around with a cutter and bounced back and forth with that. He tried to increase the usage of that and then he scaled it back so I think he was still in a little bit of a trial and error mode. I think one of the challenges to him towards the end of the year was 'let's put that trial and error mode on hold and let's attack hitters'. There was an improvement there. He's a guy who wouldn't surprise me three or four years down the road he's ready to go and having success at the upper levels, maybe even the big league level. It wouldn't surprise me because I think there's some ability there. He was up to 95 mph but pitches more 90-92 mph. There's some stuff in there. We'll just see how it goes.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Conor Mullee? He's a great story obviously coming back from Tommy John surgery. What did you see from him this year?

Garza: I saw a guy who can get hitters out. He's one of those guys who can not throw a ball straight if you wanted him to, which is a good thing. He's got some big sink. He's learning how to pitch still and he's learning how to pitch with a new arm almost. Like you said, what a great story for him to bounce back, to stay positive the way he is, and for him to have success, you couldn't be happier for the kid.

PinstripesPlus.com: He's not really a kid anymore though seeing that he's 26 years old now. Do you see him having a legitimate shot of eventually getting to the big leagues?

Garza: You root for the kid and I hope he continues to have success and gets guys out. The stuff can play. It's not like it's sub-par stuff, it's good. We'll see.

PinstripesPlus.com: Rony Bautista isn't short on stuff either and he made the transition from starting to the bullpen this year. What did you see from him?

Garza: He had some big, big outings for us. He's a kid who seems to thrive under pressure and he loves the big moment, and that's exciting. He made some strides in learning how to control the running game. He really worked on commanding the ball to both sides of the plate. The fastball, as you know, can play. The secondary stuff showed some improvement but it still has a ways to go. What's exciting to me though is how he attacks hitters and how he likes being in the moment. I saw more of that this year than I did last year.

PinstripesPlus.com: He's another guy who is a little bit older now, turning 23 years old this offseason. Do you think he can move quicker now?

Garza: I think so. I think [relieving] is going to be good for him. He has some experience now after being around for several years. I'd imagine we would be more aggressive with moving him, especially if he starts off strong next year. I would see us being aggressive to move him to see what we've got.

PinstripesPlus.com: Another guy who didn't pitch a whole lot for you this year because he got called up to Charleston was Andy Beresford. What did you see from him this year?

Garza: That guy impressed me, holy smokes! He's kind of like Mullee in that he won't throw a ball straight if you asked him to. It dips and dives kind of like a Shane Greene. I think he's like one of those guys. I'd compare him to 'Greeny'. The guy can pitch and he was up to 96 mph with some sink, and the secondary stuff is alright. I know he was working on those in Instructional League. I could see him being a 'sleeper' to come out and do some big things.

PinstripesPlus.com: What about Andury Acevedo, could he be a 'sleeper'? I know he's 24 years old now but to have that kind of power from his release point is pretty unique.

Garza: That's a guy who every manager I talked to was saying 'holy cow I can't believe he can throw as hard as he does from down there'. I hear scouts saying it, I hear coaches saying it, and I hear players all of the time joking around -- when I'm coaching third base I'll hear third baseman ask me 'are you going to pitch that big side-armed guy'. His reputation follows him for being a tough guy to hit. He's a little older like a Bautista at this point. We'll see where it goes but he has the ability and he showed me some improvement with his ability to trust himself and attack hitters. Gosh, I think he was up to 99 mph from down under there. That's something that's tough to give up on, it's not something anybody else can really do.

PinstripesPlus.com: Among the pitchers, who at Instructional League stood out for you? It doesn't have to be one your Staten Island guys either, just anybody that comes to mind.

Garza: I think Domingo Acevedo is real exciting to me. You're talking about a power arm with a real good body. He's huge and a tough guy to hit, and works his tail off. He's an exciting guy.

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