Q&A with Pitching Coordinator Gil Patterson

We sat down with Yankees' minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson for a Q&A session. In part one of this two-part series we get his take on whether or not Bryan Mitchell can be this year's Shane Greene, if Jose Ramirez can be Betances-like, if Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, and Nick Rumbelow are close to being big league ready, and much, much more!.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's start off with one of the newer guys first. Just talk about your initial impressions of Jacob Lindgren last season.

Gil Patterson: Lindgren has the really, really good breaking ball, a fastball that moves to both sides of the plate. It cuts to the glove side and runs over to the arm side. We're pretty lucky. To his credit he didn't just settle on fastball and breaking ball. He's even been working on his changeup. You don't want to give him too many pitches but to his credit he wants that challenge. The more and more he throws the changeup the better and better he feels about it.

PinstripesPlus.com: I agree with you. I thought the changeup was really good last year. Obviously as a short-reliever you don't need three pitches but could that changeup be as good as his slider one day? I think it has that potential.

Patterson: It's so funny you said that because some people might say 'let's not mess up his fastball and his breaking ball is so good already' but who's to say like you said that his changeup can't be as good as the breaking ball. I agree with you. Although right now if he had to go out and strike out a left-hander or a right-hander out he would throw the breaking ball. But you're right, in the not so distant future he might have two [secondary] pitches to strike them out with.

PinstripesPlus.com: Obviously Lindgren made a huge splash getting to Double-A last year but now you guys have a lot of left-handed relief depth at the big league level. With the lefties you have now in the big league bullpen does it afford you the opportunity to kind of give him that full season at the minor league level this year and let him develop?

Patterson: You know baseball just as good if not better than I do. Those things come from 'Cash' [general manager Brian Cashman]. In my position all I'm trying to do is if and when they do call him up that they're ready.

PinstripesPlus.com: So then how close is he to being big league ready?

Patterson: Close. Very close.

PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned Tyler Webb [when talking about Pazos] -- between all of the left-handed relieving depth at the big league level and with both Lindgren and Pazos knocking on the big league door, considering Webb's extensive repertoire for a reliever is there any temptation to perhaps try him as a starting pitcher or is he a full reliever in your mind?

Patterson: He had that Tommy John I think back in 2007. I think right now even with that repertoire and the success he's had I think we're going to keep him right where he is. That is a good thought though.

PinstripesPlus.com: What's the big thing he needs to work on? Is it the breaking ball?

Patterson: You nailed it. It's funny, his swing and miss rate this past season including Triple-A was 43 percent on his slider. You'd say 'heck, don't touch it'. But we still want it to get a little more consistent where he can throw it for a strike and then expand on it depending on the count. Still though, that's a high swing and miss rate.

PinstripesPlus.com: A general question about Bryan Mitchell -- could he be this year's Shane Greene? I think he can.

Patterson: That's a good call. Last year he had a few games where he walked a few too many guys but he was right around the plate. I said to him one day 'you just need 100 [more] innings in the minors'. About an hour later I saw him in the hallway and he said 'I only need fifty'. I thought that was pretty cool. You know something? He might be right because from what I've seen -- you hope every year you get better -- but what we've seen early on he certainly seems that if and when he's needed he could take that opportunity and run with it.

PinstripesPlus.com: It seems like stuff-wise everything is there. Is the deal with him just refining the command of those pitches?

Patterson: You hit it right on the head. He's pitching with some confidence, he's able to pitch behind in the count, he's got the swing and miss curveball, and the cutter has really helped. We introduced the cutter last year, well at the end of 2012, and it helped him quite a bit in New York last year. I think you hit it on the head. I think we have a Shane Greene on our hands, maybe even better, and like you said all he really needs is more reps.

PinstripesPlus.com: We're talking about Mitchell being this year's Shane Greene. I'm of the opinion that Jose Ramirez, if he stays healthy, could be this year's Dellin Betances. Do you think he could have that kind of impact on the big league bullpen should he stay healthy?

Patterson: You hit it really on the head two times. One is his health. Health is his biggest objective. When you say Betances-like, I think his last season was incredible. I do think though he could be an important part to bridge that gap between the sixth and seventh innings to get it to the back-end of the bullpen. He's awfully good. If he stays healthy he's got a great chance to help us.

PinstripesPlus.com: How's that slider? I know he flashes signs of it being a really, really good pitch. Is it like Webb's where you just want to see a little more consistency from it?

Patterson: I might hire you as a pitching coach. Absolutely, that's all it is. The changeup is usually there but he's going to need the consistency of that slider. He just needs a little more consistency with that slider like 'Webby'.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Nick Rumbelow. It seems like his game is big league ready right now. Perhaps he could use a little bit better fastball command consistency-wise but he kind of reminds me of David Roberston when he was coming up having that swing and miss stuff with the fastball-breaking ball combination. What's the big thing Rumbelow needs to do and how close is he to being big league ready?

Patterson: Not much longer. He doesn't need much more time at all. He just needs a little more experience. He went from Charleston to Triple-A last year. Now this year I'm not sure if there's three more levels he can jump, but you hit it on the head again, he just needs to command his fastball a little bit better. With that being said though he does have the swing and miss curve and the changeup. The changeup is just as good as the curveball.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's move on to Luis Severino because he is the talk outside the organization from a pitching standpoint. Let me ask you about the Keith Law comment that he's all arms in his delivery and that not a lot of big league pitchers have a lot of success as a starting pitchers with a mostly arm-like delivery. Do you agree with that assessment?

Patterson: You know Keith and I go back to our days in Oakland. You know watching him mechanically, he might not have the perfect delivery but as you look around the big leagues who does? As much as I'd like to say he doesn't have the perfect delivery what he does have is a great work ethic on the field with his throwing program and off the field with his arm exercises. We have looked at his delivery and in the most important spot in his delivery he's in a good position and a lot of times when you're at the best spot the rest isn't quite as important. As far as Keith [Law] goes, [Severino] wouldn't rank the best among bio-mechanics delivery but he's in an awfully good spot when he's supposed to be so I'm not overly concerned with his delivery as his workload continues to be built up. So far up to this point he's never had any arm issues.

PinstripesPlus.com: How far is he from being big league ready? Like Ramirez is it the consistent slider that is really only needed at this point? Is that really the last big thing for him?

Patterson: Yeah you're right and I would certainly say so. Let's get him to Triple-A for a little bit. People have gone from Double-A to the big leagues, you know that as well as I do, but let's just get him some more reps as well. But he has moved awfully quick and he can do things you expect from a Major League pitcher, competing and throwing strikes and he can do that with something other than a fastball when he's behind in the count. 'Sevi' can do that and as far as the art of pitching, he can mix in pitches, he can change speeds on his breaking ball, but you're right, sometimes knowing when to throw the slower one and the harder one he probably needs a little more education [on]. But everything you want from a pitcher 'Sevi' brings to the table.

PinstripesPlus.com: How impressed were you with Ian Clarkin's debut season last year?

Patterson: I'll tell you what, even more so than anything else in his first few bullpens in 2013 if he didn't throw a strike where he wanted he'd get mad and almost want to throw his glove and he has grown so much mentally [since then] that now, instead of throwing his glove, he does the right thing; if he doesn't throw the ball where he wants to on one pitch he just focuses on what he needs to do on the next pitch rather than worrying about the last one. So when he used to get so mad he'd have like a little smoke coming out of his ears -- he's a competitive son of a gun -- but [now] he recognizes he's not perfect and that the most important pitch a pitcher can throw is the next one, and 'let me turn my focus to that and not worry about what happened the pitch before'. He made that adjustment and I can't tell you how happy we were with the things he's done with us.

PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned the mental progress -- what's the big thing you'd like to see him improve this coming season?

Patterson: I just think his continued development. He can throw all three of his pitches for strikes -- fastball, curveball, and changeup -- now it's just like what we said with [Bryan] Mitchell before, instead of 100 innings it might be 200 innings. Not many high school kids go directly to [low-A ball] and he even ended up in the Florida State League. He's made some great strides for us.

PinstripesPlus.com: You talked about the mental toughness with Clarkin now and Brady Lail has that in spades, and we all know he's got some great pitch-ability. Do you see his stuff getting better though? It seems there is still some untapped potential with his stuff. Do you see that?

Patterson: Introducing him to the cutter last year is going to pay big dividends for him. You don't teach the cutter to every person. You kind of teach it on a need to basis. However, you're right. It's not fair to compare somebody to Mike Mussina but he's in the same mold; he throws strikes, intelligence, mental discipline, mental toughness, everything 'Moose' brought he brings. I think the same thing [as you]. Now with the four-pitch mix -- fastball, curveball, cutter, and change -- he's a pitcher.

PinstripesPlus.com: What were your impressions of Ty Hensley in his comeback bid last season?

Patterson: For the most part you tell people it's not where you start it's where you finish. With everything he's gone through with the hips we're extremely happy. The velocity came back to 93-95 mph, the curveball has a tremendous spin rate, a swing and miss pitch, and the changeup is useable. Again with him, like Clarkin, just get him out there and pitch. Go keep pitching, go get some experience. He does everything you want a guy to do to be able to look down the road and say 'this guy can pitch a long time in the big leagues' for us, and he certainly does.

PinstripesPlus.com: Aside from building up the innings which we all know is paramount for him right now what's the biggest thing you'd like to see him improve? Is it the changeup?

Patterson: Yeah I think it would be the change. Like you said though, even more so than that he really needs to get innings. He's got to have innings. You never know when an injury is going to happen but it feels like everything he went through he grew from and now he's really ready to go.

PinstripesPlus.com: You mentioned getting innings -- is Jose Campos with the regular pitchers yet or is he still in the rehab program?

Patterson: No, not quite. He's still throwing bullpens; no game's, no BPs.

PinstripesPlus.com: On the heels of that then how tough is the innings restriction going to be on him? He didn't pitch any last season obviously and didn't pitch a whole lot of innings the year prior. He was on an innings count in 2012 and I'm assuming that's going to be the case again this year.

Patterson: Common sense might be the best way to do it. He didn't have any innings last year so how many do you give him [this year]? I think with the way his arm feels will determine a lot with what we do. You don't want to break him down. If we got 10-12 innings per month out of him once he's ready, two to three innings every four to six days, and he finishes strong, I think that's the biggest key.

PinstripesPlus.com: We're talking about a Tommy John Guy -- I thought Nick Goody's stuff looked pretty damn good in his first year back from Tommy John surgery last year. They say the last thing to come back from Tommy John surgery is the command. Is that really all that's needed for him at this point, fine-tuning the command?

Patterson: Again you hit it right on the head. He trusts his changeup now because of all the work and he's just trying to tighten up the breaking ball just a little more and make it a little sharper. He's making strides, he's making big strides.

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