Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part II

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a Q&A session. In Part Two of our two part series, Nardi talks about Abel Gomez and what went wrong, why there are mixed opinions of Matt DeSalvo, how he sees Jeff Karstens fitting into the mix, what he thought of T.J. Beam's year, which pitcher recently added to the 40-man does he think will have an impact in 2006, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus: Abel Gomez is a talented pitcher with a live arm, but he struggled towards the tail-end of the year. What do you see for Gomez in 2006?

Contreras: I had heard that [Gomez' live arm] when I got here, but I never saw it. From what I've been told, he changed his arm angle. He shortened it like Keith Foulke. His curveball was loopy and he might have done some things on his own. I don't think he played winter ball this year even though he had an opportunity to do so. I honestly don't know where he's been. The big question with him is, does he want it? We'll soon find out. At the end of the year we changed his delivery, his arm angle, and his tempo so he wasn't so slow and deliberate.

PinstripesPlus: Talk a little about Steven White. What were your thoughts on him this past year? He pitched well in his last two starts and then it carried on in the Arizona Fall League. Did you get to see him in the AFL?

Contreras: White is going to be a non-roster invitee to big league camp this year along with Phil Hughes, so that shows what we think of him. I saw him in Arizona and with Team USA and he looked good. He's throwing a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seamer, he's using his changeup more, and his delivery has gotten a lot better. People don't know that after he got back from the injury that he got sick at the end of the year, so that didn't help. But in his last two starts and into the Arizona Fall League, he pitched well and he was commanding the far side of the plate, pitching in to lefties. He's a power pitcher that learned to take a little off to hit his spots.

PinstripesPlus: There are mixed opinions of Matt DeSalvo. If you ask some scouts they come away not as impressed with his stuff. But yet other scouts and a lot of the players feel like he's got tremendous stuff. What are your impressions of DeSalvo?

Contreras: Well I think the mixed opinions come from the fact that he had a clavicle problem this year that knocked down his velocity. He's got the best, and I mean the best, changeup of any pitcher we've got. Sometimes he goes to it a little too much and he needs to learn to command the outside of the plate more with his fastball. He's got so many pitches and he's got command of all of them. His changeup is big time and it is really sneaky. He throws a hard, sweeping slider that we've been able to shorten to make it more of an in between pitch between his changeup and curveball. He was throwing it 83-84 MPH and now he's throwing it 78-81 MPH. I know one thing though, he's going to pitch in the big leagues.

PinstripesPlus: Jeff Karstens was added to the 40-man roster. He's a guy that seems a bit inconsistent at times. Sometimes he's pitches a gem and other times he gets smacked around. What are your thoughts on Karstens?

Contreras: Karstens has four average Major League pitches and he doesn't walk anybody. He throws 90-91 MPH and he's over the plate all time, much more so than somebody like Matt DeSalvo. As long as he's commanding his pitches, he'll be fine. He's not a big, strong man like some of the other guys. When he has been hit in his games, it is usually in the 5th or 6th inning. We've been working with him to try and add some weight to his small frame to make a little stronger so he can get into the 7th and 8th innings more. He's going to pitch in the big leagues for sure. He doesn't back down from anybody. Hopefully we can help him develop a nasty pitch, one that he can use as his out pitch. Karstens is going to be a 5th starter in the Major Leagues because he can throw strikes. You know he's not going to walk the ball park.

PinstripesPlus: What are your thoughts on T.J. Beam? He had an awfully good year in his first year in the bullpen and now he's been added to the 40-man roster.

Contreras: He's got the angle for sure. He's 6'7" and he throws down in the strike zone. He throws strikes too. He had a great year but he still has some work to do. I mean, could he throw a 3-1 changeup if he had to right now? Probably not. He's going to need that because he's not a power guy. He's using his pitches better now and he's going to get even better. Now that he's on the 40-man, he's going to get a chance to show Joe Torre what he can do.

PinstripesPlus: Of the pitching prospects recently added to the 40-man roster, which pitcher do you see making an impact with the Yankees this year?

Contreras: Well a guy you haven't mentioned yet, Matt Smith, is a guy that might have the best shot. He throws 89-91 MPH and his slider is a big-time out pitch. He's not afraid to go inside to right-handed batters. He's 24 or 25 and he came along real well this past year. He's a guy I'd look out for with the Yankees.

PinstripesPlus: Can you give us injury updates on Ferdin Tejeda and Jesse Hoover? Considering the back trouble Jesse has had the last year, do you see him sticking just in the bullpen?

Contreras: Tejeda played long toss today [Tuesday]. He threw 25 balls from 60 feet and 25 from 90 feet. That's not bad considering he's only four or five months out of [Tommy John] surgery. He'll be in Extended this year and he's one to watch out for. He's got a real special arm. Jesse played catch today too. He'll be in Extended also. We're going to make sure he's well before he goes back out on the mound. As for being just a reliever, I'm not so sure. We want him to get his work in and we might use Jesse in a piggy-back situation to get him two or three innings per outing.

PinstripesPlus: Eric Abreu has seemingly fallen off the planet. What is his status?

Contreras: Honestly, I don't know. You'd have to ask Mark Littlefield. I haven't seen him. I think he's been here in the states, but I just don't know. He's another guy that we have to figure out if he wants it.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned to us back in the summer that you were going to use the season to get a good look at J. Brent Cox before you started working on him. What are your thoughts on him heading into Spring Training and do you see him as more of a closer or a setup man?

Contreras: At Instructs, we worked on his delivery and moved him over on the rubber a little more to take advantage of his arm angle, you know, little things like that. He's had very good development with his changeup in such a short time. He knows what is expected of him. His curveball tightened up a bit and now we'll have to see where he fits in. In the minor leagues, we're going to put him in a setup guy so he can get his innings in. We don't care if he gets saves or even into save situations. Our job is to help develop the pitcher. He may be a closer when he gets to the big leagues, I don't know. This past year, we didn't get as good a look at him because the 'Coxy' I saw was tired from all of innings at the University of Texas. Hopefully we'll see a fresher Cox this Spring. I hear he throws better than I saw last year and that's probably because he was tired. For us right now, he'll fit in as a setup guy, but it won't mean that he won't be a closer down the road. We just don't worry about saves here.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus: Abel Gomez is a talented pitcher with a live arm, but he struggled towards the tail-end of the year. What do you see for Gomez in 2006?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: I had heard that [Gomez' live arm] when I got here, but I never saw it. From what I've been told, he changed his arm angle. He shortened it like Keith Foulke. His curveball was loopy and he might have done some things on his own. I don't think he played winter ball this year even though he had an opportunity to do so. I honestly don't know where he's been. The big question with him is, does he want it? We'll soon find out. At the end of the year we changed his delivery, his arm angle, and his tempo so he wasn't so slow and deliberate.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Talk a little about Steven White. What were your thoughts on him this past year? He pitched well in his last two starts and then it carried on in the Arizona Fall League. Did you get to see him in the AFL?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: White is going to be a non-roster invitee to big league camp this year along with Phil Hughes, so that shows what we think of him. I saw him in Arizona and with Team USA and he looked good. He's throwing a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seamer, he's using his changeup more, and his delivery has gotten a lot better. People don't know that after he got back from the injury that he got sick at the end of the year, so that didn't help. But in his last two starts and into the Arizona Fall League, he pitched well and he was commanding the far side of the plate, pitching in to lefties. He's a power pitcher that learned to take a little off to hit his spots.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: There are mixed opinions of Matt DeSalvo. If you ask some scouts they come away not as impressed with his stuff. But yet other scouts and a lot of the players feel like he's got tremendous stuff. What are your impressions of DeSalvo?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Well I think the mixed opinions come from the fact that he had a clavicle problem this year that knocked down his velocity. He's got the best, and I mean the best, changeup of any pitcher we've got. Sometimes he goes to it a little too much and he needs to learn to command the outside of the plate more with his fastball. He's got so many pitches and he's got command of all of them. His changeup is big time and it is really sneaky. He throws a hard, sweeping slider that we've been able to shorten to make it more of an in between pitch between his changeup and curveball. He was throwing it 83-84 MPH and now he's throwing it 78-81 MPH. I know one thing though, he's going to pitch in the big leagues.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Jeff Karstens was added to the 40-man roster. He's a guy that seems a bit inconsistent at times. Sometimes he's pitches a gem and other times he gets smacked around. What are your thoughts on Karstens?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Karstens has four average Major League pitches and he doesn't walk anybody. He throws 90-91 MPH and he's over the plate all time, much more so than somebody like Matt DeSalvo. As long as he's commanding his pitches, he'll be fine. He's not a big, strong man like some of the other guys. When he has been hit in his games, it is usually in the 5th or 6th inning. We've been working with him to try and add some weight to his small frame to make a little stronger so he can get into the 7th and 8th innings more. He's going to pitch in the big leagues for sure. He doesn't back down from anybody. Hopefully we can help him develop a nasty pitch, one that he can use as his out pitch. Karstens is going to be a 5th starter in the Major Leagues because he can throw strikes. You know he's not going to walk the ball park.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: What are your thoughts on T.J. Beam? He had an awfully good year in his first year in the bullpen and now he's been added to the 40-man roster.
\r\n
\r\nContreras: He's got the angle for sure. He's 6'7\" and he throws down in the strike zone. He throws strikes too. He had a great year but he still has some work to do. I mean, could he throw a 3-1 changeup if he had to right now? Probably not. He's going to need that because he's not a power guy. He's using his pitches better now and he's going to get even better. Now that he's on the 40-man, he's going to get a chance to show Joe Torre what he can do.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Of the pitching prospects recently added to the 40-man roster, which pitcher do you see making an impact with the Yankees this year?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Well a guy you haven't mentioned yet, Matt Smith, is a guy that might have the best shot. He throws 89-91 MPH and his slider is a big-time out pitch. He's not afraid to go inside to right-handed batters. He's 24 or 25 and he came along real well this past year. He's a guy I'd look out for with the Yankees.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Can you give us injury updates on Ferdin Tejeda and Jesse Hoover? Considering the back trouble Jesse has had the last year, do you see him sticking just in the bullpen?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Tejeda played long toss today [Tuesday]. He threw 25 balls from 60 feet and 25 from 90 feet. That's not bad considering he's only four or five months out of [Tommy John] surgery. He'll be in Extended this year and he's one to watch out for. He's got a real special arm. Jesse played catch today too. He'll be in Extended also. We're going to make sure he's well before he goes back out on the mound. As for being just a reliever, I'm not so sure. We want him to get his work in and we might use Jesse in a piggy-back situation to get him two or three innings per outing.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Eric Abreu has seemingly fallen off the planet. What is his status?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Honestly, I don't know. You'd have to ask Mark Littlefield. I haven't seen him. I think he's been here in the states, but I just don't know. He's another guy that we have to figure out if he wants it.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned to us back in the summer that you were going to use the season to get a good look at J. Brent Cox before you started working on him. What are your thoughts on him heading into Spring Training and do you see him as more of a closer or a setup man?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: At Instructs, we worked on his delivery and moved him over on the rubber a little more to take advantage of his arm angle, you know, little things like that. He's had very good development with his changeup in such a short time. He knows what is expected of him. His curveball tightened up a bit and now we'll have to see where he fits in. In the minor leagues, we're going to put him in a setup guy so he can get his innings in. We don't care if he gets saves or even into save situations. Our job is to help develop the pitcher. He may be a closer when he gets to the big leagues, I don't know. This past year, we didn't get as good a look at him because the 'Coxy' I saw was tired from all of innings at the University of Texas. Hopefully we'll see a fresher Cox this Spring. I hear he throws better than I saw last year and that's probably because he was tired. For us right now, he'll fit in as a setup guy, but it won't mean that he won't be a closer down the road. We just don't worry about saves here.
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