Kontos in Control

In the 5th round of the 2006 draft, the Yankees took Northwestern University ace George Kontos. It seemed like a high round to draft a college pitcher with a 3-10 record and a 5.29 ERA, but the Yankees believed that Kontos' right arm would ultimately prove they had gotten a steal.

Ask anyone about George Kontos and you'll get the same response. "He's got a great arm," said Staten Island pitching coach Carlos Chantres.

"[He's] got quality stuff and [he] can pitch in this league," said manager Gaylen Pitts.

Great stuff, though, does not always translate to success if the pitcher cannot throw it for strikes. That appeared to be the case for Kontos at Northwestern, where he walked 53 in 95 1/3 innings.

As the Yankees' Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer told PinstripesPlus, "Kontos has a real live arm who just needs to harness his command. He's got good stuff, a power arm, and a good breaking ball. Our scout, Steve Lemke, was on him all year long and saw his good arm action, but he was just walking too many guys."

One might think George Kontos would become a project for the Yankees' pitching coaches. But then, ask anyone in Staten Island about Kontos' control problems, and they won't know what you're talking about.

"He's thrown strikes here," said Pitts. "I haven't seen his stats in college so I wasn't really aware that he had a control problem, but for the most part [he has thrown strikes]. You know, he had a little streak the other night when he got out of whack in the second inning and was behind some hitters, but for the most part, he's been around the plate. Must be mechanically or mentally if he had a problem before because he's thrown pretty good here."

Kontos has thrown a lot of strikes for Staten Island. In four starts and 18 2/3 innings, he has walked just 5 and struck out 23. Kontos explains that there is good reason for the change.

"What happened was the first half of the year, I got a blister on my pitching finger," said Kontos, describing his senior season at Northwestern. "It's actually still there a little bit and the nail broke off. And what happened was when I kept getting on top of the ball for my slider and stuff, my finger, I would be touching [it] right here [on the blister] on the seams, so it builds you up and I wasn't able to get on top of it. And it caused a lot of my pitches to be up in the zone, which cost me a whole bunch of walks. So it healed and the second half of the season was a lot better than the first."

Kontos says the finger feels much better and it has allowed him to throw his full arsenal with confidence.

"I have a two-seam, four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and change," Kontos listed as his repertoire. "My fastball and my slider I think are my strongest pitches. My curveball, it breaks pretty hard. I have to work on throwing it for strikes a little more. And then my change-up is still developing. I throw it way too hard. I have to slow it down."

Pitching coach Carlos Chantres loves Kontos' stuff, as many do, but he still thinks the young pitcher needs to master his pitching motion.

"He's got big league stuff, but he's just gotta work on his mechanics a little more," he said. "We're working with him to get him where he needs to be. With his arm and with his stuff, he doesn't need to be pitching in this level. He could be in the higher levels. But this is a stepping stone."

"The main thing that they wanted me to work on is staying back," Kontos elaborated, "because I have a tendency to start flying open a little bit. But I think I've been staying back pretty well. I've got my weight more on my back foot in the stretch, which is where I was having most of the problem. I was leaning and my arm was dragging and it was causing me to leave it up in the zone a little bit. But I've restructured my weight a little bit and it's been causing me to stay back more. So it's been helping."

"He works hard, too," said Chantres, mentioning one of Kontos' strengths that will help him solve his mechanical issue. "He goes out there every fifth day. So he just [has to] concentrate on his mechanics a little bit."

That work ethic is just one similarity Kontos feels that he shares with his favorite major league pitcher.

"Roger Clemens," Kontos said, when asked which big leaguer he admired. "I think he's accomplished a lot and his work ethic is very good. It's key to what he does. He's a real dogged competitor and I feel like I and Clemens have similar qualities, and to achieve some of the stuff he's done would be very nice."

Clemens' many achievements are lofty goals to aim for, but Kontos is focused now on one of the Rocket's more basic accomplishments: reaching the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher. With a plus fastball and slider, many scouts profiled Kontos as a future set-up man or closer. The Yankees, though, plan to keep Kontos in the rotation and hope he sticks.

When asked if the Yankees had revealed their plans for Kontos, Manager Pitts said, "No, I just know they want to get him innings. He's a starter here. He's a fairly high draft and they want him to pitch and get his game, so he'll be pitching as a starter here ‘til they decide later that they might want to move him. But right now he's going to start."

"The Yankees have expressed that they like me as a starter," Kontos revealed. "They like the fact that I throw four pitches. And I think that's where I'm going to stay, as long as I keep doing well."

Blister free and working toward sound mechanics, Kontos is now in control of both his stuff and his future as a starting pitcher.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nAsk anyone about George Kontos and you'll get the same response. \"He's got a great arm,\" said Staten Island pitching coach Carlos Chantres.
\r\n
\r\n\"[He's] got quality stuff and [he] can pitch in this league,\" said manager Gaylen Pitts.
\r\n
\r\nGreat stuff, though, does not always translate to success if the pitcher cannot throw it for strikes. That appeared to be the case for Kontos at Northwestern, where he walked 53 in 95 1/3 innings.
\r\n
\r\nAs the Yankees' Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer told PinstripesPlus, \"Kontos has a real live arm who just needs to harness his command. He's got good stuff, a power arm, and a good breaking ball. Our scout, Steve Lemke, was on him all year long and saw his good arm action, but he was just walking too many guys.\"
\r\n
\r\nOne might think George Kontos would become a project for the Yankees' pitching coaches. But then, ask anyone in Staten Island about Kontos' control problems, and they won't know what you're talking about.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's thrown strikes here,\" said Pitts. \"I haven't seen his stats in college so I wasn't really aware that he had a control problem, but for the most part [he has thrown strikes]. You know, he had a little streak the other night when he got out of whack in the second inning and was behind some hitters, but for the most part, he's been around the plate. Must be mechanically or mentally if he had a problem before because he's thrown pretty good here.\"
\r\n
\r\nKontos has thrown a lot of strikes for Staten Island. In four starts and 18 2/3 innings, he has walked just 5 and struck out 23. Kontos explains that there is good reason for the change.
\r\n
\r\n\"What happened was the first half of the year, I got a blister on my pitching finger,\" said Kontos, describing his senior season at Northwestern. \"It's actually still there a little bit and the nail broke off. And what happened was when I kept getting on top of the ball for my slider and stuff, my finger, I would be touching [it] right here [on the blister] on the seams, so it builds you up and I wasn't able to get on top of it. And it caused a lot of my pitches to be up in the zone, which cost me a whole bunch of walks. So it healed and the second half of the season was a lot better than the first.\"
\r\n
\r\nKontos says the finger feels much better and it has allowed him to throw his full arsenal with confidence.
\r\n
\r\n\"I have a two-seam, four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and change,\" Kontos listed as his repertoire. \"My fastball and my slider I think are my strongest pitches. My curveball, it breaks pretty hard. I have to work on throwing it for strikes a little more. And then my change-up is still developing. I throw it way too hard. I have to slow it down.\"
\r\n
\r\nPitching coach Carlos Chantres loves Kontos' stuff, as many do, but he still thinks the young pitcher needs to master his pitching motion.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's got big league stuff, but he's just gotta work on his mechanics a little more,\" he said. \"We're working with him to get him where he needs to be. With his arm and with his stuff, he doesn't need to be pitching in this level. He could be in the higher levels. But this is a stepping stone.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"The main thing that they wanted me to work on is staying back,\" Kontos elaborated, \"because I have a tendency to start flying open a little bit. But I think I've been staying back pretty well. I've got my weight more on my back foot in the stretch, which is where I was having most of the problem. I was leaning and my arm was dragging and it was causing me to leave it up in the zone a little bit. But I've restructured my weight a little bit and it's been causing me to stay back more. So it's been helping.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He works hard, too,\" said Chantres, mentioning one of Kontos' strengths that will help him solve his mechanical issue. \"He goes out there every fifth day. So he just [has to] concentrate on his mechanics a little bit.\"
\r\n
\r\nThat work ethic is just one similarity Kontos feels that he shares with his favorite major league pitcher.
\r\n
\r\n\"Roger Clemens,\" Kontos said, when asked which big leaguer he admired. \"I think he's accomplished a lot and his work ethic is very good. It's key to what he does. He's a real dogged competitor and I feel like I and Clemens have similar qualities, and to achieve some of the stuff he's done would be very nice.\"
\r\n
\r\nClemens' many achievements are lofty goals to aim for, but Kontos is focused now on one of the Rocket's more basic accomplishments: reaching the Major Leagues as a starting pitcher. With a plus fastball and slider, many scouts profiled Kontos as a future set-up man or closer. The Yankees, though, plan to keep Kontos in the rotation and hope he sticks.
\r\n
\r\nWhen asked if the Yankees had revealed their plans for Kontos, Manager Pitts said, \"No, I just know they want to get him innings. He's a starter here. He's a fairly high draft and they want him to pitch and get his game, so he'll be pitching as a starter here ‘til they decide later that they might want to move him. But right now he's going to start.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"The Yankees have expressed that they like me as a starter,\" Kontos revealed. \"They like the fact that I throw four pitches. And I think that's where I'm going to stay, as long as I keep doing well.\"
\r\n
\r\nBlister free and working toward sound mechanics, Kontos is now in control of both his stuff and his future as a starting pitcher.
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