Learning Year For Kontos

George Kontos was running through the Florida State League earlier in the year, posting a 2.15 ERA in his first seven starts, and showing the same type of brilliance he had in Staten Island a year ago. However, piggy-backing for Phil Hughes on July 9th seemed to knock him out of rhythm and he ran a bit hot and cold the rest of the season, a year he still labels a very good one.

"I was doing well and I guess it all started the day I came in relief for Phil Hughes when he made a spot start here," George Kontos said of his struggles in the second-half of the season. "Just after then, I'd have a good start and a bad start."

"When I don't do well, it's because I struggle a little bit locating my secondary pitches. They're coming along really well, the changeup and curveball are both coming along, it's just sometimes when I fall behind I have to go to the fastball and guys are just sitting on it."

Predominantly a fastball-slider pitcher when he first began his professional career in 2006, the rapid development of his curveball and changeup, ironically, were the reasons why he was able to bypass low-A ball entirely and pitch in the Florida State League this past season.

"The changeup's coming along real well," Kontos said after finishing the season giving up just one earned run in his last two starts. "I can throw it for strikes, I've slowed it down, and it's a quality pitch that I'm comfortable and confident throwing now."

Posting a 6.20 ERA in six games in July and seemingly on the same path in August until ending the season on a high-note with his last two outings, he says the times when he struggles can more or less be attributed to his inconsistent curveball.

"When I get into trouble with the curveball, I've pretty much gone straight to the slider as my go-to pitch after that," Kontos said of having his curveball on a short leash in the second-half of the season. "The curveball, some games it's there and some games I struggle with it a little bit, but it's coming along."

He realizes he will need a more consistent curveball as he continues to move up through the organization to help neutralize left-handed batters, especially since lefties hit .308 off of him this past season, 83 points higher than right-handed batters.

"It's not the grip," he opined as a reason for the struggles with his curveball. "When I'm struggling with it, I'm not getting on top of it so I'm not finishing it off. Instead of it being a sharp downward break it's more of a loopy side slurve break. Mostly left-handed batters see it a lot better, they get better swings on it."

"Having the curveball to lefties, that's a big thing for me. When I'm doing well this year, I'm throwing the curveball well to lefties."

Even though he finished the season with two strong outings, considering where he was in mid-season and saw his ERA nearly double by year's end, some pundits might view Kontos' season as a ho-hum year. He does not agree.

"Overall, the numbers might not show it, it's been a good year," Kontos said with strong conviction. "I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot as a pitcher. I'm throwing four pitches that I can control and throw for strikes for the most part. I think it has been a good year."

"Coach Pavlik has helped me tremendously with my mechanics and my delivery. I've smoothed it to the point where I'm comfortable with it. I think this is the delivery I'm going to take with me to the higher levels. I think it's been a pretty productive year."

Comfortable with the delivery he and the Yankees have been working on for the past two seasons, and gaining more and more confidence in his curveball and changeup, Kontos knows why he pitches well when he's going right.

"I've learned how to pitch, how to attack hitters," he said of the biggest lesson he learned this year. "When I'm doing well it's because I'm attacking hitters and not being afraid of contact, that's the main thing."

Ticketed for more work at Instructs later this month, despite his second-half struggles this season, he still posted a solid 4.02 ERA in the Florida State League and struck out better than a batter per inning, and now he is knocking on the door to Double-A.

"I just think I need to challenge hitters more," he said of what he needs to improve to get to advance to the next level. "I need to get ahead early, throw strikes early with different pitches and not just my fastball."

"I feel confident throwing my changeup or my slider for a strike almost at any time. I just think getting ahead of hitters and staying there more often, and going deeper into games, three pitches or less per batter, that's huge."

When looking at his career as a whole, considering he posted over a 5.00 ERA in his final three years of college and still skipped a minor league level this year, Kontos has even surprised himself with the advancements he has made in such a short period of time.

"Going into the season at Staten Island last year, I wasn't expecting this," he said of his advancement and success. "I kind of struggled in college and then got to Staten Island. After Nardi [Contreras] implemented the 30-day rule, we started working on my delivery, I got better."

"I was locating my fastball, wasn't walking guys and striking some guys out. I had a run in Staten Island where I was winning some games and doing well. Towards the end of the year I started realizing it could be a possibility where I could skip low-A and come right here."

And even though most pitchers would much rather have constant success, Kontos says his struggles in 2007 have made him a better pitcher in the long run.

"I'm glad it happened. This league is a good league and I think I've handled it pretty well," he concluded.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I was doing well and I guess it all started the day I came in relief for Phil Hughes when he made a spot start here,\" George Kontos said of his struggles in the second-half of the season. \"Just after then, I'd have a good start and a bad start.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"When I don't do well, it's because I struggle a little bit locating my secondary pitches. They're coming along really well, the changeup and curveball are both coming along, it's just sometimes when I fall behind I have to go to the fastball and guys are just sitting on it.\"
\r\n
\r\nPredominantly a fastball-slider pitcher when he first began his professional career in 2006, the rapid development of his curveball and changeup, ironically, were the reasons why he was able to bypass low-A ball entirely and pitch in the Florida State League this past season.
\r\n
\r\n\"The changeup's coming along real well,\" Kontos said after finishing the season giving up just one earned run in his last two starts. \"I can throw it for strikes, I've slowed it down, and it's a quality pitch that I'm comfortable and confident throwing now.\"
\r\n
\r\nPosting a 6.20 ERA in six games in July and seemingly on the same path in August until ending the season on a high-note with his last two outings, he says the times when he struggles can more or less be attributed to his inconsistent curveball.
\r\n
\r\n\"When I get into trouble with the curveball, I've pretty much gone straight to the slider as my go-to pitch after that,\" Kontos said of having his curveball on a short leash in the second-half of the season. \"The curveball, some games it's there and some games I struggle with it a little bit, but it's coming along.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe realizes he will need a more consistent curveball as he continues to move up through the organization to help neutralize left-handed batters, especially since lefties hit .308 off of him this past season, 83 points higher than right-handed batters.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's not the grip,\" he opined as a reason for the struggles with his curveball. \"When I'm struggling with it, I'm not getting on top of it so I'm not finishing it off. Instead of it being a sharp downward break it's more of a loopy side slurve break. Mostly left-handed batters see it a lot better, they get better swings on it.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Having the curveball to lefties, that's a big thing for me. When I'm doing well this year, I'm throwing the curveball well to lefties.\"
\r\n
\r\nEven though he finished the season with two strong outings, considering where he was in mid-season and saw his ERA nearly double by year's end, some pundits might view Kontos' season as a ho-hum year. He does not agree.
\r\n
\r\n\"Overall, the numbers might not show it, it's been a good year,\" Kontos said with strong conviction. \"I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot as a pitcher. I'm throwing four pitches that I can control and throw for strikes for the most part. I think it has been a good year.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Coach Pavlik has helped me tremendously with my mechanics and my delivery. I've smoothed it to the point where I'm comfortable with it. I think this is the delivery I'm going to take with me to the higher levels. I think it's been a pretty productive year.\"
\r\n
\r\nComfortable with the delivery he and the Yankees have been working on for the past two seasons, and gaining more and more confidence in his curveball and changeup, Kontos knows why he pitches well when he's going right.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've learned how to pitch, how to attack hitters,\" he said of the biggest lesson he learned this year. \"When I'm doing well it's because I'm attacking hitters and not being afraid of contact, that's the main thing.\"
\r\n
\r\nTicketed for more work at Instructs later this month, despite his second-half struggles this season, he still posted a solid 4.02 ERA in the Florida State League and struck out better than a batter per inning, and now he is knocking on the door to Double-A.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just think I need to challenge hitters more,\" he said of what he needs to improve to get to advance to the next level. \"I need to get ahead early, throw strikes early with different pitches and not just my fastball.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I feel confident throwing my changeup or my slider for a strike almost at any time. I just think getting ahead of hitters and staying there more often, and going deeper into games, three pitches or less per batter, that's huge.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhen looking at his career as a whole, considering he posted over a 5.00 ERA in his final three years of college and still skipped a minor league level this year, Kontos has even surprised himself with the advancements he has made in such a short period of time.
\r\n
\r\n\"Going into the season at Staten Island last year, I wasn't expecting this,\" he said of his advancement and success. \"I kind of struggled in college and then got to Staten Island. After Nardi [Contreras] implemented the 30-day rule, we started working on my delivery, I got better.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I was locating my fastball, wasn't walking guys and striking some guys out. I had a run in Staten Island where I was winning some games and doing well. Towards the end of the year I started realizing it could be a possibility where I could skip low-A and come right here.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnd even though most pitchers would much rather have constant success, Kontos says his struggles in 2007 have made him a better pitcher in the long run.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm glad it happened. This league is a good league and I think I've handled it pretty well,\" he concluded.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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