Name: Garrett Patterson
Position: Relief Pitcher
DOB: May 11, 1982
"He's another special pitcher," said Charleston pitching coach Carlos Reyes. "He's left-handed and to me, lefties are special. 'Patty' can get it up to 97-98 MPH. I think he was just a max guy and I think he's realizing he doesn't need to rear back and throw every fastball 97-98 MPH - you don't.
"If you can pitch 90-94 MPH and hit your spots, you don't need much more than that. Then when you need to turn it up a notch, he can do it and that is what he has been doing. He can elevate his fastball when he needs to. His slider has been such a great asset and he has such a good feel for his changeup. He keeps it down in the zone and it's got movement. He competes."
Going just 1-5 with a 6.29 ERA in his second straight season at the low-A level however, on the surface, it was a pretty bad year for the Oklahoma native.
But considering he has had to deal with a knee injury, a hamstring injury, and blister problems in the professional ranks, as well as two elbow surgeries in his amateur days, the fact he remained healthy for the first time since high school was a huge step in the right direction.
"It obviously wasn't the best year," said Patterson. "My main goal for the year was to stay healthy because I haven't had a healthy full year in, I couldn't say how long. I did get that done, so that was good for me, staying healthy and being able to pitch the whole year other than getting blisters here and there, but that didn't set me back any.
"I wasn't real pleased with how well I threw at times, sometimes it was good and sometimes it wasn't. It's still the same thing, I've just got to work on being more consistent. Overall I'd say it was a pretty good year. I learned a lot of things. I didn't end up where I wanted but I didn't deserve to get moved up either. I can't really gripe about that."
As alluded to by his pitching coach, the 25-year old - who has had command issues throughout his career - learned to settle down a bit more on the mound and focus more on location than mere velocity by the end of the 2007 season.
'I honestly don't try to throw the ball hard," he revealed. "For whatever reason, the ball just comes out of my hand good. I don't ever try to throw hard. I'm fine throwing 93-94 MPH. I think if I really wanted to amp up and gear up, I could get it up to 96-97, but I don't feel comfortable pitching that way."
Used as a starter throughout his career until mid-May this past season, the lefty was able to cut his ERA down a run in the bullpen during the remainder of the season, thanks in large part to the development of his slider.
"I'd say the last month of the season was the best month I threw all season. I was pretty happy with it," he said of his slider command. "Once I got moved to the bullpen - I don't really think you need to have three plus pitches out of the bullpen when you're coming in throwing one or two innings.
"You're coming in with two pitches, like fastball-slider or fastball-change, whatever is feeling good that day. You hope you have days where two out of three are feeling good. If you have three out of three feeling good, it's a plus day.
"If the changeup is feeling better, I'd go fastball-changeup. If the slider's firing, I'd go fastball-slider. I would say the last month I went fastball-slider pretty much every time I went out. I was pretty happy with it."
A lot more comfortable in his new role, he was one of the more impressive pitchers in the Yankees' Instructional League this past Fall and he believes coming out of the bullpen will help advance his career.
"I guess it's permanent," he said of his new role. "I'm fine with it. I actually loved coming out of the bullpen. You're sitting there waiting on the call or whatever. It's a lot different mental game and you've got to get ready quicker.
"You've got to go to the park everyday ready to throw and be ready mentally day in and day out. That part I liked. I like coming in and just going after guys for one, two, three innings, or whenever they need me."
Walking more than six batters per nine innings in his career so far, the hope is, as a reliever, he will be able to to shave down his arsenal to his two best pitches now that his outings will be much more shorter.
"There were plenty of times that I gave up hits and runs, but the biggest part of my problem is walks," Patterson admitted. "Of course I'm going to have games where I go out there and not have walks and still give up runs. You can't pitch well every time, we all know that. I think as long as I cut the walks down, then everything else will take care of itself."
While his critics can't get too excited about his career numbers - 5-12 with a 4.86 ERA and 112 walks in nearly 157 innings - everybody agrees that once he focuses on throwing strikes, he has the stuff to be a top pitching prospect.
"All it is for Garrett is staying back," said Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. "He's got a tremendous arm, he's got the changeup, he's got life to his ball, and he's got the breaking ball. All it is making sure his arm catches up to his body. Once he does that he's got a good chance to be a very successful pitcher.
"He's got so many gifts coming out of that arm, the power that he has, the hard breaking ball - it's just finding the consistency of the release point, the arm slot, and just staying back. That's his key, just staying back."
Out to prove his doubters wrong, armed with a revamped arsenal and a new role tailored to his strengths, Patterson remains very confident he will be a big league pitcher soon.
"A year from now I'd like to be sitting next to Joba and all those guys in the bullpen," he admitted. "Of course you can ask anybody in the minor leagues and that's what they're going to say. I honestly think that if I pitch the way that I know that I can, I should be close to doing that."
Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball. Ironically, Patterson's greatest asset is also his biggest weakness - his fastball. Able to sit 92-94 MPH consistently, topping out around 97 MPH, his fastball command lacks consistency right now. He often times flies open too quickly and over-throws, leaving his fastball up. The good news is it's all mechanical, and now finally healthy for the first time in his professional career, he has the opportunity to improve in that area. When his fastball is down in the zone, it is close to unhittable.
Other Pitches. Once armed with a very good curveball, although not a plus pitch, the Yankees had him scrap that in favor of a slider to make better use of his power arm as a reliever. And even though he has thrown it for less than a year, it has already become a plus pitch that he can throw with command. His changeup has always been one of his best offerings and, sitting 72-74 MPH, it is a true plus pitch.
Pitching. Dealing with so many injuries throughout his career has seriously limited his development time, a fact sorely overlooked by many of his critics. Throw in the fact he has gone from a starter to now being a reliever, and changing his repertoire as a result, in some ways, he is just now beginning his career. Possessing true swing-and-miss stuff, among the best in the organization, he now goes after batters with a power fastball and a power slider, and has a plus changeup in his back pocket should the need arise. He will only be as good as his command however, and while mechanical adjustments should help in that area, he will probably never be considered a command pitcher.
Projection. Possessing Joba Chamberlain-like stuff, Patterson's projection has not changed since he entered the farm system back in 2005. Even when he was a starting pitcher he still projected to be a left-handed setup man at the big league level, cut in the mold of Mike Stanton. If he can improve the command of his fastball, his ceiling is as high as anybody's in the organization.
ETA. 2009. Now a reliever, Patterson could move very quickly through the minor leagues. He should start the 2008 season with the Tampa Yankees and, if his command improves and he pitches well, should finish the season in Double-A Trenton. A potential Rule 5 Draft loss soon, the Yankees will most likely push him to see what they have.