Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part I

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a long Q&A session. In Part One of our multi-part series, Nardi talks about what he's seen from Andrew Brackman and Jeremy Bleich in Hawaii, how Alfredo Aceves and Phil Coke ascended the way they did this season, what Ian Kennedy has to do to be better prepared for the major leagues, and more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Now that you've been to the Hawaiian Winter League and also from the looks you got of him at Instructs, what are your early impressions of Andrew Brackman?

Nardi Contreras: He's actually still under the 30-day rule. We are mainly making sure he gets to the balance point of his delivery and not rushing out. Rushing hinders arm action which puts more pressure on the elbow and shoulder joints. We sure don't want that to happen to him or any of our pitchers.

He's throwing the ball real well. Stuff-wise he's shown the great curveball he had and he has, a big league quality curveball, and he's working on the changeup. He's mixing those babies in. That's where he stands right now. The offspeed pitches he was throwing are his and we will evaluate them after the [Hawaiian Winter League] season.

So he's pitching and getting valuable innings, and experience. When he gets back down to Tampa, whether that be in January or whenever, we'll start introducing him to a few more points of the delivery.

PinstripesPlus: You've also gotten a look at Jeremy Bleich. What do you make of him so far?

Contreras: We've been able to work with Jeremy a little bit because he pitched a few innings in Staten Island. He's improved his delivery, and we've changed the grip on his curveball and his changeup. He's pitched well so far in Hawaii.

He is facing A-ball and a few Double-A hitters, and he's competing well. Next year he'll probably star in A-ball as did Ian [Kennedy], Joba [Chamberlain], and [Alfredo] Aceves. He'll then have a chance to move up the ladder as they did.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned Aceves' name. Did he surprise you this past season?

Contreras: Probably. He made great strides from his initial showing in Spring Training. As the season went along his velocity got better. His arm started getting in better shape. We made just a little adjustment on his delivery with his hands and with the grip to his curveball.

His curveball at the beginning was real slow and a little loopy, but he worked to make it a big league pitch. He's just such an intelligent pitcher. He studies hitters and he wants to learn and get better, just learning our style and program, our PFP's and our plays, he quickly got after it. He just kept moving and moving until he got to the big leagues and I think he's probably there to stay.

PinstripesPlus: You kind of predicted it in Spring Training when Phil Coke was showing a better breaking ball that he was going to be a big leaguer and he went out, had a great year and made his way up to the Bronx. What were your impressions of his season?

Contreras: That was it, the slider came. The confidence came with being able to throw that hard breaking ball. He was able to throw that harder breaking ball and he was able to command his pitches. We took away one of his pitches so he could work on that slider and stay pitching with his changeup.

He's always had a lot of confidence with the changeup, so he started attacking the zone with all of his stuff. He was getting people out and then we put him in the bullpen and he started throwing harder because he didn't have to worry about facing so many hitters in so many innings.

He was throwing harder, the quality of the slider went up, the changeup was still there, and now he's in the big leagues. There's an option on what the big league club does with him.

I believe he can still be a starter in the big leagues because he's got the pitches, but he made a name for himself in the bullpen and he could be that left-handed setup guy, however Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman want to use him. He's there for them.

PinstripesPlus: Mark Melancon has such good command of three really good pitches and he's also extremely efficient on the mound. Is there any thought of possibly transitioning him into the starting role or is his makeup too ideal for the bullpen?

Contreras: I don't believe so but that is just me talking. That's ultimately going to be up to my bosses. I think his arm is meant to be a reliever. There's less stress and our job is to get them to the big leagues. How he is used in the big leagues is a different story but this was his first full year pitching so we protected him.

He ended up somewhere around [95 innings] and he really came. His changeup was there. Here's a guy who is capable of closing and he's got a changeup, so he's a three-pitch guy with a power fastball and a power curveball, and he has a changeup to get people out.

Personally I don't see him as a starter but I don't think that will be the case. We're going to help him get to the big leagues as a reliever, but that's just my idea. I can't speak for my bosses.

PinstripesPlus: Ian Kennedy struggled in the big leagues this year but was quite dominant at Triple-A. What does he need to do to have the same type of success at the big league level and is he a case where he simply needs to take his lumps at the major league level to make that next step in his development? Would he benefit from more time in the minor leagues?

Contreras: Personally I feel at this date he may benefit from more time in the minor leagues. He's a four-pitch pitcher. He's got real good command of his fastball, he's got a tremendous changeup, he now has a slider that he has confidence in, but the curveball is not there on a consistent basis yet.

He's going to Puerto Rico to pitch this winter to work on his pitches and since he didn't end up with as many innings as we would have liked, we want to get him into that higher amount of innings so if he does make the club out of Spring Training we can pitch him for 175-200 innings.

I believe he's got what it takes to succeed in the big leagues but some guys in most organizations will be allowed to go through some bad times in the big leagues, but we are there to win. Throughout big league baseball you'll see guys who went through some bad times and some bad records, and they stayed there pitching to take their lumps.

Tampa Bay is a great example of guys who in past years took their lumps, pitched poorly, loss many games, and it's allowed them to be better. Our guys when they arrive in New York they have got to be able to produce because we are there to win the World Series. They are not there just to compete and to develop. We want to win a World Series.

Our pitchers when they get there might have a little bump but it's going to be a short bump, it can't be a prolonged bump. When they get there it's about winning for the New York Yankees and he is competing to be able to win. If Ian just needs a little bit more time in the minor leagues to make sure everything's clicking, it may have to be. But hopefully he finds in winter ball.

That's how it goes and hopefully he'll continue to work on his curveball and continue to work on his slider. That slider has become a good pitch for him where he can control it and now we've got to make sure that curveball is the same way.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Now that you've been to the Hawaiian Winter League and also from the looks you got of him at Instructs, what are your early impressions of Andrew Brackman?
\r\n
\r\nNardi Contreras: He's actually still under the 30-day rule. We are mainly making sure he gets to the balance point of his delivery and not rushing out. Rushing hinders arm action which puts more pressure on the elbow and shoulder joints. We sure don't want that to happen to him or any of our pitchers.
\r\n
\r\nHe's throwing the ball real well. Stuff-wise he's shown the great curveball he had and he has, a big league quality curveball, and he's working on the changeup. He's mixing those babies in. That's where he stands right now. The offspeed pitches he was throwing are his and we will evaluate them after the [Hawaiian Winter League] season.
\r\n
\r\nSo he's pitching and getting valuable innings, and experience. When he gets back down to Tampa, whether that be in January or whenever, we'll start introducing him to a few more points of the delivery.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You've also gotten a look at Jeremy Bleich. What do you make of him so far?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: We've been able to work with Jeremy a little bit because he pitched a few innings in Staten Island. He's improved his delivery, and we've changed the grip on his curveball and his changeup. He's pitched well so far in Hawaii.
\r\n
\r\nHe is facing A-ball and a few Double-A hitters, and he's competing well. Next year he'll probably star in A-ball as did Ian [Kennedy], Joba [Chamberlain], and [Alfredo] Aceves. He'll then have a chance to move up the ladder as they did.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned Aceves' name. Did he surprise you this past season?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Probably. He made great strides from his initial showing in Spring Training. As the season went along his velocity got better. His arm started getting in better shape. We made just a little adjustment on his delivery with his hands and with the grip to his curveball.
\r\n
\r\nHis curveball at the beginning was real slow and a little loopy, but he worked to make it a big league pitch. He's just such an intelligent pitcher. He studies hitters and he wants to learn and get better, just learning our style and program, our PFP's and our plays, he quickly got after it. He just kept moving and moving until he got to the big leagues and I think he's probably there to stay.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You kind of predicted it in Spring Training when Phil Coke was showing a better breaking ball that he was going to be a big leaguer and he went out, had a great year and made his way up to the Bronx. What were your impressions of his season?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: That was it, the slider came. The confidence came with being able to throw that hard breaking ball. He was able to throw that harder breaking ball and he was able to command his pitches. We took away one of his pitches so he could work on that slider and stay pitching with his changeup.
\r\n
\r\nHe's always had a lot of confidence with the changeup, so he started attacking the zone with all of his stuff. He was getting people out and then we put him in the bullpen and he started throwing harder because he didn't have to worry about facing so many hitters in so many innings.
\r\n
\r\nHe was throwing harder, the quality of the slider went up, the changeup was still there, and now he's in the big leagues. There's an option on what the big league club does with him.
\r\n
\r\nI believe he can still be a starter in the big leagues because he's got the pitches, but he made a name for himself in the bullpen and he could be that left-handed setup guy, however Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman want to use him. He's there for them.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Mark Melancon has such good command of three really good pitches and he's also extremely efficient on the mound. Is there any thought of possibly transitioning him into the starting role or is his makeup too ideal for the bullpen?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: I don't believe so but that is just me talking. That's ultimately going to be up to my bosses. I think his arm is meant to be a reliever. There's less stress and our job is to get them to the big leagues. How he is used in the big leagues is a different story but this was his first full year pitching so we protected him.
\r\n
\r\nHe ended up somewhere around [95 innings] and he really came. His changeup was there. Here's a guy who is capable of closing and he's got a changeup, so he's a three-pitch guy with a power fastball and a power curveball, and he has a changeup to get people out.
\r\n
\r\nPersonally I don't see him as a starter but I don't think that will be the case. We're going to help him get to the big leagues as a reliever, but that's just my idea. I can't speak for my bosses.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Ian Kennedy struggled in the big leagues this year but was quite dominant at Triple-A. What does he need to do to have the same type of success at the big league level and is he a case where he simply needs to take his lumps at the major league level to make that next step in his development? Would he benefit from more time in the minor leagues?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Personally I feel at this date he may benefit from more time in the minor leagues. He's a four-pitch pitcher. He's got real good command of his fastball, he's got a tremendous changeup, he now has a slider that he has confidence in, but the curveball is not there on a consistent basis yet.
\r\n
\r\nHe's going to Puerto Rico to pitch this winter to work on his pitches and since he didn't end up with as many innings as we would have liked, we want to get him into that higher amount of innings so if he does make the club out of Spring Training we can pitch him for 175-200 innings.
\r\n
\r\nI believe he's got what it takes to succeed in the big leagues but some guys in most organizations will be allowed to go through some bad times in the big leagues, but we are there to win. Throughout big league baseball you'll see guys who went through some bad times and some bad records, and they stayed there pitching to take their lumps.
\r\n
\r\nTampa Bay is a great example of guys who in past years took their lumps, pitched poorly, loss many games, and it's allowed them to be better. Our guys when they arrive in New York they have got to be able to produce because we are there to win the World Series. They are not there just to compete and to develop. We want to win a World Series.
\r\n
\r\nOur pitchers when they get there might have a little bump but it's going to be a short bump, it can't be a prolonged bump. When they get there it's about winning for the New York Yankees and he is competing to be able to win. If Ian just needs a little bit more time in the minor leagues to make sure everything's clicking, it may have to be. But hopefully he finds in winter ball.
\r\n
\r\nThat's how it goes and hopefully he'll continue to work on his curveball and continue to work on his slider. That slider has become a good pitch for him where he can control it and now we've got to make sure that curveball is the same way.
\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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