Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part III

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a long Q&A session. In Part Three of our multi-part series, Nardi gives more insight on Christian Garcia's progress, what he thought of Zach McAllister's secondary pitches, if Dellin Betances got better defensively and holding runners, if he was pleased with Jairo Heredia, and much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Talk about Christian Garcia. It seemed to be a pretty solid year for him coming back from the two surgeries.

Nardi Contreras: He did so many things right to get to Double-A. Christian Garcia has got the world in front of him. First his arm strength is coming back.

He has the power curveball, he has the power changeup, he has the fastball, he's got the life, and he can do so many things on that mound – such as holding runners, defending his position – he just needs to stay healthy. When he does that he's got a chance to help up in the big leagues.

PinstripesPlus: On the subject of holding runners, let's talk about Dellin Betances. A year ago the biggest knock on him aside from his mechanics was his sub-par ability holding runners and defending his position. Did you see him develop in those areas this year?

Contreras: Oh he was outstanding. He's a different person as a pitcher now. In Instructs he picked off a guy at first base on a tremendously quick move. He's learned to pitch with his quick-step to home, not at that 1.6-1.8 times he was before.

Dellin is coming. The fastball is there, the delivery is getting better and better. It's not exactly where I'd like to be at. If it were he would be close to being ready for the big leagues. He's got the curveball and the changeup. We knew he had the curveball so he worked on his changeup.

In Instructs he worked predominantly with his changeup. His curveball is there, the velocity is there, so we're making sure his delivery and changeup continue to develop, and with the progress he made defensively and his ability to hold runners, it's like he's a different pitcher.

PinstripesPlus: Wilkins De La Rosa had a heck of a year. I don't want to say he came out of nowhere because he always had the arm strength, but the numbers bear out that he made big strides with his secondary pitches. Did you see that?

Contreras: Yes but just like every other young pitcher he still has a little ways to go. His slider is there at times and sometimes it's not there. His changeup is there at times and sometimes it's not there. What's always there is the velocity with his fastball and he's able to throw over the plate.

He's in the strike zone with his fastball and so he's able to compete, but he's had some games where his slider and changeup are working great and he puts up the great numbers. What he has is a gift with his arm strength and he his developing the changeup and slider.

He hasn't been pitching much, but he has the makings of having a big league quality changeup and slider. He should be able to start in Tampa next year and he will need to have those two offspeed pitches to go with the fastball.

He will face many experienced hitters who have seen all types of fastballs. To succeed he will need to have his offspeed pitches working to go along with that fastball. He'll continue to work with those pitches during his time in Spring Training.

PinstripesPlus: As good a year as De La Rosa had, Zach McAllister was even better. Like De La Rosa too, however, a big point of emphasis was the development of his secondary pitches. What did you see from him this year? Did you like the progress he made with those secondary pitches?

Contreras: He had a tremendous year in all facets of the game. He made great strides with his secondary pitches. The only reason he probably didn't pitch any higher than Tampa this year was because he ended up at 150 innings.

The slider and his changeup helped him compete and pitch well. That is why he was promoted from Charleston to Tampa and succeeded there as well. The young man is on his way.

He can command both sides of the plate with his two types of fastballs, he's got the quality slider now, and he's learned to use that slider with location to different types of hitters, and then he can use the lively changeup to both right-haned and left-handed hitters.

He can now get hitters out with either the changeup, slider, and power or sinking fastball. He's another promising pitcher that we have.

PinstripesPlus: Sticking with Tampa, let's talk about Ivan Nova. He's got the stuff but the biggest problem for him was expanding the zone, setting up batters, and generally just showing more pitch-ability. Did you see him make progress in that regard this year?

Contreras: Yes, he made great strides pitching for 'Pav' [Tampa pitching coach Greg Pavlik]. This kid has a real great chance to pitch in the big leagues. I'm not saying it's going to be this coming year because that's all up to him.

He has the changeup, he has the curveball, and of course he has both the power and now the sinking fastball. This year he worked on the sinker and with confidence pitched with it. It helped him get deeper into games. I know he competed well. He had some bad games, but he had many real good games too.

‘Pav' likes what he saw in his progression. He's done well and he's just going to get better. Dominican kids don't have the same amateur setup as we do here in the states so it usually takes most of them a little longer. I'm very happy with how he's progressed in all areas of the game.

PinstripesPlus: You mentioned young Dominican pitchers and I can't help but think of Jairo Heredia. He had a solid year numbers-wise. You said a year ago was all he needed to do was pitch to get experience. Did he make the kind of progress this year that you were looking for?

Contreras: Yes, in fact he developed a great changeup, so much so that he threw it more often than his curveball. That's how well that changeup came. He's itching to use a two-seam fastball but he's not allowed just yet, not until he gets to Tampa. I think it's safe to say he'll be pitching in Tampa sometime next year. That's going to help him also.

So he'll have the two different fastballs, his big-time curveball, and the changeup that he has developed. Here's this kid who is 19 years old and is able to do things that many college kids are not able to do.

He's a little thin right now. When he begins to fill out he should start throwing harder. Like Ivan, when we first signed him, he was real skinny but then he put on weight and started throwing harder. I believe that's also going to happen with Jairo.

PinstripesPlus: Let's talk about Arodys Vizcaino. For me it seemed he might have been the most improved pitcher from the start of the season to the end of the season. Would you agree with that?

Contreras: Oh Carlos Chantres did a great job with him. Vizcaino is growing up, which is a big part of it. He's maturing. He' s starting to understand a lot of things we're trying to teach him and he's learning more about life.

Physically he's getting bigger and stronger. His delivery is so much better now. He's pitching the ball downhill instead of side-to-side, which helps him pitch his plus fastball down through the zone. He has a quality nasty big league curveball and he is working to develop the changeup.

During the Instructional League, he was another pitcher like Betances where all we did was work on his changeup. Young pitchers that get hitters out with a fastball and a curveball don't grow up caring about the changeup, but he in our system we do. He's learning his changeup. Once he learns his changeup he's going to be able to pitch higher this coming year.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Talk about Christian Garcia. It seemed to be a pretty solid year for him coming back from the two surgeries.
\r\n
\r\nNardi Contreras: He did so many things right to get to Double-A. Christian Garcia has got the world in front of him. First his arm strength is coming back.
\r\n
\r\nHe has the power curveball, he has the power changeup, he has the fastball, he's got the life, and he can do so many things on that mound – such as holding runners, defending his position – he just needs to stay healthy. When he does that he's got a chance to help up in the big leagues.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: On the subject of holding runners, let's talk about Dellin Betances. A year ago the biggest knock on him aside from his mechanics was his sub-par ability holding runners and defending his position. Did you see him develop in those areas this year?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Oh he was outstanding. He's a different person as a pitcher now. In Instructs he picked off a guy at first base on a tremendously quick move. He's learned to pitch with his quick-step to home, not at that 1.6-1.8 times he was before.
\r\n
\r\nDellin is coming. The fastball is there, the delivery is getting better and better. It's not exactly where I'd like to be at. If it were he would be close to being ready for the big leagues. He's got the curveball and the changeup. We knew he had the curveball so he worked on his changeup.
\r\n
\r\nIn Instructs he worked predominantly with his changeup. His curveball is there, the velocity is there, so we're making sure his delivery and changeup continue to develop, and with the progress he made defensively and his ability to hold runners, it's like he's a different pitcher.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Wilkins De La Rosa had a heck of a year. I don't want to say he came out of nowhere because he always had the arm strength, but the numbers bear out that he made big strides with his secondary pitches. Did you see that?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Yes but just like every other young pitcher he still has a little ways to go. His slider is there at times and sometimes it's not there. His changeup is there at times and sometimes it's not there. What's always there is the velocity with his fastball and he's able to throw over the plate.
\r\n
\r\nHe's in the strike zone with his fastball and so he's able to compete, but he's had some games where his slider and changeup are working great and he puts up the great numbers. What he has is a gift with his arm strength and he his developing the changeup and slider.
\r\n
\r\nHe hasn't been pitching much, but he has the makings of having a big league quality changeup and slider. He should be able to start in Tampa next year and he will need to have those two offspeed pitches to go with the fastball.
\r\n
\r\nHe will face many experienced hitters who have seen all types of fastballs. To succeed he will need to have his offspeed pitches working to go along with that fastball. He'll continue to work with those pitches during his time in Spring Training.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: As good a year as De La Rosa had, Zach McAllister was even better. Like De La Rosa too, however, a big point of emphasis was the development of his secondary pitches. What did you see from him this year? Did you like the progress he made with those secondary pitches?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: He had a tremendous year in all facets of the game. He made great strides with his secondary pitches. The only reason he probably didn't pitch any higher than Tampa this year was because he ended up at 150 innings.
\r\n
\r\nThe slider and his changeup helped him compete and pitch well. That is why he was promoted from Charleston to Tampa and succeeded there as well. The young man is on his way.
\r\n
\r\nHe can command both sides of the plate with his two types of fastballs, he's got the quality slider now, and he's learned to use that slider with location to different types of hitters, and then he can use the lively changeup to both right-haned and left-handed hitters.
\r\n
\r\nHe can now get hitters out with either the changeup, slider, and power or sinking fastball. He's another promising pitcher that we have.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Sticking with Tampa, let's talk about Ivan Nova. He's got the stuff but the biggest problem for him was expanding the zone, setting up batters, and generally just showing more pitch-ability. Did you see him make progress in that regard this year?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Yes, he made great strides pitching for 'Pav' [Tampa pitching coach Greg Pavlik]. This kid has a real great chance to pitch in the big leagues. I'm not saying it's going to be this coming year because that's all up to him.
\r\n
\r\nHe has the changeup, he has the curveball, and of course he has both the power and now the sinking fastball. This year he worked on the sinker and with confidence pitched with it. It helped him get deeper into games. I know he competed well. He had some bad games, but he had many real good games too.
\r\n
\r\n‘Pav' likes what he saw in his progression. He's done well and he's just going to get better. Dominican kids don't have the same amateur setup as we do here in the states so it usually takes most of them a little longer. I'm very happy with how he's progressed in all areas of the game.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: You mentioned young Dominican pitchers and I can't help but think of Jairo Heredia. He had a solid year numbers-wise. You said a year ago was all he needed to do was pitch to get experience. Did he make the kind of progress this year that you were looking for?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Yes, in fact he developed a great changeup, so much so that he threw it more often than his curveball. That's how well that changeup came. He's itching to use a two-seam fastball but he's not allowed just yet, not until he gets to Tampa. I think it's safe to say he'll be pitching in Tampa sometime next year. That's going to help him also.
\r\n
\r\nSo he'll have the two different fastballs, his big-time curveball, and the changeup that he has developed. Here's this kid who is 19 years old and is able to do things that many college kids are not able to do.
\r\n
\r\nHe's a little thin right now. When he begins to fill out he should start throwing harder. Like Ivan, when we first signed him, he was real skinny but then he put on weight and started throwing harder. I believe that's also going to happen with Jairo.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Let's talk about Arodys Vizcaino. For me it seemed he might have been the most improved pitcher from the start of the season to the end of the season. Would you agree with that?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Oh Carlos Chantres did a great job with him. Vizcaino is growing up, which is a big part of it. He's maturing. He' s starting to understand a lot of things we're trying to teach him and he's learning more about life.
\r\n
\r\nPhysically he's getting bigger and stronger. His delivery is so much better now. He's pitching the ball downhill instead of side-to-side, which helps him pitch his plus fastball down through the zone. He has a quality nasty big league curveball and he is working to develop the changeup.
\r\n
\r\nDuring the Instructional League, he was another pitcher like Betances where all we did was work on his changeup. Young pitchers that get hitters out with a fastball and a curveball don't grow up caring about the changeup, but he in our system we do. He's learning his changeup. Once he learns his changeup he's going to be able to pitch higher this coming year.
\r\n
\r\n

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

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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