Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part IV

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a long Q&A session. In Part Four of our multi-part series, Nardi gives his opinion of Mike Dunn's transition to the bullpen, what happened to Ryan Pope in the second half, if Chase Wright's breaking ball made enough progress, if he was pleased with Anthony Claggett, and much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Talk about Humberto Sanchez. He didn't pitch much in the minors outside of his rehab program but what did you see of him in the brief time he was pitching?

Nardi Contreras: He is now pitching in the Arizona Fall League. For him it's all about staying healthy. He's on the roster and hopefully he stays healthy through Spring Training. He's briefly shown that he has what it takes to get out big league hitters.

PinstripesPlus: Mike Dunn made the transition from starter to reliever this year. Did you like what you saw after the move?

Contreras: He is a reliever, that's what he is. He does have a changeup but it looks like he will be a power lefty reliever. Once he went to the bullpen he picked up a couple of more ticks on his velocity. He has the big, hard slider – the same type as Phil Coke – and he's got power in his fastball and he can also sink it. This young man is going to move fast because he does throw his pitches for strikes and he has power in that left arm. He's an athlete, he's very good defensively which helps himself and helps the team.

PinstripesPlus: Let's talk about Ryan Pope. He had the really good first half and the not so good second half. When I saw him late in the year his velocity seemed to be down quite a bit. Was that just a byproduct of it being his first full season?

Contreras: You may be right, I hope so. This young man has some nice pitch-ability, he is able to sink the ball, he has the four-seam fastball, he has a real nice curveball, and he has developed his changeup. In Spring Training we're going to introduce the slider for him because he's going to need to be a four-pitch pitcher, like we talked about with Ian Kennedy. Hopefully next Spring Training he is strong again and has his arm strength, and then with his arsenal of pitches it should help him climb up the ladder within the organization.

PinstripesPlus: Jason Jones had another great year numbers-wise but stuff-wise he just seems buried in this organization. What are your impressions?

Contreras: Jason Jones is going to pitch in the big leagues, hopefully for us. He worked real hard this past year. Jason came to Spring Training somewhere between 15-25 pounds lighter than he was the year before. It was a different Jason Jones. It helped him with his pitches, it helped his velocity, and he showed that he is able to pitch higher. He pitched in Triple-A this year for a start and he succeeded there. He has pitch-ability, he has both fastballs, he has the slider, he has the splitter, and he has a curveball. He can throw them all for strikes. So he will probably get the chance to pitch higher. He does all the things well on the mound – holding runners, pickoffs, fielding his position – and he is a great team player.

PinstripesPlus: Let's talk about Chase Wright. The big thing with him is the same thing with Phil Coke, he needed a better breaking pitch. Did you see him make the strides with his breaking ball this year?

Contreras: He did. When he went up to Triple-A he succeeded. He was throwing strikes, he was using his changeup, but his breaking ball was still not as consistent as I would like to see it. Still he can compete because he has great sink to his fastball, he has a very good changeup, he's not scared to pitch inside into those right-handers, but he's just needs to be more consistent with his breaking ball. He's a tremendous athlete. He might be one of the top three defenders that we have in the minor leagues. He is as good as Kenny Rogers. This year he made a great play like Kenny Rogers has, sliding and picking up the ball and throwing the runner out. It was just awesome.

PinstripesPlus: Anthony Claggett spent last year in the starting rotation to get some more work in and then transitioned back to the bullpen this year. Were you happy with the results from the work he did last year?

Contreras: Yes, Anthony Claggett has shown us that he's got a chance to pitch in the big leagues. When I saw him pitch he commanded both sides of the plate with his fastball and great sinker, he shows a big league slider and a changeup that he developed as a starter. He was able to use his changeup against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. As a reliever he pitched in extended innings and he got a little tired near the end of the season. We rested him a while and he came back and helped Trenton in the playoffs. Anthony has pitched himself into a very good looking prospect.

PinstripesPlus: David Phelps had a good year numbers-wise in Staten Island. What are your impressions of him so far?

Contreras: Phelps is very polished. We're smoothing some things out with his delivery. He is tightening up his slider and he has the very good changeup. His fastballs have a lot of life to them. He is able to compete with the pitches he has and once the delivery smoothes out he will then have a better chance of commanding the zone. I believe he's going to pitch well for us.

PinstripesPlus: Like Claggett, Kevin Whelan spent a good portion of last year in the starting rotation working on several things and then jumped back into the bullpen this year. I realize he didn't pitch too much this year but were the returns favorable on the work he did a year ago?

Contreras: He's in Arizona facing some real good hitters right now. He's throwing strikes with his fastball, the slider is quality and he's able to throw it over the plate, and he also has that big-time splitter. I didn't get to see him pitch this year. Since his innings were short the organization felt that the best thing for Kevin was to go to Arizona and pitch.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: Talk about Humberto Sanchez. He didn't pitch much in the minors outside of his rehab program but what did you see of him in the brief time he was pitching?
\r\n
\r\nNardi Contreras: He is now pitching in the Arizona Fall League. For him it's all about staying healthy. He's on the roster and hopefully he stays healthy through Spring Training. He's briefly shown that he has what it takes to get out big league hitters.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Mike Dunn made the transition from starter to reliever this year. Did you like what you saw after the move?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: He is a reliever, that's what he is. He does have a changeup but it looks like he will be a power lefty reliever. Once he went to the bullpen he picked up a couple of more ticks on his velocity. He has the big, hard slider – the same type as Phil Coke – and he's got power in his fastball and he can also sink it. This young man is going to move fast because he does throw his pitches for strikes and he has power in that left arm. He's an athlete, he's very good defensively which helps himself and helps the team.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Let's talk about Ryan Pope. He had the really good first half and the not so good second half. When I saw him late in the year his velocity seemed to be down quite a bit. Was that just a byproduct of it being his first full season?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: You may be right, I hope so. This young man has some nice pitch-ability, he is able to sink the ball, he has the four-seam fastball, he has a real nice curveball, and he has developed his changeup. In Spring Training we're going to introduce the slider for him because he's going to need to be a four-pitch pitcher, like we talked about with Ian Kennedy. Hopefully next Spring Training he is strong again and has his arm strength, and then with his arsenal of pitches it should help him climb up the ladder within the organization.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Jason Jones had another great year numbers-wise but stuff-wise he just seems buried in this organization. What are your impressions?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Jason Jones is going to pitch in the big leagues, hopefully for us. He worked real hard this past year. Jason came to Spring Training somewhere between 15-25 pounds lighter than he was the year before. It was a different Jason Jones. It helped him with his pitches, it helped his velocity, and he showed that he is able to pitch higher. He pitched in Triple-A this year for a start and he succeeded there. He has pitch-ability, he has both fastballs, he has the slider, he has the splitter, and he has a curveball. He can throw them all for strikes. So he will probably get the chance to pitch higher. He does all the things well on the mound – holding runners, pickoffs, fielding his position – and he is a great team player.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Let's talk about Chase Wright. The big thing with him is the same thing with Phil Coke, he needed a better breaking pitch. Did you see him make the strides with his breaking ball this year?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: He did. When he went up to Triple-A he succeeded. He was throwing strikes, he was using his changeup, but his breaking ball was still not as consistent as I would like to see it. Still he can compete because he has great sink to his fastball, he has a very good changeup, he's not scared to pitch inside into those right-handers, but he's just needs to be more consistent with his breaking ball. He's a tremendous athlete. He might be one of the top three defenders that we have in the minor leagues. He is as good as Kenny Rogers. This year he made a great play like Kenny Rogers has, sliding and picking up the ball and throwing the runner out. It was just awesome.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Anthony Claggett spent last year in the starting rotation to get some more work in and then transitioned back to the bullpen this year. Were you happy with the results from the work he did last year?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Yes, Anthony Claggett has shown us that he's got a chance to pitch in the big leagues. When I saw him pitch he commanded both sides of the plate with his fastball and great sinker, he shows a big league slider and a changeup that he developed as a starter. He was able to use his changeup against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. As a reliever he pitched in extended innings and he got a little tired near the end of the season. We rested him a while and he came back and helped Trenton in the playoffs. Anthony has pitched himself into a very good looking prospect.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: David Phelps had a good year numbers-wise in Staten Island. What are your impressions of him so far?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: Phelps is very polished. We're smoothing some things out with his delivery. He is tightening up his slider and he has the very good changeup. His fastballs have a lot of life to them. He is able to compete with the pitches he has and once the delivery smoothes out he will then have a better chance of commanding the zone. I believe he's going to pitch well for us.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Like Claggett, Kevin Whelan spent a good portion of last year in the starting rotation working on several things and then jumped back into the bullpen this year. I realize he didn't pitch too much this year but were the returns favorable on the work he did a year ago?
\r\n
\r\nContreras: He's in Arizona facing some real good hitters right now. He's throwing strikes with his fastball, the slider is quality and he's able to throw it over the plate, and he also has that big-time splitter. I didn't get to see him pitch this year. Since his innings were short the organization felt that the best thing for Kevin was to go to Arizona and pitch.
\r\n
\r\n

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