Arizona Fall League Q&A with Scott Aldred

We caught up with pitching coach Scott Aldred for an exclusive Q&A session to get his thoughts on the Yankee hurlers out in the Arizona Fall League. Aldred talks extensively about the work Phil Hughes has put in, specifically in regards to the development of his cutter and changeup, how Humberto Sanchez has progressed, if cutting his walks down is the key for Kevin Whelan, and much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: You had Kevin Whelan while he was rehabbing in Trenton and now in the Arizona Fall League. Are you happy with how his arm has bounced back after missing a large portion of the season?

Scott Aldred: Yeah, I think he's healthy now, finally. It's a start. He's been battling that arm injury all summer and he started getting better at the end and he's been good here, so hopefully he can carry this over into next year.

PinstripesPlus: He's always been a guy that holds batters to a very low batting average. What is that makes him so difficult to hit?

Aldred: Well part of it is because he doesn't throw a lot of strikes so the average stays down, but his stuff's good. He's got a good split, I'd just like to see him throw more strikes and keep his stuff within the strike zone.

PinstripesPlus: Are the walks the only thing keeping him from being an option on the major league level?

Aldred: It's just overall control of his stuff. His slider's not where it needs to be yet, but he's got a good out-pitch in his split but he doesn't locate his fastball all the time. He's got some work to do.

PinstripesPlus: Humberto Sanchez was a guy that really seemed to struggle with his consistency during the AFL. What were some of the differences that you noticed between the end of the regular season and the AFL?

Aldred: No, he's just a guy that hasn't pitched in two years and he just needs innings and get back out on the mound and try to rediscover his stuff. I think with him just getting innings in, the arm strength will start to come back slowly but surely and the one thing that he's had to do out here [in Arizona] is that he's had to change speeds, so he's got some good work on his changeup and he's learned that he needs to pitch a little bit when his stuff isn't good. Hopefully, if his stuff shows up again, he'll be more of a pitcher because of it.

PinstripesPlus: When he moved to the bullpen, he went with the changeup as his third pitch rather than the slider/cutter. What are your thoughts on him going with changeup?

Aldred: Well, he throws the curveball. The curveball is the better of the two secondary pitches. But it's nice to have that changeup option to a left-handed hitter and he's had to throw it here just to survive and it's been good for him because he's learned how to use his pitch effectively because when his stuff does come back, he's gonna have his stuff that much more prepared out there.

PinstripesPlus: Phil Hughes has seen an increase in his velocity in the last couple of games. Has he made any adjustments to bring the velocity back up?

Aldred: We've made some small adjustments but nothing major that would cause a velocity spike. His stuff's just been good down here, period. I liked his curveball, the velocity and life to his fastball is there – the command isn't consistent through the games but you see flashes of it and the changeup's in place, he just doesn't use it enough.

His stuff is there, this is a guy that, again, has spent a lot of time over the last two years and he's proven to me that he's still got the same equipment that we thought he had. He's not far away, that's for sure, from doing a real nice job for the Yankees because his stuff's been fine, it's just been a matter of harnessing it and getting back out there and getting in a rhythm and pitching again.

PinstripesPlus: Is he staying back [in his delivery] a little bit more? Is that what he's been working on?

Aldred: Yeah, he was leaking bad when he came out here. We made an adjustment to his hip rotation and he's staying over the rubber much better from the windup. In the stretch, it's still a work in progress getting him on his backside longer but he'll still be able to control the running game. There's kind of a fine line there between being quick to the plate and executing a pitch, and I'd much rather see him execute the pitch at this time but he'll get it. He's a smart kid and he's gonna get it quick.

PinstripesPlus: Are you happy with the development of his cutter and changeup?

Aldred: Oh yeah, his cutter is there. It was there when he came here. It's just something that he picked up this year. It's been real good. He hasn't thrown it a lot, which, he hasn't had to throw it a lot really. He's mainly working on his fastball command and the consistency of his breaking ball. The changeup's there, I think if he could use it a little bit more - like in the game yesterday he wasn't really tested on his fastball – so it's kinda hard to tell a guy to throw a changeup to a guy that your throwing fastballs right past. I'd like to see him get tested against a predominately left-handed lineup here – guys that can get on his fastball a little bit where he'll need to use his changeup.

PinstripesPlus: Does he have a certain number of changeups that the Yankees are asking him to throw each game?

Aldred: Well, Phil's got a pretty good feel of what needs to be thrown. He reads hitters pretty good. I think he throws them when he needs to. He doesn't throw them a lot, but again, they haven't got on his fastball but during the season, yeah, he'll be forced to throw it. We'll make sure that he throws it 12 to 15 times a game so that when he goes to the big leagues and he needs that pitch that it's evolved.

Development is more important than any type of numbers that he puts up in the minor leagues because he can probably put up numbers with just his fastball and curveball, but that doesn't completely prepare him to pitch in the big leagues and that's our job – to make sure he's ready to pitch with a full arsenal.

I've explained that to Phil and he's understands because it's survival up there. He faces some pretty darn good hitters and just being a two-pitch guy, or maybe a three pitch with another breaking ball may not be good enough. He's gonna need to pitch with the changeup.

PinstripesPlus: With a guy like Phil Hughes, who's in the spot light most of the time, is it a difficult balance for him between the performance and the development?

Aldred: Well, Phil takes it pretty good. He's pretty mature for a young guy. He takes it all in stride. He understands what he needs to work on but he's no different than anybody else. If they can go 5 shutout [innings] and punch out 8, they wanna do that rather than go 5 [innings] and develop something.

So it's tough, you've kinda gotta force it on them but he understands what needs to be done and we do a lot of work in between starts and work on his changeup and make sure he's got a feel for it. He just hasn't brought it into play as much as he probably could have down here.

PinstripesPlus: Has Phil made his last start in the fall league?

Aldred: No, Phil's gonna make one more start. He's gonna start on Wednesday [11/19] and I wanna get him out on a good note and he can throw some more changeups in that game and just continue what he's doing. I like what he's doing. I just wish he had some more time to pitch because he's making some real progress right now but ya gotta rest and get ready for Spring Training. I think he's done quite a bit here. He's put in a lot of work.

PinstripesPlus: Most of the pitchers were out here, at least in part, to increase their innings. Aside from that, have any of them impressed you with their accomplishments during the AFL?

Aldred: No, I think our guys worked pretty good. Phil's come on late here. His stuff's improved; it's back to where it was. Before we traded Jeff Marquez, he was doing a fantastic job here. He got his arm up in a good spot and all of his pitches where working real good. Jeff was back to where he was when I saw him in 2007 when he was really good. It took him a while to get there, but he finally got there. Kevin Whelan, you just try to get him in the zone more often and he's done a nice job out here. He hasn't give up too many runs. He's had a few base runners but he's been that bend but don't break guy. Of course Sanchy [Sanchez], he's coming off a big injury so it's just a matter of gathering some innings for him and hopefully the stuff returns to where it was previously.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nPinstripesPlus.com: You had Kevin Whelan while he was rehabbing in Trenton and now in the Arizona Fall League. Are you happy with how his arm has bounced back after missing a large portion of the season?
\r\n
\r\nScott Aldred: Yeah, I think he's healthy now, finally. It's a start. He's been battling that arm injury all summer and he started getting better at the end and he's been good here, so hopefully he can carry this over into next year.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: He's always been a guy that holds batters to a very low batting average. What is that makes him so difficult to hit?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: Well part of it is because he doesn't throw a lot of strikes so the average stays down, but his stuff's good. He's got a good split, I'd just like to see him throw more strikes and keep his stuff within the strike zone.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Are the walks the only thing keeping him from being an option on the major league level?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: It's just overall control of his stuff. His slider's not where it needs to be yet, but he's got a good out-pitch in his split but he doesn't locate his fastball all the time. He's got some work to do.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Humberto Sanchez was a guy that really seemed to struggle with his consistency during the AFL. What were some of the differences that you noticed between the end of the regular season and the AFL?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: No, he's just a guy that hasn't pitched in two years and he just needs innings and get back out on the mound and try to rediscover his stuff. I think with him just getting innings in, the arm strength will start to come back slowly but surely and the one thing that he's had to do out here [in Arizona] is that he's had to change speeds, so he's got some good work on his changeup and he's learned that he needs to pitch a little bit when his stuff isn't good. Hopefully, if his stuff shows up again, he'll be more of a pitcher because of it.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: When he moved to the bullpen, he went with the changeup as his third pitch rather than the slider/cutter. What are your thoughts on him going with changeup?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: Well, he throws the curveball. The curveball is the better of the two secondary pitches. But it's nice to have that changeup option to a left-handed hitter and he's had to throw it here just to survive and it's been good for him because he's learned how to use his pitch effectively because when his stuff does come back, he's gonna have his stuff that much more prepared out there.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Phil Hughes has seen an increase in his velocity in the last couple of games. Has he made any adjustments to bring the velocity back up?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: We've made some small adjustments but nothing major that would cause a velocity spike. His stuff's just been good down here, period. I liked his curveball, the velocity and life to his fastball is there – the command isn't consistent through the games but you see flashes of it and the changeup's in place, he just doesn't use it enough.
\r\n
\r\nHis stuff is there, this is a guy that, again, has spent a lot of time over the last two years and he's proven to me that he's still got the same equipment that we thought he had. He's not far away, that's for sure, from doing a real nice job for the Yankees because his stuff's been fine, it's just been a matter of harnessing it and getting back out there and getting in a rhythm and pitching again.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Is he staying back [in his delivery] a little bit more? Is that what he's been working on?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: Yeah, he was leaking bad when he came out here. We made an adjustment to his hip rotation and he's staying over the rubber much better from the windup. In the stretch, it's still a work in progress getting him on his backside longer but he'll still be able to control the running game. There's kind of a fine line there between being quick to the plate and executing a pitch, and I'd much rather see him execute the pitch at this time but he'll get it. He's a smart kid and he's gonna get it quick.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Are you happy with the development of his cutter and changeup?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: Oh yeah, his cutter is there. It was there when he came here. It's just something that he picked up this year. It's been real good. He hasn't thrown it a lot, which, he hasn't had to throw it a lot really. He's mainly working on his fastball command and the consistency of his breaking ball. The changeup's there, I think if he could use it a little bit more - like in the game yesterday he wasn't really tested on his fastball – so it's kinda hard to tell a guy to throw a changeup to a guy that your throwing fastballs right past. I'd like to see him get tested against a predominately left-handed lineup here – guys that can get on his fastball a little bit where he'll need to use his changeup.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Does he have a certain number of changeups that the Yankees are asking him to throw each game?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: Well, Phil's got a pretty good feel of what needs to be thrown. He reads hitters pretty good. I think he throws them when he needs to. He doesn't throw them a lot, but again, they haven't got on his fastball but during the season, yeah, he'll be forced to throw it. We'll make sure that he throws it 12 to 15 times a game so that when he goes to the big leagues and he needs that pitch that it's evolved.
\r\n
\r\nDevelopment is more important than any type of numbers that he puts up in the minor leagues because he can probably put up numbers with just his fastball and curveball, but that doesn't completely prepare him to pitch in the big leagues and that's our job – to make sure he's ready to pitch with a full arsenal.
\r\n
\r\nI've explained that to Phil and he's understands because it's survival up there. He faces some pretty darn good hitters and just being a two-pitch guy, or maybe a three pitch with another breaking ball may not be good enough. He's gonna need to pitch with the changeup.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: With a guy like Phil Hughes, who's in the spot light most of the time, is it a difficult balance for him between the performance and the development?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: Well, Phil takes it pretty good. He's pretty mature for a young guy. He takes it all in stride. He understands what he needs to work on but he's no different than anybody else. If they can go 5 shutout [innings] and punch out 8, they wanna do that rather than go 5 [innings] and develop something.
\r\n
\r\nSo it's tough, you've kinda gotta force it on them but he understands what needs to be done and we do a lot of work in between starts and work on his changeup and make sure he's got a feel for it. He just hasn't brought it into play as much as he probably could have down here.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Has Phil made his last start in the fall league?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: No, Phil's gonna make one more start. He's gonna start on Wednesday [11/19] and I wanna get him out on a good note and he can throw some more changeups in that game and just continue what he's doing. I like what he's doing. I just wish he had some more time to pitch because he's making some real progress right now but ya gotta rest and get ready for Spring Training. I think he's done quite a bit here. He's put in a lot of work.
\r\n
\r\nPinstripesPlus: Most of the pitchers were out here, at least in part, to increase their innings. Aside from that, have any of them impressed you with their accomplishments during the AFL?
\r\n
\r\nAldred: No, I think our guys worked pretty good. Phil's come on late here. His stuff's improved; it's back to where it was. Before we traded Jeff Marquez, he was doing a fantastic job here. He got his arm up in a good spot and all of his pitches where working real good. Jeff was back to where he was when I saw him in 2007 when he was really good. It took him a while to get there, but he finally got there. Kevin Whelan, you just try to get him in the zone more often and he's done a nice job out here. He hasn't give up too many runs. He's had a few base runners but he's been that bend but don't break guy. Of course Sanchy [Sanchez], he's coming off a big injury so it's just a matter of gathering some innings for him and hopefully the stuff returns to where it was previously.
\r\n
\r\n

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

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