Wetherell Figuring It Out

Wetherell pitched a scoreless inning on Thursday

Heading into the playoffs, the Yankees have a very solid relief core to turn to in key situations. While timely hitting and a steadfast rotation have catapulted them into the playoffs, the overlooked Staten Island bullpen has been a significant key to their success, including Phil Wetherell.

Philip Wetherell has been one of the many go-to guys in the pen and after being drafted in the 8th round of this year's draft, and has made quite an impression with the team.

Wetherell came into the season knowing what to expect. A curiously self-examining pitcher for his age, the 21 year-old was happy he took his time in college ball before jumping into the pros.

"I knew what I was facing, and I personally think coming out of high school you're facing less talent. I knew how to pitch a little bit but now I feel like I really know how to pitch, how to set up hitters," Wetherell said. "Most people are throwers in high school, here you have to pitch."

While the rigors of college ball are undoubtedly harder than those in high school, Wetherell knew he would still have to approach this next level with an even tougher, more prepared mindset and a gritty game plan. The biggest difference from college he says is the location, a theme he is constantly aware of.

"You can't afford to miss here," he said. "And if you do miss, you have to miss out of the zone or you'll pay for it. Your offspeed stuff has to be sharp. You have to be able to throw swing and miss pitches and really locate your stuff. In college, if you missed three times, you might end up walking a guy, but if you miss three times here you'll pay for it."

In college, Wetherell threw a dizzying array of pitches, two different straight fastballs, a splitter, a slider and a changeup, but with Staten Island, he has narrowed it down to just the four-seam fastball and splitter.

"Here I've been using mostly fastball and splitter and tinkering with some other stuff but mostly fastball and split finger," he revealed. "We work so much on the location that it's taken all the work to stay with those."

Staten Island pitching coach Jose Rosado has been working with Wetherell constantly and the two seem to have a good rhythm for working out the kinks.

"We are working to be effective with the fastball. He had that pitch but it has to be sharp. If you can locate that ball, you don't have to be perfect with everything else. The split is his best second pitch so we know that's there."

But Wetherell hasn't felt completely comfortable relying on just two pitches and they have been working on bringing the slider back to his game, acknowledging a flaw in young pitchers.

"If you only have two pitches, and one isn't good that day you're going to be digging holes for yourself because they can sit on your one good pitch. So if I can add that extra pitch, I can set up my other pitches."

Until recently though, Wetherell and Rosado had not found the right grip for it and over the course of the season, six or seven different attempts had been made to find the right grip with little results.

"Just the other day it clicked and I found a good grip to work with after trying so many different ones, so it feels like we're getting close," Wetherell said.

Even Rosado says Wetherell just sort of happened upon it after telling the young righty to carry a ball around with him. Then things just fell into place, but Rosado insists Wetherell is really quick to make adjustments overall.

"We are working on the slider," Rosado said. "He's been able to pick things up very quickly. He's a mature guy and that helps.

"He surprised me with his ability to pick things up and you don't usually see that most of the time, especially from day to day but he almost figured out the grip on his own. So far so good."

While the Illinois native comes across as the ultimate student in the eyes of his coach, he is also quite the perfectionist. His 2.40 ERA would be good on any team in the NY-Penn League and his 41/15 strikeout to walk ratio implies solid command, Wetherell is striving to get his fastball location even better, something he has echoed all season, especially in the playoffs.

"It's never where you want it, but I feel like my command has been good," he said. "Until you have zero walks it's never going to be perfect. There's sometimes where I can rush and get ahead of myself and the release points get messy but I've been pretty happy with it overall."

When asked what he feels like could improve an already quality reliability, he doesn't hesitate to illustrate his displeasure with location.

"It's all about trying to get the release point the same all the time. My fastball command and the slider are the biggest focus like they have been all year. I'll continue to work on the fastball command my entire life," he concluded.

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