Athleticism Paying Off For Pendleton

Pendleton Just Began Throwing HIs Changeup

Before going down with an injury, Lance Pendleton was on his way to an outstanding first professional season with Staten Island. But, he pitched more than enough to show just what the Yankees had landed with their fourth round draft selection in 2005.

To take a highly inexperienced college pitcher in the early rounds of the draft is a gamble for any team, but it was one that the New York Yankees saw as more than worth while. While his naturally strong throwing arm obviously factored heavily in their decision to select him, there was something else on the Yankees mind as well - his all around athleticism.

"I mean, Pendleton was a pitcher we drafted that we're very pleased to have," Yankees' scouting director Damon Oppenheimer explained. "He not only has a plus fastball and a plus curveball, but he was a pretty good position player too and he's the type of pitcher we're looking for. The pitchers at the Major League level are really good athletes."

It was his big time arm and athleticism that got him drafted, but Lance had a lot of expectations to live up to once he took the mound for the first time in the pros. And, before going down with an injury, he did just about all he could to live up to the advanced billing.

"I'm pretty happy with my first season," Pendleton told PinstripesPlus.com. "The injury was really nothing serious at all. It was some minor, minor elbow tendonitis. They shut me down just to play it safe. It was nothing that major, and more precautionary than anything else."

When each player begins his professional career, there are always some adjustments that go along with the transition. And, for the big righty, the challenge was developing a third pitch to go along with a plus fastball and a hammer curveball. The changeup didn't come easy for Lance, but according to his catcher in Staten Island, P.J. Pilittere, he made definite progress.

"He never threw [a changeup] before Staten Island, but he started working on it with Mike Thurman and Nardi Contreras," P.J. explained. "In other words, he started to get a feel for it and I just remember how excited he was once he got a feel for it. Lance is a good competitor, but was definitely aware that he needed that third pitch."

"When I first reported to Tampa after I signed, Nardi [Contreras] and [Mike] Thurman started teaching me how to throw the changeup," Pendleton added. "And, they made it easier because it was a grip similar to a two-seam fastball. I started getting more comfortable with it before I got hurt, but it is a process. It's far from perfected, but I like the way its progressing."

With his college pitching experience being mostly as a reliever, the big question about Lance was whether he projected as a starter or a reliever on the professional level. From the looks of it, the Yankees appear to be leaning towards him as a starter, and Pendleton, at this point, is open to any opportunity he gets.

"One thing I know about being a starter is that you pretty much need that third pitch," he went on to say. "And, if they want me to be a starter, that's what I'll do. If they want me to be reliever, I'll do that also."

Lance spent his college pitching career as a reliever, but the majority of his career was spent as a position player, and a highly talented one at that. And, according to Lance, that works to his advantage.

"The way I look at it is that I have a higher ceiling because I haven't pitched that much in my career," Lance commented. "I have a lot to build on and I just think I have so much room to grow and improve as a pitcher."

"Well, Lance was always a position player before he was a pitcher so, in a way, he was still a little raw, but from my vantage point I think he will adjust quickly to being a pitcher," Pilittere added. "He claims that he can still hit, but we just kind of laughed at him," the catcher joked. "We only saw him hit once during pitcher's batting practice and he definitely looked like he knew what he was doing."

His offensive career may be over, but his overall athletic skills could bring him to new heights on the mound. With his raw ability to work with and the confidence of the organization behind him, Pendleton can look forward to a big 2006 season.

"I'm just looking to keep improving and have a strong 2006 season," Pendleton concluded. "I think now that I'm focused completely on pitching, I can really take off. But, I'll say one thing, if I ever get a chance to bat, I'll be swinging for the fences."

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