We sat down with Staten Island Manager Gaylen Pitts for a Q&A session to get his read on players. …
2006 Staten Island Pitcher Of The Year
RHP Jonathan Hovis, despite going 8-2 and leading the UNC Tarheels with a 1.17 ERA this past season, went undrafted in June and signed a free agent deal with the Yankees in early July and became an instant stalwart in the Staten Island bullpen. He finished tied for second on the club in wins, going 5-1 with a 1.73 ERA. His .187 average against right-handed batters was among the best on the staff.
RHP Justin Keadle, selected in the 44th round of the 2005 MLB Draft after originally being drafted by them in the 38th round of the 2002 MLB Draft, was just as surprising for the Staten Island bullpen this season. He went 3-2 with a 1.99 ERA. Walking less than two batters per nine innings, his game is all about control.
But as impressive as both Hovis and Keadle were in 2006, Staten Island closer Nick Peterson was a shade better all year. He finished tied for second on the team in wins (5) and led the club in saves with fourteen. Peterson, despite all 30 of his appearances coming out of the bullpen, finished tied for third on the team in strikeouts (53).
The one negative to his game, at least statistics-wise, were his rather high walk totals. But the walks didn't lead to much damage and it was merely a case of not getting close calls go his way.
"I think [it's] because he tries to be too fine sometimes," manager Gaylen Pitts said of Peterson's walk totals. "He can locate his fastball and a lot of times in this league, they don't call them on the corners. That has more to do with his high pitch counts and walks than anything."
"And his slider has something to do with it, because he doesn't have command of it yet, so they don't swing at it down in the dirt," Pitts continued. "So it's been ball one, ball two when he throws it. If he doesn't get a swinging strike, he doesn't get too many called strikes with it."
While Peterson dominated out of the closer's role, right-handed Tim Norton was equally as dominant out of the starter's role. Norton finished the season with just a 3-3 record but boasted the team's best strikeout-to-walk ratio (83-14) and his 2.60 ERA ranked best among the starting pitchers.
Norton finished second in our balloting after struggling in the first half of the year. He went 0-2 with a 4.59 ERA in his first eight starts for Staten Island before dominating in the second half, going 3-1 with a 0.92 ERA.
"[He's] commanding his fastball right now," Staten Island pitching coach Carlos Chantres told us prior to the end of the season. "We worked him out on his delivery, and he's been able to get his delivery pretty smooth right now. Everything's working: separation, balance, everything. So he's commanding his pitches and he's coming around throwing his off-speed pitch straight, so that's another plus for him."
But as impressive as Tim Norton was for Staten Island, especially with the way he finished the season, nobody was as consistent or pitched better in big games than RHP George Kontos, the "2006 Staten Island Pitcher of the Year".
"He's going after guys," pitching coach Carlos Chantres said, explaining Kontos' dominance. "He's locating his fastball very, very well and he's got a big league slider. That's his pitch. He's developing a changeup, which is coming along. It was a little hard when he got here, and now it's getting below, about 10 to 12 miles per hour off his fastball speed."
Kontos led the team in wins (7) and innings pitched (78 1/3 innings), posting a 2.64 ERA in fourteen starts. He went 5-2 with a 3.48 ERA in his first eight starts before finishing the regular season with a 2-1 record and a 1.57 ERA in his last six starts.
"Being around him," Chantres continued, "I know he doesn't want to be around here, in the minor leagues, too long. He wants to pitch in the big leagues and he's got the stuff to pitch up there."
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