Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part VI

What was different with Francisco Castillo?

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a Q&A session. In our final installment of our six-part series, Nardi explains why Francisco Castillo didn't have the same success in 2006, what he sees from R.J. Swindle, why Nick Peterson had a few too many walks, which new pitcher in 2006 impressed him the most, and more.

PinstripesPlus: Not many people had a year quite like R.J. Swindle. What can you tell us about his game?

Contreras: He's unorthodox. He's a lefty from the side. He throws a sinker from the left-hand side, he has a little slider from the left-hand side, his changeup has action, and he has a curveball that he sweeps it around real slow. He knows how to pitch with all that stuff. He changes speeds, he changes location, and he got a lot of people out in Charleston. Next year he's going to get a chance to pitch higher and see what he does. I've never seen anybody ever throw that slow with all those pitches, so he's new to me.

PinstripesPlus: Francisco Castillo had a great year in 2005, and not that he did poorly this year, but he didn't have the same type of success. What did you see from Castillo this past season?

Contreras: Franky didn't throw as hard this year as he did last year. He developed a much better slider, it came around real good. But he didn't throw the ball hard. Last year he was 18-years old and with a plus fastball and he was getting away with high fastballs. He was able to throw balls right by some guys and he had a really good changeup and he didn't have a slider. This year he had a slider but his fastball wasn't as hard. So when he made the mistakes up in the strike zone, he got hit. He just wasn't throwing the plus fastball this year. It was just an average fastball this year and when you're throwing belt-high, that's not enough. Now he battled well for a 19-year old in that league [NY-Penn League]. He's going to be in the Instructional League again down in the Dominican and hopefully we can fix his delivery, or at least his release point, so he can get downhill and throw the ball down in the strike zone where he needs to be.

PinstripesPlus: Eric Wordekemper had a really great year this past season and seems to get lost in the shuffle. What were your impressions of him this past season?

Contreras: We could probably pitch Wordekemper just about anywhere. We sent him to triple-A and he pitched two shutout innings. Then we sent him to double-A when they got into the playoffs, but he didn't get to pitch there. He throws strikes, he attacks the zone, he sinks the ball, and he keeps the ball down. He's got a slider that is sometimes too flat and this year he learned a splitter. He's going to have to improve on that split and he's going to have to trust it. If he throws it harder, he's going to have some swings and misses. He's another guy who is a contact type of pitcher, but with very good command. He's sneaky fast and he's got great wrist action with his fastball. He just needs to make sure he's in location, but he was pretty much using good location all year. He started some games, we used him as a closer because we knew here was a guy that could throw strikes with his fastball and slider. He didn't have the third pitch. He didn't have the changeup so I gave him a split so we could have a swing-and-miss pitch. Wherever I put him, I know he's going to compete, throw strikes, he's going to get people out, and now we're giving him that strikeout pitch where he can have some fun getting people out. Anytime somebody can command a strike zone, and have at least average Major League stuff, he's got a chance to pitch in the big leagues.

PinstripesPlus: Nick Peterson had some high walk totals, especially for a closer, but he had a pretty good year. What did you see from him in Staten Island?

Contreras: Nick Peterson has been around me since he's 10-years old because he's a Tampa kid. He has a very solid delivery and he can throw strikes with his fastball. When I had him as a young kid he had a curveball and a changeup. I guess somewhere in college, they took the curveball away and gave him a slider and the slider wasn't the greatest. He couldn't use the slider to get anybody out in Staten Island. The changeup is a third pitch. It's not a pitch he can go to as a swing-and-miss type changeup. So what he relied on was his fastball. When you're throwing an average fastball, you better be in command. He was able to locate the fastballs real good, but when that's all you're throwing and you're throwing 50 pitches and 46 are fastballs, you start missing those corners and when you're 3-2 on a guy and he keeps fouling off pitches, you're eventually going to miss the zone and that's what happened with Peterson. He just didn't have an out-pitch to go to. He had to rely on his fastball and since it wasn't a power fastball, you have to hit corners and you walk a guy when you try to hit corners.

PinstripesPlus: Of all the new pitchers brought in this past season from the draft, which one has impressed you the quickest and the most?

Contreras: Betances. Here's a kid who is 18-years old. When he first got here he was all arms, elbows, and legs going all over the place. He's 6-foot-8 and he looks like he's 180-pounds. He could spin the ball but with no location. He didn't really have any kind of changeup. By the end of the summer, once we were able to help fix his delivery, he started throwing strikes with his fastball, his curveball started going over the plate, and his changeup started bottoming out over the plate. He's going to make a lot of money in this game. I think he's going to be moving fast if he stays healthy, everything will happen. Here's a kid who is very skinny and he's going to fill out.

I watched Daniel Cabrera from Baltimore and he's 94-97 MPH and he's thrown as high as 99 MPH. And he's got a bad delivery. Betances will have a better delivery than Cabrera. This kid has got a curveball and he's got a changeup. So when you talk about upside with a kid that throws as hard as Betances does when he's 18-years old, that's a lot of upside. Just watching him now from when we first signed him, he's going to be good.

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