TAMPA, FL - Prilys Cuello helped lead the Yankees to a 5-1 victory over the Devil Rays in Extended…
Q&A with Carlos Rios
Carlos Rios: They just sent [Alvaro] Ramirez back, that's the centerfielder, because he needs to play everyday. They sent [Jose] Pirela back so he can play more shortstop and play everyday. They sent [Francisco] Arcia back, but we knew that because we just sent him there [Extended Spring Training] to help out, get to know the system, and come back here and play everyday. [Yeider] Chirinos came back here as well and we still have one more pending, we don't know if he'll come back here or not.
PinstripesPlus: What's the thought process on sending Jose Pirela to the Dominican Summer League instead of the Gulf Coast League and with the reports you had gotten, has he progressed as much defensively as the organization would have liked?
Rios: We want him to play shortstop everyday and we have a couple of guys that he was going to have to split time with over there. We need him to try and play 60 games and get 240 at-bats, 200 at-bats for sure. In regards to his defense, they were about the same as we expected. He's an athlete that hasn't played as much baseball. The bat was there consistently and we're working on his defense. The only way you get better is being out there and playing. He'll be playing shortstop on DSL Yankees1 and DSL Yankees2 is going to be Tuossen.
PinstripesPlus: What have you seen from Jose Tuossen this spring as he gets ready for the Dominican Summer League?
Rios: He's been outstanding. He's getting stronger, quicker, and smarter. The kid has a strong will and desire to learn. I think this kid is going to be one of those sleepers that's probably going to play better than we thought, to be honest with you. Defensively he has really, really stepped it up and hitting-wise, he's getting stronger and he's driving the ball a lot harder right now. We're extremely happy with him.
PinstripesPlus: With Pirela and Tuossen manning the shortstop positions for the two Dominican Summer League teams, where does Jimmy Paredes fit into the mix?
Rios: Jimmy's a third baseman for right now. He's having one of the most outstanding Spring Trainings this year so far. He's really playing well. Jimmy's really coming along with his swing and down path, so we're happy. He's going to play third and he'll also play some shortstop on some given days. He's going to be the starting third baseman on DSL Yankees1. He picked it [playing third base] real quick. He's athletic and he's got a lot of life in the body. He's got a plus, plus arm and he's got some hit-ability from both sides of the plate.
PinstripesPlus: Alberto Acosta was noted a plus power hitter and not much else when you signed him last year. How has he progressed down and where does he fit into the Dominican Summer League plans this year?
Rios: He'll be playing for DSL Yankees2 at first base, outfield, and designated hitter. He's progressing very nicely with the bat. Obviously he was a crude athlete that we signed, a volleyball/basketball player more than a baseball player. But we're happy and I think we're going to have the time and the at-bats to make him better. We're trying to get him some AB's between first, DH, and outfield, just make sure he gets 150-200 at-bats this year because that's what he needs, playing time. Where he gets it, that's irrelevant for right now. Right now he's probably going to be the DH, fourth outfielder, and a backup first baseman, but he'll get to play three to four times a week and that's what we want. He's really coming around with the bat, he's understanding the concept better, we're working on [hitting] the breaking ball and he's making adjustments. Those kind of power guys take a little longer to develop with the quality swing and the contact.
PinstripesPlus: You mentioned the plan all along was to have Francisco Arcia play in the Dominican Summer League this year. What kind of progress have you seen from him and which team will he be playing for this year?
Rios: DSL Yankees1, he'll be the starting catcher. Chirinos will back him up. They'll both play a lot because you can't catch everyday - it's such a hot summer down here. It was a great experience for Arcia. We didn't think he was going to make it in the United States this year, but it was great to give him that experience. He has put on about 15 pounds since we signed him, so he's a lot stronger. He's a catch and throw guy and the bat's starting to get stronger.
PinstripesPlus: Damian Taveras, another shortstop you signed last year, didn't want to move to the catcher's spot so where does he fit in the Dominican Summer League plans this year and what have you seen from this Spring Training?
Rios: He's going to be the starting third baseman on DSL Yankees2. Damian continues to show the hit-ability, the ability to put the ball in play. He is adapting to third base. It's taking him an effort to do that but I think he'll eventually get better and more comfortable at it. For right now though, he's working at third base.
PinstripesPlus: Is Hario Heredia, since he hasn't been sent back, slated to be in the Gulf Coast League this year?
Rios: Right now he's staying up there. They like him. I don't know what's going to happen [to him] with the draft but as of right now he's pitching up there. As of right now they haven't sent back any pitchers but I think we're waiting for the draft to see who we get and I think we'll have a better understanding then.
PinstripesPlus: Is Jhonny Cordoba in the Dominican Summer League mix this year and has his stuff made any progress since last year?
Rios: We're going to use him basically as a stopper on DSL Yankees1. He's got experience, he's been in the league, and he knows how to get people out. We've got a lot of young arms that are going to start and I think he's going to help them win some games. He's a plus character. His stuff is still about the same. The fastball is still short. Everything else is still sharp with command, but the fastball is still short.
PinstripesPlus: With Alvaro Ramirez being sent back to play centerfield in the Dominican Summer League, is it a safe assumption to say Carlos Urena will be playing with either the Gulf Coast League Yankees or with Staten Island this year?
Rios: Well Urena is one of those guys that they have had a hard time making the decision whether they are going to keep him or not. For right now, Ramirez is going to play centerfield for DSL Yankees1. If Urena comes down, I'm pretty sure he'll play centerfield for DSL Yankees1 and they'll split. It hasn't been decided yet.
PinstripesPlus: Is Kelvin Castro a guy that's going to stick in the United States for now?
Rios: It looks that way. They like him a lot. He has been impressive up there and he really has gotten stronger from last year. Last year he signed late and he was trying to catch up. They love his hands and they see him as a third baseman. They like him and hopefully he'll make more consistent contact. We know the power is going to come. They're happy and they're going to keep him for now.
PinstripesPlus: Andres Santos is a guy that was expected to be in the United States this year and he hasn't been in Extended Spring Training? What's his status?
Rios: Finally he's going to have surgery. They finally found out what was wrong with him down here so he's going to have surgery [on his shoulder] and rehab. We're going to stick with him. He's a young arm. When he's healthy, he's lights-out, and we're hoping by the end of the summer or the Instructional League he'll be 100 percent healthy and show these people why he deserves to get a visa next year. He's got some problems with his shoulder - I don't really know, it's in his shoulder though.
PinstripesPlus: What have you seen from Arkeily Lapaix this spring and how does he fit into the mix?
Rios: Lapaix is going to be our starting right fielder and he'll probably hit in the middle of the lineup. Man, he's had tremendous progress. He has a 60-65 arm right now from right field with some hit-ability and power. He reminds me of a young Magglio Ordonez when he started. I'm happy about that. I think he's coming nicely and he'll be our starting right fielder on DSL Yankees1.
PinstripesPlus: I didn't see Jahdiel Santamaria in Extended Spring Training. Does that mean he'll have to repeat the Dominican Summer League?
Rios: Yeah, he's going to have to. We're loaded on outfielders. I think he's going to play left field for us everyday here. I don't think it's going to hurt him. He's still young and has to mature as a hitter. The same thing happened with [Josue] Calzado. He had to play here three straight years so it might not hurt him. We're just loaded on outfielders. That's what happens when you sign so many good young players, the competition starts getting harder.
PinstripesPlus: Of the guys you signed from the 'July 2nd' signing class last year, you said they haven't made a decision on Urena yet. Is Jesus Montero the only one that's definitely slated for the short-season leagues here in the United States this year?
Rios: Yeah, and it looks like Heredia has a good chance too. The other guys are still open to debate right now. The thing about it is, you don't sign these kids with the intention of staying in the United States [in their first year]. You sign them with the intention of coming through the Dominican Summer League, but if you send them to the United States in Extended Spring Training, it's a great experience and when they come back I believe they come back more mentally prepared to compete and get out of here.
PinstripesPlus: Your two second basemen from last year - Abraham Almonte and Prilys Cuello - what have you been hearing about their progress and which one has the leg up on playing in Staten Island?
Rios: I don't know because Almonte's been kind of sick and Prilys has been playing most of the time. I don't know what they're going to do. I'm pretty sure they're going to have to find them spots where they're playing a lot because they really need the at-bats, they're athletic, and they're both solid prospects.
PinstripesPlus: One last general question. Is there one guy who has maybe stood out from everybody else at the Dominican complex as the Dominican Summer League season gets ready to start?
Rios: They're all playing well, but I think Jimmy Paredes has really, really played well. He really has been outstanding. His progress is noticeable and he has gotten stronger and quicker. I'm excited about that.
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