Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part V

Nardi says Melancon can move quickly

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a long Q&A session. In part five of our multi-part series, Nardi gives us insights on Jhonathan Ortiz, why Garrett Patterson's numbers weren't better, why Scott Patterson didn't move up quicker, if Mark Melancon can move up quickly next season, and more.

PinstripesPlus: Whether or not he had back issues this year, it was certain Angel Reyes had command issues. Did you see anything from him towards the tail-end of the year that might be encouraging signs for next season?

Contreras: I did not see Angel Reyes. He's still working on his delivery. Back problems or whatever it may be, he was not as consistent. There may still be something that bothers him but he doesn't tell us just because he wanted to pitch. Even in Spring Training though, he was not the same Angel Reyes as last year so he'll be in the Instructional League down in the Dominican. Not only will I be there but I'm hoping Carlos Chantres will be there. We're going to be more hands-on this year down there.

PinstripesPlus: Jhonathan Ortiz had some pretty good numbers this year but he doesn't throw incredibly hard. What can you tell us about his game?

Contreras: He's got a changeup like Edwar Ramirez but not his fastball velocity. He's got a great changeup, he's got to get better with the quality of his breaking ball. He has a good breaking ball but it's just not quality right now and of course his fastball is not as hard as Ramirez's. We've got to make sure he can command his fastball to be down in the strike zone all the time, that his breaking ball is there when he needs it, and we've got to make sure his delivery allows him to command his pitches - the same thing with Edwar in the big leagues.

PinstripesPlus: A guy who is out of the rehab program and back in your program is Mark Melancon. How does he look right now and is he a guy who could move Joba-like quick to the big leagues next year?

Contreras: Mark Melancon, if it wasn't that he had ten months under his belt - he's awesome. He can get a lot of people out at any level, he's got that kind of stuff. Both fastballs have life, the curveball is awesome, the changeup has come tremendously quick, and he looks outstanding. He can be next year's Joba, he has that kind of stuff. Does he throw 100 MPH? No, but he's got some power stuff. He can move quick.

PinstripesPlus: Scott Patterson put up some incredible numbers this year and a lot of the fans wondered why he didn't move up as quickly. What can you tell us about his game?

Contreras: Scott Patterson doesn't walk anybody, he attacks that strike zone with his fastball, he has that great angle because he's so tall, and then he'll mix in his curveball. We've tried quickening his curveball to make it more slurvy so it's not so slow. He did that, but the movement is just so tough. We had a lot of pitching up there. When [Jose] Veras came on and all of these other guys that came off the disabled list, Scott got a chance once we moved guys to the big leagues, at September callups just about. That's the same thing that could be asked with why guys like Horne and others didn't get moved up when they're showing they can get people out at Double-A. Well there's guys that were ahead of them that had pitched at that level. Scotty's got a chance to show something next year. There's another guy that's got a chance to pitch at Triple-A that may be, what can I tell you.

PinstripesPlus: You took away the two slots from Mike Gardner this year and he pitched pretty well. Stuff-wise, there's not much separating him from J.B Cox it seems. Is this a guy we should all be paying more attention to?

Contreras: Gardy's got a real good chance to pitch in the big leagues. He's got that low-to-mid average fastball with a lot of sink. He got better at controlling it because I got him to be a one-slot guy instead of trying to be a two-slot guy. He developed his changeup and his slider. This is the first year he's pitched the whole year though. He did hit the wall sometime during the season and he had a hard time getting people out. His velocity dropped down, his location dropped down, and his arm got tired. It was a good thing we had all of those relievers at the Double-A level to help pick him up. All of the sudden at the end he found it again. Gardy's got major league stuff and he will pitch in the big leagues for us or somebody. He threw more strikes and he had the most innings he ever pitched. He has a quality slider and a quality changeup. He's on the map for somebody.

PinstripesPlus: Eric Wordekemper really doesn't have big league closer stuff but he filled that role for you guys in Tampa this year very well. What can you tell us about his game and what can expect from him in the future?

Contreras: His velocity improved, he throws strikes, he commands more often than he doesn't, his slider improved. Not only was it a short-quick slider but his depth improved so he got some swings-and-misses also and the splitter got better. We gave him the split last year to develop and he kept getting people out. He went to Double-A and got people out. He just attacks the zone. He's shown he can pitch in Double-A.

PinstripesPlus: He was a little bit older for his league but he put up some pretty good numbers and his stuff seems quite good. What can you tell us about Noel Castillo?

Contreras: Noel Castillo is a kid that has an above-average to plus fastball. He's come here older but he developed later in his career coming from the Dominican Republic. He's developed the changeup here, he's developing his curveball here, his delivery has gotten better, and he's got a chance to pitch higher than rookie ball next year because of his arm strength, the life of his fastball, and the way his offspeed pitches are coming. He's learned a lot here, he's developed quickly here [the United States], and you can't develop the velocity that this kid is showing. He's got a real good chance to move quickly too. He seems to have grasped it quicker here than grasp it in the Dominican. We're real happy with the way Castillo's coming.

PinstripesPlus: Paul David Patterson had a solid year but there seems like there's more there than the numbers show. What can you tell us about his game?

Contreras: Paulie was sick to start off the season and he got himself out of shape because he was sick. He tried to come back a little too quick and his arm got real sore. Here's a kid who was always around learning the delivery, even before his 30-day period was up last year. He wanted to learn the delivery quick. He started grabbing the stuff and all of the sudden he started throwing more strikes, he had some life and velocity to his fastball, and all of the sudden he's having himself a plus fastball. He grabbed the changeup and by Spring Training his changeup was there. The one thing he didn't have was his curveball. He spun it but it wasn't quality. Because he was sick so long the curveball didn't come as quickly. The changeup is there, the arm strength is there, he's throwing strikes, he can sink the baseball, and now he needs to develop his curveball to make it be a swing-and-miss pitch. He's a kid that's going to given a chance to pitch because he's got the arm strength, a power changeup, and now we've got to get this curveball going and we'll see what happens. He's worked himself into being known.

PinstripesPlus: Garrett Patterson is an enigma of sorts. He's got just unbelievable stuff, some of the best in the organization it seems, and yet he had some of the worst numbers in the organization this season. How does that happen?

Contreras: All it is for Garrett is staying back. He's got a tremendous arm, he's got the changeup, he's got life to his ball, and he's got the breaking ball. All it is making sure his arm catches up to his body. Once he does that he's got a good chance to be a very successful pitcher.

PinstripesPlus: Would it be a mistake to overlook him just based on his numbers?

Contreras: Oh of course. He's got so many gifts coming out of that arm, the power that he has, the hard breaking ball - it's just finding the consistency of the release point, the arm slot, and just staying back. That's his key, just staying back.

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