Q&A with Nardi Contreras - Part IV

Nardi is excited about Andrew Brackman in 2010

Nardi Contreras, the Yankees Minor League Pitching Coordinator, sits down with PinstripesPlus.com for a long Q&A session. In Part Four of our multi-part series, Nardi talks at length about the progress of Andrew Brackman, if there was something Manny Banuelos didn't do well by season's end, if he liked Brett Marshall's curveball before he got hurt, and much, much more.

PinstripesPlus.com: Let's get down to brass tax. The numbers for the first-half of the year for Andrew Brackman were dreadful. He seemed to really pick it up when he got moved to the bullpen. You spent most of your time this year working with him, what was the biggest difference? Was he just relaxing more? Was it his delivery?

Nardi Contreras: It was all kinds of stuff. The delivery got fixed, we put aside the changeup, and we put him in the bullpen. He became just a two-pitch pitcher, just using the fastball and the curveball. We spent a lot of time with his delivery, speeding up his tempo and making sure he had the correct arm slot. We spent a lot of time mechanically with him. Once it started clicking, physically and mentally he got real strong. What happens when things are going bad you get mentally shocked into not trusting your stuff and not believing in yourself. Once he got the feel for the release points he was able to throw his fastball and curveball for strikes - I think his last five or six outings he didn't get scored on. He was very good and right through Instructional League he didn't walk anybody. He threw strikes consistently. In one outing I think 17 out of 20 fastballs were strikes. He was very good. He struggled early in the season but then at the end he was the Brackman that we drafted and signed. It's going to be exciting to see him pitch next year.

PinstripesPlus.com: You took away the changeup. Is that going to come back? Is he going to go back to being a starter or is he going to stay in the bullpen?

Contreras: He's going to be a starter next year. The changeup is coming back. The last day of Instructional League he had a bullpen session and worked on the changeup. 'Pav' was there with him and he felt comfortable with his grip, and he threw plenty of real good changeups. He's just got to stay with it. When he goes to Major League camp it's going to be up to him if he wants to show it in camp or if he wants to show them how hard he can throw or the strikes he can throw with his fastball and his Major League curveball. I think he can do it now because his delivery is set, his release point is set, he can throw strikes easily now. He's really, really come along well. It'll be exciting to see him next year. He's a hard worker. This offseason he's going to work his butt off to stay the way he left the Instructional League.

PinstripesPlus.com: Last question on Brackman - what was the biggest problem in his delivery when he wasn't going well early in the year?

Contreras: I think he was listening to too many people early in the season. For a while there, if he had a bad game maybe a couple of buddies said to him 'hey that's not the way you pitch, you pitch this way'. His arm slot varied, his tempo varied, etc. I showed him the video I had of him from Spring Training and how he pitched and got things going in Hawaii [Winter League]. He saw it visually and it all worked out. It just got better and better. He started feeling more comfortable and it all clicked. When he got to Instructional League it continued and he's on a roll right now. It's just too bad the season is over for him because he was looking so good and he was feeling so good about himself that I bet he wishes the season would start right now.

PinstripesPlus.com: There's not much you can say negatively about the first year Manny Banuelos had. Was there anything he didn't do that you wanted him to do?

Contreras: No to your question. He did develop a plus curveball. Early in the season he had a slow breaking curveball that he threw for strikes but it wasn't a pitch to get Major League hitters out. So working with Jeff Ware, Manny developed a swing and miss curveball that should carry him into the higher levels. This kid is going to be 19 years old next year and he has a great future ahead of him.

PinstripesPlus.com: Before Brett Marshall got hurt, I know the numbers weren't there. He walked too many guys and he got hit around some. Where was he development-wise? Had the curveball developed to the point where you wanted it to be?

Contreras: No, the curveball was not there yet. He competed by being able to use his plus fastball and changeup till he tired and lost some stuff in the game. He would pitch four or five innings and then around the third time around the lineup he wouldn't have much left. The poor numbers you're talking about usually came later in the game. He just left too many pitches up over the middle of the plate. This is a special 19 year old kid though. He is a tremendous worker. Nobody outworks this young man. If anybody comes back from this stuff, he will, because he is that type of person. He has a positive attitude. He said it happened [his arm] but I'll be back and I'll be better than ever. That is Brett and I believe him.

PinstripesPlus.com: I mentioned a year ago that Brandon Braboy and his arm strength really intrigued me. He had another solid year this season. Did you see him make strides with his secondary pitches and his delivery?

Contreras: He's got a power changeup and now he's got a slider that he's going to be able to defend himself with. It wasn't as consistent, but he showed some great sliders and he left some sliders that flattened out. But now he shows that he can throw a quality Major League slider. He's got plus stuff fastball-wise. He really developed well. He still has to find his delivery because he didn't pitch much in college. He started in the bullpen with us and he was really exciting. He had the fastball and the changeup, and we just needed to give him the slider, so between his work in the bullpens and on the side he became a starter and that allowed him to develop his slider more. He's on his way. He can be one of these guys that throws real hard, he has a changeup and now he has a slider. With more experience he has a chance.

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