Good friend and Trentonian beat writer Josh Norris and I were lucky enough to sit down with Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras prior to last night’s game against Bowie. You can also find the transcript of this chat at Josh’s blog, which I’d recommend you read on a regular basis.
Contreras, Stump Merrill and Pat Roessler will all be in Trenton through Sunday.
Mike Ashmore: So, which teams have you seen so far this season?
Nardi Contreras: I’ve seen Tampa, I’ve seen Charleston and I’ve seen Scranton. This is the last stop.
MA: In those stops, who have you seen that you’re excited about that we might be seeing here sometime soon?
NC: (Hector) Noesi has pitched well. (Adam) Warren has pitched well. … Noesi and Warren would be the only two that have a chance right now, that are pitching well.
MA: What about those two makes them stand out?
NC: Being able to command the fastball and throw the offspeed pitches for strikes.
Josh Norris: How close a call was it to start Noesi in Trenton rather than Tampa?
NC: None at all. He just needed more time at Tampa to pitch.
JN: What about (Pat) Venditte? Is there a chance we seem here this year?
NC: There’s always a chance to see anybody. Right now, no, unless someone gets hurt. Then I’d have to look in the bullpen to see who’s pitching well and who’s not.
Right now, anybody can come. Ortiz has pitched well closing. (Craig) Heyer has pitched well. (Brandon) Braboy is back, but he’ll have to pitch a little bit more. (Dan) Kapala, we’ve stuck him in as a starter, and he’s pitched well as a starter, but he’s a reliever. Trenton Lare has pitched well at times, too.
JN: What is the situation right now with Banuelos? Was it an appendectomy?
NC: Yeah, he’s still back in Mexico. We haven’t seen him. It’ll be a while.
JN: What is the typical recovery time for an appendectomy?
NC: I have no idea. My granddaughter (had one), which happened just last year. The difference is: She was 5 years old. They don’t take out the appendix when hers burst, because of all the infection. Adults, they go ahead and take it out.
So, I wouldn’t know (about how long Banuelos might still be out of action). She (the granddaughter) was in the hospital for 32 days, in the hospital, with all the infection that was there. … It was ugly. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to us.
The first baseman/third baseman who was here last year (Jorge Vazquez). He’s now back in the states, he’s now hitting and working out. (He also had an appendectomy). His happened a week or two weeks before Banuelos. The time frame, I don’t know, but he’s back now.
I’m guessing, hoping — hoping –that Banuelos will be coming back soon, because he’s going to be a star.
MA: You’ve got some guys rehabbing now down in Tampa as well. Is (George) Kontos making any progress?
NC: They’re all making progress. (Dellin) Betances has a chance to start at Tampa within a week or 10 days. Paul Bush will pitch tomorrow (in extended spring training) for the second time. So, I would say, one more week for him.
Kontos and (Brett) Marshall and (Andy) Shive are further away. They are doing bullpens now. They haven’t started batting practices. Betances and Bush are close.
JN: What is (Andrew) Brackman working on down in Tampa?
NC: Brackman’s working on, well, he’s throwing strikes. That’s the positive he’s doing. … His last game, numbers-wise, it looks ugly. He got two hard-hit balls against him. They day I saw him pitch was they day that — and we weren’t aware of it — his finger was hurting him. He cut his finger during spring training. … He had some infection and tried pitching. He gave up six, seven, eight runs the day I saw him, but everything but one ball was all groundballs in the infield or through the infield.
What he is doing is throwing strikes. He’s learning now, because last year he didn’t throw many strikes. He’s throwing strikes now, and he’s learning how to command. He needs to know how to command. He’s throwing his curveball. He’s learning the slider and the change-up, too. He’s learning some other pitches to go along with his curveball and his fastball.
MA: Romulo Sanchez got called up to the big leagues (yesterday). Did you get a chance to see him in Scranton?
NC: Yes, I saw him (pitch) really well. He topped out at 99, averaged 95, threw strikes, pitched seven innings. Might’ve given up two runs, one walk, seven-eight strikeouts. (He) stayed within his delivery. Great change-up. He has a real good curve and slider, and of course he has that power fastball.
JN: Did you get a chance to see Graham Stoneburner pitch?
NC: Yes, he pitched well. Pat Roessler saw him a few days ago, and he pitched really well. He’s coming along. His arm strength is really coming. He’s starting to throw the ball real well, real hard, commanding his fastball. His slider was much better for Pat Roessler than it was for me, and the change-up was there. So he looked really nice.
JN: Where do you see that slider on a 20-80 scale?
NC: It’s not major-league average yet, so below 50.
MA: Are there a lot of guys in Scranton who come through Trenton, guys like McAllister, who you are pleased with their development since they’ve been here?
NC: Yeah, I think Pittsburgh’s really happy that we develop our pitchers, because they take ’em all it seems like. Things have gone well, and I think we’ve lost 15 pitchers within the last two years.
Hacker, I understand, is 4- or 5-0 in Triple-A with the Giants. Chase Wright, too. They’re just all over. (Kanekoa) Texeira is doing well in Seattle. I guess you could say we’re happy with how they’ve developed for other organizations.
If we can get quality big-league players and pitchers for our guys, that’s what this is about. That’s what development is, and hopefully they’re with us, but if we can get someone that’s going to help us. I mean, Sanchez — how many arms do you get like Sanchez?
He’s (Sanchez) in the program developing, learning what we try to teach there, and hopefully it works out. We’ve got a power arm that can hit 100 miles per hour with a power change-up that can that can strike anybody out and a slider that can get people out.
That’s our job, to develop, and we’re very happy, very proud that we do that with our pitching.
JN: I’m going to ask about one more Charleston guy, and that’s Jose Ramirez. What kind of future do you see for him?
NC: Jose Ramirez has got a great future. He’s pitching where he’s supposed to pitch right now. He’s learning to throw the breaking ball right now. He’s got an exciting fastball. He’s got a power change-up, and he’s learning the breaking ball. He’s right where he should be right now.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com