Although I didn't cover the game yesterday, I carved a little time out of my desk schedule to come by and talk to Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras about what has gone on in the organization since the last time we spoke.
Contreras touched on injuries to some of the organization's premier prospects, why Vidal Nuno's success isn't surprising, the future of a few Thunder hurlers, and just what he believes has gone wrong with Dellin Betances thus far.
Q: Let's start with some injury updates. What's the status of Manny Banuelos?
A: Banuelos is now on the mound. I think he did a 25 fastball/change-up (session). He's getting close.
Q: How about Jose Campos?
A: Campos is now on a throwing program. He's at 60 feet. This week he's throwing nice and easy. Next week he's just going to be a little further, a little bit more. I don't see him pitching the rest of the summer. He'll probably be an instructional league guy.
Q: And how about Dan Burawa?
A: Burawa is not throwing. His back is still sore.
Q: Did you expect him to be back at this point?
A: No. MRIs come and they tell us. We hadn't had anything set for him to throw till the doctor cleared him, and the doctor hasn't cleared him.
Q: I've seen a couple of minor leaguers go on 60-day disabled lists over the last few weeks. For a minor leaguer, what does a 60-day DL stint signify?
A: I think you can only have two or three, something like that, that you can hold, and you can have a person on the roster, just like the major leagues. But the major leagues there's no limit.
I think in the minor leagues there's two or three, and that means the rosters are full. But you can have that 60-day, and that doesn't count toward that roster spot.
Q: Has this been a frustrating year for you guys from a player-development standpoint?
A: No. It's just part of our game. If you look at our Tampa team, there's five tremendous starters. Nuding went down, I think Tracy was down at the beginning of the season, but we have innings (caps) anyway. Like earlier I gave Marshall a 10-day stretch without pitching. He'll have a couple of times with five innings. Shaeffer Hall will be doing that here shortly, because he's got a lot of innings.
The injuries are always a part of this game. You can't cry about it, because it just happens. But I think we've been fortunate, because you've got the five starters at Tampa and you've got the reliever, Kahnle, and now we have Montgomery here, and Pinder to go along with everybody else.
The kid we got in the trade got hurt -- Campos -- and that hurt, but when you trade for them you really don't know what you're going to get out of a minor leaguer. Nothing structural (is wrong), he's just sore and we're going to make sure he's healthy, strong. We don't know how much strength and conditioning he's done in the past. So there's some weakness, and he's getting all that strength worked on now to make sure ... everything is strong, and that lessens the chance of injury.
Q: Let's transition a little and talk about Mark Montgomery. How good is his slider?
A: Remember George Kontos' slider? His is just a little better than Kontos. He has one that goes straight down -- and I'm not sure if he really knows when he's going to do it, it's all according to how he gets on top of the ball -- but it's really wicked, and I've seen it. It's a bona fide strikeout pitch, and he also is capable of throwing the ball hard.
We're a little a slower with him. We're getting him to pitch a game on, game off, game on, and then back-to-back games. Last year if we pitched him two innings we shut him down for two days. Now, he's been pitching two innings, so we've got something there. Now he's at Double-A and he'll probably be pitching the seventh and eighth innings and not close for a while as he gets acclimated to the Double-A level.
Q: What about Montgomery's change-up? How is that developing?
A: It's OK. It's still his third pitch, but he's using it. If you're coming in to close a game and you've got a one-run lead, you may not see his change-up. If you've got a three-run lead, you might see his change-up, because you don't want to lose the game on your third pitch. If you've got a three-run lead going to the ninth inning and a guy gets a base hit on your change-up, so what?
Q: How do you view closing as opposed to the seventh and eighth innings, from a development standpoint. Is there a distinction made in that regard?
A: Yes. That ninth inning is different. Major leagues for sure, here and in the minor leagues. It's the pressure, the stress, and we're just going to be easy on that with him. Later on there might be three guys closing when you get Kelvin Perez and you get Montgomery and you get Stoneburner. Guys who are pitching seventh and eighth innings (now) will get a chance.
Q: How do you evaluate whether a guy has what it takes to be a closer?
A: Usually there's got to be some type of out pitch. The ability to go back-to-back days. The ability to forget what happened yesterday, because you're not always going to be successful. If you get 50 outings, there might be three or five or maybe five where you blow saves. You've got to be able to forget that. That's all part of it.