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Heathcott: “Mainly just stopped being a mental midget”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Mar 12, 2014 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

After today’s game, the Yankees announced that Slade Heathcott, Nik Turley and Gary Sanchez have been optioned to minor league camp (Heathcott and Turley to Triple-A; Sanchez to Double-A). I happened to talk to Heathcott a little bit pregame, so here’s a small update on the center field prospect. 

Slade HeathcottSlade Heathcott showed up in the Yankees clubhouse this morning wearing a bright green t-shirt. As far as I can tell, that’s been the loudest thing about him all spring. After knee surgery late last season, 23-year-old Heathcott has been in full rehab mode in spring training. If you didn’t know he was a first-round pick, still full of potential, he’d be easy to overlook completely.

“The more I worry about other things, the less I take from right now and focusing on what I need to do,” Heathcott said. “… (That sort of approach) has just become a goal of mine the last couple of years. We let emotions get to us sometimes. That’s the game. We love the game (when we’re) playing, and we’re all competitive, and sometimes it gets the best of us. But I think the key is, stay even-keel. You look at guys like Jeter and even Pettitte and Mo, guys like that who have been so good in this game for so long. Every day they’re always — their emotion level, playing level — everything is always the same.”

Heathcott acknowledges that wasn’t always his approach. In fact, he laughs when asked if that’s the way he went about things when he was drafted out of high school. Just last year he responded quite differently when he hit .191 in the month of April. That slow start never truly turned around until after the All-Star break. Heathcott hit .279/.339/.514 in 111 second-half at-bats before the knee injury cut his season short in mid-August

“Mainly just stopped being a mental midget,” Heathcott said. “The beginning of the year, at first it wasn’t a big deal. Then the slump started. Then I started trying to make up for everything with one swing and started trying to do too much. So I just slowed everything down. I tried to get better pitch selection. Trying to do everything in one pitch got me impatient. I’d chase balls. That’s never the key to a good thing.”

So Heathcott’s not chasing this spring. He doesn’t think he’ll be active when the regular season starts, but he doesn’t expect to be far behind. Mostly, he said he’s not worrying about it. His knee has good days and bad days, but most of the days have been good and encouraging lately. Heathcott’s been playing catch and hitting tee and toss, and although he said other people have asked for the details of his progression — when he’ll begin fielding drills, when he’ll face live pitching, when he’ll get in a game — Heathcott said he honestly doesn’t know. He’s never asked. Just shows up and does what he’s told day by day.

That’s become his approach — or at the very least, he’s working on making that his approach — to everything from rehab to player development to the fact that the Yankees just signed a pair of left-handed outfielders to long-term deals, potentially blocking his own path to the big leagues.

“I know me looking forward is not going to do me any good,” Heathcott said. “As much as we’d like to look and say how great (a certain scenario) would be, it’s not going to do me any good if I don’t control right now. I just try to show up, be consistent — attitude, work, everything I can be — to be as consistent as possible. And hopefully, in the end, that works.”

Associated Press photo

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89 Responses to “Heathcott: “Mainly just stopped being a mental midget””

  1. hardwired7 March 12th, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Heathcott led his high school baseball team to a state title ridiculously soon after his first knee surgery sustained playing linebacker for his football team. That type of competitiveness can never really be contained.

    Nor should it be.

    The dude also spent his senior year living out of a truck. His backstory is straight out of Hollywood.

  2. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Those sports science pieces are some of the coolest things espn does….Tanaka is gonna be better than a lot of people thought…..you could tell immediately how quick his fastball gets on hitters….

  3. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    Blake-

    Not me.

    ;)

  4. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    The minute Heathcott is healthy and producing again I trade him.

    He’s had countless injuries.

    Several to the knees. Several to the shoulder.

    He’ll never stay healthy long term IMO.

    Pump him and dump him.

  5. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Dan Symborski is like the worst saber nerd

  6. hardwired7 March 12th, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    Seeing Tanaka’s stride and release point reminded me of DRob’s.

    It explains why their fastballs play up.

  7. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    hardwired7 says:
    March 12, 2014 at 5:34 pm
    Seeing Tanaka’s stride and release point reminded me of DRob’s.

    It explains why their fastballs play up.

    Yup

  8. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Tanaka’s FB is far from his best pitch.

    His splitter, slider, and “shuuto” are all better.

  9. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t think his slider is better ….his heater is better than it’s given credit for. The command and the life through the zone make it a plus pitch

  10. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Blake-

    Then you haven’t seen enough of his slider because it is rated ++.

    His FB is not.

  11. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    “Then you haven’t seen enough of his slider because it is rated ++.”

    I’ve seen enough….the worst pitches I’ve seen him throw this far have been sliders

  12. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Blake-

    It’s early.

  13. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I’ll bet you he gets more K’s w that split and slider than he does with his 4-seamer.

  14. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Scouting reports of his slider are mixed:….even before we saw him some reports bad it as an average big league pitch that needed improvement. From what I’ve seen I agree with that assessment. It’s a fine 3rd pitch for him…..he could make it better IMO

  15. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Blake-

    That is nonsense.

    The reports on slider were always that it is 2nd best pitch.

    Actually close to his split in effectiveness.

  16. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    MTU says:
    March 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm
    I’ll bet you he gets more K’s w that split and slider than he does with his 4-seamer.

    He’s gotta get most of his Ks on that split and well placed fastballs IMO…..he elevates the 4 seamer with 2 strikes and he can spot the corners

  17. bigdan22 March 12th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    “His knee has good days and bad days, but most of the days have been good and encouraging lately.”

    —-

    Good days and bad days with his knee? What is this guy, 65 years old? I thought he had surgery? Surgery is supposed to fix things. We still don’t know how he got hurt and what type of surgery he had. Therefore we have no idea when he’ll come back and at what level he’ll be able to perform. I surmised about a month ago that maybe he’s missing too much cartilage. That would explain the inability of surgery to fully correct the problem and also the “good and bad” days. But really, we’ve never been told the truth here so it’s just guessing.

  18. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Here’s just one example Blake :

    http://www.baseballamerica.com.....s-pitches/

  19. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Blake-

    The 4-seamer is good but his splitter and hard slider are better.

    ;)

  20. blake March 12th, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    MTU,
    His slider is good but IMO it’s his 3rd pitch….either way he’s very good and as I said yesterday I expect him to be one of the 30 best pitchers in MLB and one of the 2 or 3 best in the al east

  21. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Heathcott needs to disappear.

  22. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Blake-

    We are going to have to disagree on this one Blake.

    I rate his pitches as follows :

    1 Hard splitter

    2 Hard slider

    3 4-seamer

    4 Shuuto

    His worst pitch is his curve.

    But you are right. He has a lot of weapons and he knows how to use them.

    ;)

  23. bigdan22 March 12th, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    A lot of stuff in the game today:

    –And Zolio, what do you know? I said last night somebody has to give this guy 200 major league at bats. I mean consecutively, playing every day. It’s unlikely to be the Yanks though. As I pointed out last night, the Yanks have really tied their hands with their outfielders the next few years. But here’s a guy who hits the ball where it’s pitched, from both sides of the plate, and with some power. Today he turned around 95. Quite honestly, if you are just comparing them solely in the batter’s box, I’m not so sure Almonte wouldn’t outperform Gardner over the next five years. Sad to say if he does, it will be another team who benefits.

    –Jeter looks awful against right-handers.

    –Williams’ arm looks pretty weak.

    –Almost forgot. Cervelli! I’ve been saying for quite awhile, as a BUC, he’s pretty damn valuable right now. The Yanks won’t give him away. Remember he looked real good last year too until he got hurt, Hit one of the longest homers of the year in YS3. It’s a shame too if he ever gets a starting gig it won’t be with the Yanks.

    –Campos looked ok. When you are as young and inexperienced as he his, I think you are just looking for FB velocity and control. He showed both A secondary pitch is just gravy for a single A guy. And his curveball looked pretty bad. But he has lots of time on his side. Problem is he’s got a roster spot.

    –Burawa continues to show the best stuff in camp. Some really nice off speed pitches today. I thought he had control problems. Haven’t seen that yet.

    –You can’t stop Solarte. You can only hope to contain him.

  24. champ809 March 12th, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    AAA Scranton projected roster

    C- JR Murphy/Austin Romine
    1B- Brett Wallace ( I hope)/ Corbin Joseph (really a 2B but Anna/Solarte/Pirella will play there)
    2B- Anna/Solarte/Pirela
    3B- Sizemore/Solarte/Anna
    SS- Ibarra/Pirela
    LF- Adonis Garcia
    CF- Slade Heathcott
    RF- Zooligical
    OF/DH- Fernando Martinez

    SP- Banuelos
    SP- JRam
    SP- Vidal Nuno
    SP- Cotham
    SP- Turley
    SP/Long- Whitley
    RP- Montgomery
    RP- Kahnle
    RP- Burawa
    RP- Lewis
    RP- Rondon
    RP- Miller/Zagurski

    that’s a pretty nice packed roster of re-inforcements and legit “prospects” with real upside

  25. Tar March 12th, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    “Heathcott needs to disappear.”

    Heathcott-MTU, Nunez-Blake, Cervelli-me

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who is a little weird. :D

  26. austinmac March 12th, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Great video information on Tanaka.that long stride sure has played up Robertson’s fastball. The rotation information and it’s effect was new information to my rudimentary brain. The commercial was sort of funny as well.

  27. Shame Spencer March 12th, 2014 at 6:17 pm

    It sucks Slade has had so many injuries because he’s such an easy guy to root for. I still hope he finds his way to the bigs one day.

  28. Hans Davenport March 12th, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    “Heathcott needs to disappear.”

    Heathcott-MTU, Nunez-Blake, Cervelli-me

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who is a little weird. :D

    My vote for MDP (My Disappearing Player)….. Suzuki.

  29. Jerkface March 12th, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Everyone please watch that video because it explains why a rising fastball does not exist but how ‘rising fastballs’ actually work.

  30. Hans Davenport March 12th, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    –And Zolio, what do you know? I said last night somebody has to give this guy 200 major league at bats. I mean consecutively, playing every day.

    I’d like to see it.

    Quite honestly, if you are just comparing them solely in the batter’s box, I’m not so sure Almonte wouldn’t outperform Gardner over the next five years.

    I’d be willing to believe that.

  31. Shame Spencer March 12th, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Lol people still wouldn’t believe it.. Lohud vs. science is always an epic battle.

  32. Jerkface March 12th, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Ok so Tanaka’s 4 seam is twice as good as a normal fastball at not dropping, which means batters are going to be swinging under it and its going to have lots of ‘life’ in the zone because of his huge stride.

    This combined with a split that comes from the same arm speed/release and which drops so far off the table is going to make for some wacky games this year.

  33. Shame Spencer March 12th, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    JF – Thoughts on blake and MTU’s discussion above?

    What order would you rank his pitches?

  34. drewmoney March 12th, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    GM of Arizona Kevin Towers sitting behind home plate with scout for today’s game

  35. Cashmoney March 12th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    money everywhere!

  36. bigdan22 March 12th, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Here’s a new thought that’s been percolating in my brain.

    The defined hitter vs the undefined hitter. A defined hitter is a hitter who’s batted ball tendencies are defined. Such as a pull hitter. An undefined hitter is one who’s tendencies cannot be defined or reasonably predicted. Such as a spray hitter for lack of a better word.

    Given the way the game is evolving with respect to defensive alignments, an undefined hitter has become significantly more valuable than a defined hitter. Because you can’t shift against him, all other things being equal, he has a better chance of having one of his batted balls landing safely than a defined hitter. I think before the new alignments, a pull hitter was not really penalized for hitting balls to one side of the field. Now, a pull or defined hitter is playing against a team with perhaps 10 or 12 fielders whereas the undefined hitter is still playing against nine.

    More reason to like Zolio.

  37. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Tar-

    My reasons for wanting Heathcott to disappear relate to his health, or lack thereof.

    I have no personal animosity towards him whatsoever.

    I just see him as a potential trade chip is all.

    ;)

  38. champ809 March 12th, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    AA Trenton projected roster (imo);

    C- Sanchez/Higishioka
    1B/DH- Kyle Roller/Andrew Clark
    2B- Refsnyder
    SS- Angelini
    3B- Segedin
    INF- Mahoney
    LF- Gamel
    CF- Mason
    RF- Ty Austin
    OF- Medchill

    SP- Bryan Mitchell
    SP- Shane Greene
    SP- Nuding
    SP- Bleich
    SP- Jairo Heredia
    SP/Long- Stoneburner
    RP- Pinder
    RP- Perez
    RP- Short
    RP- Garrison
    RP- Rigoberto
    RP- DeLaCruz
    RP- Venditte

  39. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Towers needs to trade us Owings or Gregorius.

    ;)

  40. Jerkface March 12th, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Well I think Tanaka’s fastball will be more consistent, but his slider has the better upside. The thing to keep in mind is that he is using a more vertical breaking slider than he had in the NPB, he is altering it for MLB hitters. The more drop and less sweeping movement plays up vs guys who swing hard rather than guys in the NPB who are looking for contact.

    The slider and the fastball are both plus, and I think the fastball will be more consistently plus during the season, but the slider on its best days will be plus plus.

  41. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Kevin needs to stop pus*yfooting around and belly up to the bar.

    ;)

  42. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    Really tough news for Medlin.

    If he needs a 2nd TJS he can just about forget his career.

    What a shame. Must be heartbreaking.

    I hope he lucks out somehow.

  43. easyenough March 12th, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I don’t think Blake and MTU are talking about the same thing (I obviously have no inside insights on this, but they both seemed to be talking sense to me).

    Tanaka’s most important pitch vs best pitch. He throws a slider better than other pitchers throw a slider – everyone agrees on that – it’s a big plus plus pitch. His fastball is good, but not as plus as the slider. Still, the 4 seam fastball will be thrown more often than any other pitch and is critical to setting up the slider, so it’s going to be his most important pitch. A plus plus slider isn’t enough to get to the front of the rotation.

  44. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    That’s “Medlen”. sorry.

    There’s a new one ———->

  45. MTU March 12th, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Easy-

    Actually Tanaka will use his 4-seamer to set up his split ore often than his slider.

    They look almost exactly the same coming out of his hand.

    One of the reasons his split is so deadly.

    The slider can stand on it’s own.

    I will say that the action is very similar to the split though.

    I also really like his “shuuto”. He should be able to induce lot’s of GB’s w it.

    And it will help with his overall efficiency.

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