James Reeves started the his 2016 season in Low-A Charleston as a reliever. Now as July is about to begin, he is starting for the Advanced-A Tampa Yankees. Reeves was a starter and reliever for The Citadel in college, but was a full-time reliever in his rookie year, as well as his short time with Charleston at the start of this season. I talked to Reeves on his journey from his rookie season up until now where he owns a 1.56 ERA in 63 1/3 IP.
Take me through your rookie year. What were some expectations? Were you nervous? Who helped you in the process?
“I don’t know if I was nervous, I was excited to get started in pro-ball and didn’t really know what to expect, but I figured that what I’d done to that point was good enough to get me there at the time. So go from there and see how that worked and make adjustments off of that. But there was a lot of great guys, I got to play for Pat Osborn in Staten Island and he’s a great manager and leader. I had Butch Henry as a pitching coach, a really seasoned veteran, he eased me into the pro-ball process.
What was it like going to full-time relieving position in your rookie season? Did you have to go through any changes? Did you want to stay as a starter?
“I had experience doing both in college, but I like both of them. I think they have some differences, but you just have to make adjustments as you go. In reality it’s all about getting ahead of hitters and getting outs.
Moving forward to 2016, did playing in South Carolina again help you feel more comfortable at all while playing? What were some things you were working on coming into this season up until now.
“Yeah it was definitely a comfort zone. That (Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park) was the stadium I played at in college and 30 minutes from where I grew up so that was definitely a big comfort factor, there. It was definitely fun playing there. And really just the ability to throw all three pitches for strikes. The change-up has been a big thing I’ve been trying to mature and grow as a pitcher every time you go out there, you learn when bad stuff happens and when you have good outings too. Trying to keep it all in perspective and learn something new every day.”
Are you permanently in the rotation now?
“Yeah I’m a starter now so I’ve got a lower pitch count so that’s something I’m working up on that”
How do you feel after starts? Have you had any set backs converting from reliever to starter? In your opinion what is your strongest and weakest pitch as of right now?
“I feel pretty good, I feel the way (pitching coach) Tim Norton and the rest of the pitching guys in the organization from the top down, the way they handle things is they don’t throw you right into the fire. They go off of pitch counts and ease you into that, prolonging throwing process. I like to live off my fastball. I like my fastball, but my slider’s kind of my out pitch and how I get some strikeouts, but I definitely like to get ahead with my fastball.
I talked to Tim Norton shortly to get some more input on Reeves and his recent performances.
What are some more things you’re working on with him (Reeves) and does he have any limitations on his outings right now?
“Yeah he’s still somewhat limited, he’s still getting built up. He went 70+ (pitches) in his last start which is the furthest he’s been. Really were working on him becoming a starter and being able to manage a lineup instead of just being that fastball and slider guy. Work on that change-up a little bit and see where that goes, but he’s been great, he’s been outstanding for us.”
Reeves has definitely deserved the chance to become a start this season. Aside from his 1.56 ERA, batters are hitting .149 against him and he has slimmed his walk ratio down greatly to own a .82 WHIP. His slider is the main reason behind his 76 strikeouts in his 63 1/3 IP, and that’s without mentioning he went over a month without giving up a run.
Starter or reliever, James Reeves is definitely an arm to keep an eye on. The 2015 10th-rounder is one of many strong arms to come from the 2015 draft for the Yankees and he’s showing his talent just as much as the rest are. Since becoming a starter, Reeves has not allowed more than two earned runs in a start. In his last start he pitched seven full innings for the first time this season and allowed just two hits and striking out six. Reeves is part of a strong rotation Tampa has grown throughout the season despite Chance Adams and Vicente Campos being promoted to Double-A Trenton.