Matt Wivinis always wanted to be a New York Yankee.
He grew up with an older brother who idolized Derek Jeter, so Wivinis followed suit. He went on to own both a Jeter and Jason Giambi jersey.
Now, the 25-year-old Wivinis is making great strides in the Yankees’ organization. The latest snapshot of his success can be found in the Arizona Fall League.
As a member of the Glendale Desert Dogs, Wivinis has been near-perfect. He has thrown 8 1/3 innings, permitting just one earned run, walking six and striking out nine in six appearances. The only run he has allowed this fall came in his October 9 debut.
That is good for an ERA of 1.08.
“I’ve felt good. I’m just trying to stay healthy and keep the arm feeling good each and every day, and be ready,” he said following a scoreless inning of work on October 23.
Splitting time at three different levels this summer, Wivinis threw 56 innings and struck out 77 hitters, holding the opposition to a mere .184 average.
Out west in Arizona, he is working on fine-tuning his pitches and becoming more comfortable with his off-speed repertoire.
“My off-speed is what I like to go to,” he said, “so I’m mainly focusing on backdoor curveballs, making sure I hit each location with a slider or a curveball.”
The Arizona Fall League always boasts some of the game’s best hitting prospects. This season, young sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Keston Hiura and Peter Alonso are showcasing their pop every day.
That is great if you are a fan of the game but as a pitcher? They might not share the sentiments.
Wivinis, however, has relished the opportunity to throw against premiere hitters every time he trots out from the bullpen.
“Oh, it’s great. It keeps you on your toes. There’s no bad hitter in the lineup. You have to make the right pitch at the right time, and if you don’t, they’re going to hit it.”
Maneuvering his way throughout the Yankees’ farm system, Wivinis had a cup of coffee this summer with Double-A Trenton. He threw in 12 games and gave up nine earned runs and walked six. Over the 16 2/3 innings he labored through, he allowed two home runs.
Sure, he struggled, but he welcomed the opportunity and learning experience.
“With each level, you get a little bit better of hitters… You definitely realize what pitch you can make and what you can’t make.”
“[Double-A hitters] are different in their own way,” he said. “They’re definitely better quality; they have their own approach. They stay to their approach, for the most part. Like my pitching is always telling me, if you make your pitch, you’re going to get them out.”
So far with Glendale, Wivinis has done exactly that: He has made his pitches, and he has had no issue dispatching hitters.
The Yankees organization is replete with solid, promising pitching prospects. Wivinis may not be in the team’s Top 30 prospect list, but he is making his case to be ranked with the continued success he has had in Arizona.
And to be doing this as a Yankee — a storied franchise and a perennial World Series contender — Wivinis could not be happier. This is what he has always dreamed of, after all.
“It’s awesome. It’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be a Yankee. Wearing the pinstripes, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”
“And I mean, they’re the Yankees, everybody knows them, and not everybody necessarily loves them, but everybody knows them.“