Justin Echevarria in as Manhattan College Jaspers pitching coach. Elvys Quezada out and headed to be pitching coach for the New York Yankees rookie ball minor league affiliate.
Was that a typo? No. The Yankees, perhaps baseball’s most storied franchise, hired now former Jasper Quezada.
Jaspers head coach, Jim Duffy, wasn’t all too surprised by the news.
“He really made a significant impact not only on our program. He really developed well and quickly as a coach, as a pitching coach,” Duffy said. “And other people besides me and our program obviously saw that.”
Jaspers ERA by Season under Quezada
Initial talks between the Yankees and Quezada began back in December when the Yankees reached out to him. It was not a completely out of nowhere hiring because they knew him from when they drafted him in the 15th round of the 2003 draft. He then spent five years in their minor league system.
Quezada will naturally be missed by the Jaspers, but Duffy said that with Quezada’s departure, his goal was to keep the culture left behind intact and to move forward. Hence the promotion of Echevarria, who was a starting catcher at Stony Brook University and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 40th round of the 2010 draft.
“He’s young, energetic and eager to learn,” Duffy said. “And the other thing is: He has been a part of our coaching the past year and a half as volunteer assistant. I don’t anticipate that we would skip a beat.”
The least amount of distraction for the current team and pitching staff was to not hire an outside pitching coach because it would have created a situation where the pitchers would be affected little. And that it’s just going to be a different voice, Duffy added.
“In talking with [Quezada], I realized just how much we were on the same page in how to go about situations in-game,” Echevarria said.
There is one thing that Echevarria would like to see improved: the catcher-pitcher relationship.
“As catchers we’ve got to be selfless, you got to have a considerate mentality and it has got to be day-in and day-out for our pitchers,” he told catchers last winter when he first started working with them. “If our pitchers see that we don’t care and we’re not bringing our intensity everyday then they won’t trust us in-game. And if there’s no trust in-game or off on the practice field then you’re not going to have a successful relationship.”
He also wants those same catchers he worked with to pick up on different things in pitchers’ mechanics because in doing so it quickens their learning curve and helps them understand what pitchers are trying to do.
“We like to think of our catchers as extensions of the coaching staff,” Echevarria said.
It’s cliché for Quezada to say what he is going to miss most are the relationships with past and current recruits and those Jaspers that are there now. But what he said after is understandable: the Yankees are worth the sacrifice because of the organization in question.
“I’m going to miss being in the dugout and really having fun with those guys,” Quezada said.
An opportunity has come not only for Quezada but for Echevarria too.
“I know [Echevarria] is more than capable to take over the program. He is where I was three years ago,” Quezada said. “My advice to him is he has got to make his own program, take from the people that he admires and learned from and be himself throughout the process. He’s not there to fill my shoes. He’s there to be coach Echevarria.”