What an amazing game by Hansel Robles last night who tossed a complete game shutout and struck out ten batters to defeat the Hudson Valley Renegades 4-0 and take Game One of the Semi Final round of the New York Penn League Championship Series.
Mets Merized Online’s Peter Shapiro who has been raving about Robles ever since he first mentioned him as a 2012 Sleeper back in March, was on hand for the game and spoke to Robles before the game last night and then again in the clubhouse after the game and during all the excitement by his manager Rich Donnelly and his teammates too.
I was going to post some of the audio which we collected over an hour of in our discussions with everyone, but for the sake of expediency I’ll just share some quotes beginning with Rich Donnelly who was asked by Pete to share his thoughts on his performance and also to describe Robles’ makeup, mechanics and his evolution over this season.
Everyone has their own opinions about how good Robles is and how high is his ceiling and what’s in his arsenal, but when you hear it from Rich, and Marc Valdes the pitching coach you have a better sense of what the real story is on Robles, Mateo, Cessa and all the other fine arms on this team. These are valuable insights that you don’t really find anywhere else. Read what they had to say.
“First of all, he continues to blow my mind”, said Donnelly about Robles. “Billy (Cyclones Director of Media Relations) just told me Robes has 45 straight innings without allowing an earned run, that’s just mind blowing.”
“That’s not the only incredible thing about him, what I’m going to tell you now is really incredible and it’s never happened before in the history of this league. In 13 starts, he has given up more than one earned run, once. Once. Incredible, once and that was only three earned runs.”
Pete asks, what can you tell us about his evolution this season?
“I’ll tell you this much, this isn’t the same pitcher we saw in March during Spring Camp. This is a different kid. He is very coachable and he lets any advice soak in.”
“We’ve been together on this journey for a long time and if you could see where he was in Spring Training and where he is now… Back then we were just trying to get him on the team even if it meant being the long man in the bullpen, we knew we had something.” (In 2011 Robles worked exclusively as a reliever for Kingsport.)
“That kid you saw on the mound tonight? That was real – that’s really him. He knows how to compose himself and he does what he wants with the ball with confidence. Nothing rattles him… Bad call, no problem… Hit a guy, no problem… Give up a bloop no problem. He’s grown up quite a bit. When we first signed him he was 16 going on 17 (actually 17 going on 18, Coach) and he now sees things in a different light. He just got married last week. I didn’t see this coming. I’ve been completely blindsided by him (his growth).”
What would you consider the better performance, tonight’s shutout or his start two weeks ago when he took a no-hitter into the eight inning?
“It’s pretty tough to compare them, but at the end tonight he was actually throwing harder and pitching stronger. Marc said when he talked to him after the eight, he wasn’t even breathing hard, he wasn’t even sweating. And his last few pitches, the downward break on his sliders and the velocity on his fastball just showed that he was at his strongest point and that was something to see.”
Pete asks, what went on when you and the trainer visited him on the mound after he tripped, you guys were all laughing about something?
“Well he had slipped and fell and I ran out and told him that if he couldn’t finish this inning I was going to bring in Reynolds to replace him (Jeff Reynolds is the backup third baseman). He looked at me like I had ten heads and everyone on the mound just started breaking out in laughter. I was just trying to relax him and obviously it worked out fine.”
Worried about letting Robles go nine innings so late in the season?
“It’s nice to see that these days, and we weren’t going to let him go much more than 102 pitches and were hoping that he’d go eight. I think he’s going to be fine. These kids have to learn how to pitch innings. One of the things we have implemented in our program this season, if you haven’t noticed, is the six-man rotation. It has gotten our starters to average 90 pitches a start this year compared to under 80 last year. Our philosophy now is that if they have good fundamentals, good mechanics, and don’t hurt themselves, there’s no reason they shouldn’t go nine innings. They need to all be like R.A. Dickey, if you’re ahead and feeling strong, than go for nine innings.”
That’s all I managed to transcribe, but I had a long conversation with Pete before he took off for Hudson Valley where the Cyclones will play Game Two tonight. On Monday, I’ll post our new interviews with Brandon Nimmo (we are becoming joined at the hip, lol), Phil Evans and the others. Nimmo, Mincone, Boyd, and Cecchini will all be part of an upcoming Special 2-Hour Cyclones Edition of Metsmerized Radio after the season.
Pete’s been following Robles a lot this season and last, and he marvels at how far his slider and changeup have developed. Donnelly considers it a plus pitch now, and the movement on his fastball is electric and tough to hit, “it gets better late in games”, he told me.
Back when Robles nearly threw that no-hitter, Donnelly credited his pitching coach for the vast improvement on Robles’ secondary pitches, “I credit Marc for Hansel’s performance,” Donnelly said. “He’s gotten him ready to pitch like this; you can now see why Hansel is an All-Star.”
The 21-year-old Dominican right-hander is quickly moving up the Mets prospect list and he’s not doing it by performance alone. He has a bulldog mentality. A couple of games back when he was removed in the eight inning of another strong start, Robles was agitated, he didn’t want to come out, “I could have pitched 15 innings the way I felt”, he said.
“The best thing about Robles is how he mixes his pitches and keeps hitters off balance”, Marc Valdes said. “That kind of confidence in all your pitches is something you start seeing in Triple-A or in the Majors, not this soon, not this young.”
Valdes has presided over the best pitching staff in the New York Penn League.
Anyway, there’s a little on Hansel Robles as told by Cyclones manager Rich Donnelly, pitching coach Marc Valdes and of course our Minor League Editor Pete.
It’s been fun filling in for Pete on this minor league stuff while he’s been covering the minor league post season, but I have a hunch I’ll be doing this for a few more days because something tells me the Cyclones are going to win the Semi Finals tonight and advance to the Championship Series which begins on Tuesday!