For those of you who don't know Yankees pitching prospect Jaron Long, he is the son of hitting coach Kevin Long. Signed as an undrafted free agent after the 2013 draft, Long got his feet wet in the bullpen last year. In 2014 the 22-year-old split time between relieving and starting, pitching to a 1.80 ERA with impressive peripherals, including a 1.6 BB/9 and 8.2 K/9, in 45 innings and four starts for Low-A Charleston. I had the opportunity to talk with the right-hander about his role on the mound, his pitching, and his father.
Obviously, the big story is your 7 inning, 9 strikeout start. What would you say was really working for you that night? If it hadn't been a shortened game, do you feel you could have gone nine innings?
I was able to throw all of my pitches for strikes (Sinker, Cutter, Change-Up, and Curveball). My change-up was the pitch that got me most of my strikeouts but it was setup with all of my other pitches. If the game was 9 innings I am not so sure I would have finished it due to pitch count.
How would you say your dad has helped you throughout your professional career? Has he worked with you at all, if not about pitching, then just about the game in general?
My dad has had a HUGE impact on my career! I grew up at baseball fields all over the country. Went to my first World Series in 1991 two months after I was born. Every summer from the time I was seven until 18 I used to go to the field everyday with him during the summer. I would watch him work with players like Carlos Beltran when Carlos was 17 or 18 and more recently guys like Matsui, Jeter, Gardner, and everyone in between. We never stop talking about the game and often times I feel bad for my mom cause she is the one who has to hear us have friendly arguments. I would not be where I am today without his advice and knowledge he has shared with me.
What pitches do you throw and which would you say is your best pitch? Also, what kind of pitcher would you describe yourself as? A strike-thrower, ground ball, a mix?
I am a command pitcher that works for groundballs. Since I am not overpowering I focus on working down in the zone and throwing a steady mix.
Last year the Yankees used you exclusively out of the bullpen; did you know heading into the season that they would work you back into the rotation or was this an in-season decision?
Starting is where I feel most comfortable and by far my favorite, but with that being said, I am willing to take on any role that the Yankees assign me to. The more versatile you are, the more valuable you are. I had built up innings from spring training but all my starts this season have been spot starts.
What would you say is your greatest strength as a pitcher? What would you like to work on from this point?
My greatest strength as a pitcher is my ability to command the strike zone with multiple pitches. I have good movement on my pitches so that enables me to keep hitters off balance. With that being said, I need to be more consistent about pitching down in the strike zone. Also need to limit the number of mistakes I make.
Can you take us through the process of getting signed by the Yankees? How did it all go down, were you being heavily scouted?
I was hoping to get drafted after my junior year of college but after a disappointing junior year at The Ohio State University I didn’t hear my name in the June draft. Initially it was very discouraging, but I was able to return to the Cape Cod Baseball League for a second season playing for the Bourne Braves. After 30 innings pitched and only 1 earned run I was hearing from professional teams. I had always wanted to be a Yankee so the decision was very easy for me.
I would like to thank Jaron for taking the time to talk with us. At the moment he's a bit off the radar, but I think if he keeps getting results he could finally get a permanent spot in the rotation and make a name for himself in the system. You can follow him on Twitter @JaronLong.