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An interview with Yankees rookie pitcher Nick Nelson, part one

Yankees rookie pitcher Nick Nelson talks with Pinstripe Alley about getting called up and his first experiences in the big leagues.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Yankees fans were introduced to Nick Nelson last Saturday night as he pitched three scoreless innings in the Yankees 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. With the Yankees off on Tuesday night, Pinstripe Alley was able to talk with Nick about a range of topics that we will publish in two parts. Here is part one:

Dan Kelly: Before we go too far, Congratulations, you were called up to the big leagues about 10 days ago. I guess the first question is were you expecting to get called up so soon?

Nick Nelson: I had just got to the alternate site in Scranton, I think I was there for 3 or 4 days. I thought as the season went on, there was a possibility that I would get the call up and throw a couple innings here and there. Then I was watching the Yankees game against DC and I got a knock on my door, it was the pitching coach and one of the coordinators. They were asking me how I was, what I was doing and I wasn’t expecting them to say “pack your stuff you are going to DC tomorrow, you are getting called up.”

DK: So you were moving before that night’s game was over?

NN: Yeah.

DK: After you were called up, it was a full week before you got to make your debut and you are seeing games cancelled due to the COVID incident with the Marlins after they played the Phillies. What are you doing to stay sharp with a lot of uncertainty in the schedule?

NN: The first day that it was cancelled, and by the way it felt like forever from when I got up here to when I was able to throw. I think it was only three games, but including the off days it felt like I was up here for two weeks. The first day the game was cancelled, I went out with Brooks Kriske and we kinda found a local park that was away from people so we could throw a little bit, just in case we played that next day we hadn’t taken a day off from throwing. I’m sure some other guys did too, but we were split up. The second day we went down to Baltimore and had a workout at their field that night, so we did that and had some flat grounds, and some little bullpens to keep the feel and not lose anything going into the games.

DK: Your debut comes at Yankee Stadium, Yankees vs. Red Sox. This is the premier rivalry in the sport, how does that play with an empty stadium, all while it is your big league debut?

NN: I mean it was definitely game on, even though there were not fans. It was still heated and throughout the series we would be down and then come back. In the game I pitched, we were winning 6-2. Then coming back the next day was just insane. The atmosphere just being around all the guys, in that moment when Tauch got on, stole a base and D.J. drove him in. Then Judge comes in and hits a bomb, I cannot imagine what a packed stadium would have sounded like, especially against Boston.

DK: I guess you have something to look forward to.

NN: Yeah, 100 percent.

DK: You’ve been a starter all the way through the minor leagues, were you given any warning that you would be used in the bullpen before you were used there in the last exhibition game? What is the difference in the mentality of getting ready to pitch.

NN: So at the beginning I did not come into this second camp with the mentality that I was going to start, just because of all the great starters that we have. I knew my role was probably going to be out of the bullpen. Its definitely a different routine to get warmed up, as a starter you can take your time. You have your times when you want to be in the weight room, when you want to get on the field to play catch, when you want to get off the mound before the game. Then the bullpen is kinda tough. I was fortunate enough to have a half inning against Boston to get ready. When I came into the exhibition game it was tough to be warm in about 5 pitches.

DK: You came in with runners on base in that exhibition game, I made a note of that, and did not see another time that you had done that as a professional.

NN: Yeah, I didn’t even know I was supposed to… I had originally been told that I was going to pitch the 8th, I wasn’t really thinking about how I was going to get ready. Then (Mike) Harkey our bullpen coach walked in and said “hey, he has 12 pitches and your in the game.”

DK: oh wow, how was that feeling?

NN: I was like oh gosh, so I started doing some stuff and he knocked on the glass inside and shook his head and looked at the mound to say you need to be here right now. It was definitely different, a lot different.

We have more of this interview with Nick Nelson that we will publish later this week. Please check back as we discuss his interactions with the Yankees pitching coaches, veteran teammates, and back to when he was drafted by the Yankees.