Yankees’ pitching coach Matt Blake is ‘ahead of his time’

Matt Blake

It has been quite a week for Matt Blake.

On Tuesday, the 33-year-old was promoted by the Indians from assistant director of player development to pitching director. Just two days later, sources confirmed he had become the Yankees’ next pitching coach, replacing Larry Rothschild.

Blake was perhaps a name not heard of outside of those familiar with the inner-workings of the Indians and others who knew his reputation in New England, where the Holy Cross alumnus had come to be thought of as something of a “pitching guru,” according to his old college coach, Craig Najarian.

Just four years ago, Blake was a pitching coach at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School near Boston, where he was also the owner and founder of Elite Pitching Development and the pitching coordinator at Cressey Sports Performance, a program that has worked with the likes of Noah Syndergaard, Max Scherzer and Curt Schilling, among others.

Matt Blake
Matt Blake

“He’s ahead of his time,’’ said Kirk Fredericks, who brought Blake on as his pitching coach at Lincoln-Sudbury about a decade ago.

Fredericks was introduced to Blake by Eric Cressey, who created Cressey Sports Performance outside of Boston.

“Matt was very progressive with video analysis,’’ Cressey said. “He was ahead of the curve. He picked it all up from scratch.’’

Blake worked with players as young as 11 or 12, all the way to college-age and into the majors, using technology similar to that of Driveline — where the Yankees found Sam Briend for their newly created position of Director of Pitching.

With video from different angles, the information allows coaches and pitchers to see how the body is positioned at every point during a pitch in an effort to find the most efficient delivery — and repeat it, while also focusing on avoiding injury.

“You can have all the analytics you want, if you can’t disseminate it to people, it doesn’t matter,’’ Cressey said. “And that’s what separates Matt.’’

As did his work ethic, which is what Fredericks noticed when he and Blake went to baseball clinics.

Brian Cashman
Brian CashmanAP

“Matt was all about staying after and talking to whoever the speaker was,’’ said Fredericks, who now is at Wellesley Middle School outside of Boston. “We were in Nashville [at a conference] and everyone else was getting barbecue and he was spending five hours going over notes.”

Eventually, Blake started giving some of those lectures.

“He’s at the cutting edge,’’ Cressey said.

“Spin rate, launch angle, he was talking about all that before almost anyone else,’’ Fredericks said.

He spent a summer as the pitching coach for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League in 2015, but doesn’t have much coaching experience in the dugout.

“The challenge now will be dealing with guys that make millions of dollars,’’ Fredericks said.

But he has worked with those kinds of pitchers and one gave him a strong endorsement Friday.

“He’s awesome,’’ former Indian Trevor Bauer wrote on Twitter. “One of the smarter guys I know. Knows a lot about pitching. A lot about development. Good communicator. Etc. Really excited for him getting this opportunity and pumped to see the results.’’

It’s that kind of recognition that may ease the transition into the dugout — even if he’s not as well-known as other candidates, such as David Cone.

“People might say, ‘Well a guy like Cone will have respect right away,’ but you see the reactions of someone like Bauer, that has to hold some weight,’’ Fredericks said.

And it comes a decade after Blake left a job as a salesman at a local marketing firm in New Hampshire to go to Lincoln-Sudbury, having already started working at Cressey.

“What he’s done is not easy to do,’’ Cressey said.

Blake first got on the Yankees’ radar as an assistant scout, working for the Yankees’ head Northeast scout, Matt Hyde.

Then in 2016, he was hired as lower level pitching coordinator with the Indians.

Najarian, the former Holy Cross coach, recruited Blake as a soft-tossing lefty and coached him for four years.

“He was always asking questions,’’ said Najarian, now the athletic director at Catholic Memorial School outside of Boston. “He was one of those guys that was always next to you in the dugout, wanting to know about why moves were being made. So it doesn’t surprise me how far he’s come.’’

But it’s not something he necessarily would have predicted.

“It’s an awesome story,’’ Najarian said. “Thirteen years ago, he was next to me at Holy Cross and now you’ve got Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and Matt Blake. I’m so happy for him. He’ll put everything he has into the job. I wouldn’t bet against him.’’

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