Daley scraps attempt to develop new pitch
TUCSON — Colorado Rockies relievermade his fifth consecutive hitless appearance Monday, a string of 4 2/3 innings in which he has issued no walks with four strikeouts. His past two outings have come on consecutive days, a necessary rite of spring for a reliever and a milepost for Daley with the start of the regular season in sight.
“The last two (games), I’m starting to feel like myself,” Daley said Tuesday. “My mechanics are where they need to be. If the season started today, I’d be ready.”
Daley is pleased at the progress of his fastball, slider and changeup. He intended to develop a split-fingered pitch in spring training. It would tumble down and away from left-handed hitters and shore up a weakness in his arsenal.
As a rookie in 2009, Daley went 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA in 57 games. His sidearm delivery makes Daley very effective against right-handed hitters. He limited them to a .206 average with six home runs in 107 at-bats. Left-handed hitters averaged .266 against Daley with no home runs in 79 at-bats.
Daley said he lacked an out pitch last year for the contact hitting lefties, those looking to put the ball in play rather than drive it into the gaps or over the fences. A split-fingered pitch would remedy that situation.
That was the plan, anyway.
Instead, Daley will begin the regular season with his same three-pitch mix of a year ago. He feels more confident about how he’ll get out the slap-hitting left-handed batters, but it won’t be with a split-fingered pitch.
“Learning a new pitch, that was my focus,” Daley said. “Trying to learn where does my hand need to be on this pitch, where do I need to finish it, where do I need to release it. All my focus in my throwing program and my bullpens was trying to work on the new pitch rather than honing in on my normal three pitches and getting those where they need to be and where they have been the last few years.”
In his first spring game March 5 against the Giants, Daley allowed two hits while pitching a scoreless innings. In his next game three days later against the Padres, Daley gave up three hits, a walk and three runs in one inning and was called for two balks. After that appearance, pitching coach Bob Apodaca met with Daley.
“He said, ‘Let’s get back to basics this next bullpen (session),’ ” Daley said. “Since then I’ve focused on my normal pitches.”
Which begs the question, what will enable Daley to have more success against contact-hitting lefties?
“I actually have a lot more confidence in my changeup this year,” Daley said. “I think that that’s an effective weapon, especially when it’s on, to get lefties out and to change their eye level (because the pitch will drop down and away from them). And making sure I mix in my slider against them where at times I haven’t done that in the past. Just making sure I mix up all my pitches, mix up all my spots and more than anything, make sure I attack them and don’t fall behind.”
Daley said a reason he struggled with these left-handed contact hitters in particular is he was too cognizant of falling behind them and did just that. His approach against them now will be, “Throw a strike and see what happens. Let them hit a fly ball to center field. Most of the time, they’re not going to hit it out of the park, so let them hit it.”
Apodaca said Daley pitches inside better than anyone in the Rockies bullpen. He will throw his fastball inside to left-handed hitters, come at them back door with his slider on the outside corner and use his changeup, which will drop down and away.
As for the split-fingered pitch, Daley said it’s on the back burner, not totally discarded and something that can be reevaluated later. Daley was asked whether he was disappointed the split-fingered pitch didn’t make it past the planning stage and didn’t become a usable weapon.
“I would say a little bit because I was hoping it would be a good pitch for me,” Daley said. “But on the other hand, not really because I tried. And I would be upset with myself if I didn’t try. And that’s baseball, certain pitches work out for guys and certain pitches don’t.
“In the overall scheme of things, I’d rather try something and it not work than not try something at all.”