Phillies' Worley gets a new grip on things
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Two springs ago, Roy Halladay was getting to know Rich Dubee, his new pitching coach with the Phillies.
One day, Halladay told Dubee that he’d always had trouble coming up with a consistent change up.
“Try this,” said Dubee, showing Halladay the grip that had helped Kyle Kendrick develop the pitch.
Halladay started using the grip and with the help of a consistent changeup won the NL Cy Young Award in 2010.
Now, Halladay is passing on the favor.
One day a few weeks ago, he noticed Vance Worley struggling to throw a consistent changeup in the bullpen. Worley was using the well-known circle grip, where the pitcher sets the ball against his thumb and index finger, which are connected as if to make the “OK” sign. Halladay suggested that Worley ditch that grip.
“Try this,” he said.
“It works,” the 23-year-old righthander said Wednesday. “It’s a good pitch. I just need to fine-tune it.”
The grip that Halladay suggested is pretty basic. Put your index and middle fingers over the narrow seams, like a two-seam fastball grip, and spread them. That weakening of the grip takes just enough velocity off the pitch to separate it from a fastball. While the grip is similar to a splitter, it is not one, Dubee said. A splitter requires a little wider spread of the fingers and a deeper setting of the ball in the palm. Dubee instructs his pitchers to hold this pitch, a “split-change,” in the fingers and throw it with a loose wrist, like a two-seamer.
All right, enough of the changeup erotica.
What can the pitch do for Worley?
Well, the Phillies hope it gives him another weapon in the war game that is pitching in the major leagues. Last year, as a rookie, Worley went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 games, 21 of which were starts. He finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. He did it mostly with a fearless attitude, the ability to throw strikes, a deceptive delivery and a good, moving sinker.
“Hitters will adjust after seeing him,” Dubee said. “He has to adjust, too.”
Hence, the new and improved changeup. Worley is also looking to sharpen his curveball and cutter this spring, all in the name of staying a leg (or arm) up on the hitters.
Worley had a bit of a rough outing in his spring debut Wednesday. He allowed five hits and two runs in two innings of work in a 10-3 loss to Houston. He was not pleased with the location of his pitches, but few are the first time out. He will look for better results next time.
Worley believes he needs good results this spring. Despite his strong season in 2011 and his on-paper hold one of the spots in the starting rotation, he is approaching the spring as if he needs to earn a job.
“Nothing is guaranteed in this game,” he said. “I need to go out and have success. I treat every game like it’s my last. I need to go out and compete the best I can.”
Worley will make his next start on Sunday.
Cole Hamels makes his second spring start Thursday against the Pirates in Clearwater. … Jim Thome will start playing first base in minor-league games on Monday.