Mechanics tuned, Odorizzi bounces back

RHP's 5-inning, 0-ER performance 'a step in the right direction'

August 11th, 2021

HOUSTON -- Calling it a step in the right direction, Astros starter got his season back on track Tuesday night against the Rockies, with an assist from veteran catcher Martín Maldonado.

Odorizzi, working with Maldonado for the first time as a starter, rebounded from a series of rocky starts and saw his mechanical adjustments pay off when he fired five scoreless innings and combined with four relief pitchers for a five-hit, 5-0 shutout Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.

“He seemed more relaxed today and he was throwing it,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “He was finding his spots, and just like when I switched [catcher Jason] Castro and [pitcher Luis] Garcia [on Saturday], sometimes a change of scenery is good for them. He threw the ball well. I got him out after the fifth. I wanted [him] to leave on a positive note.”

Odorizzi, who allowed 16 earned runs (including eight home runs) over 16 1/3 innings in his previous four starts, gave up three hits and two walks as the Astros registered their sixth shutout victory of the season.

Cristian Javier threw two scoreless innings, and Pedro Báez worked the ninth in his long-awaited Astros debut.

In his first 14 starts of the season, Odorizzi was caught by Castro 10 times and Garrett Stubbs four times. Odorizzi had a 6.02 ERA with Castro behind the plate and a 3.72 ERA with Stubbs, currently at Triple-A. Maldonado had caught him once in the regular season, which came in four scoreless innings of relief on June 15 against Texas. 

“I’m cool with whoever wants to catch me,” Odorizzi said. “I don’t want to say I do better with one guy than the other guy because each game is its own unique self. Maldy and I worked well together. We had a good game plan, plan of attack. It just boils down to execution. It’s on me. Whoever the catcher is, it still falls on me to be able to execute and do things well. The fact that I felt better today mechanically makes a huge difference.”

Maldonado said he simply tried to keep Odorizzi in the strike zone more often. 

“I’ve seen him pitch a lot in Spring Training and that day he came out of the bullpen,” he said. “I have a good idea of what kind of pitches he throws in each count. From the start, I was talking to him and trying to get that confidence up.”

Odorizzi said his fastball was noticeably better than his previous outing. He mixed up his pitch sequences, throwing fewer splitters and more cutters. He threw eight splitters (10 percent of his pitches on Tuesday) and 11 cutters (14 percent), which bucked his season trends coming into the night of 22.5 percent splitters and 6.4 percent cutters.

“A step in the right direction,” he said. “Still some work to be done, for sure, just to refine things, keep things going, get it closer to where I want it. Definitely the way the last couple of starts have been, I was much more pleased with the mechanical aspect of it. It kind of trickles down, and it shows.”

His last time out, last Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers, Odorizzi gave up four homers in three innings, saying afterward that he’s been fighting his mechanics all season.

In between starts, to help replicate his mechanics following his bullpen session, Odorizzi said he would get on the mound and have some dry reps. He would go through the motions and create some body awareness.

“That’s the difference between the last start and this start, getting on the mound and going through my mechanics and trying to feel comfortable,” he said. “The more I repeat it, the more likely it’s going to translate to the game. Still, some balls were running back over the plate. They had life to them, as opposed to balls that were going glove-side and running back arm-side [on Wednesday]. That’s a good sign [that] we’re going in the right direction.”