Odorizzi eyes 1st homestand for Astros debut

March 19th, 2021

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Since signing with the Astros on March 8, veteran right-hander has been working diligently on the back fields at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, building his arm strength and formulating a plan to get on the mound for the first time in orange and blue.

That plan is now in place, with Odorizzi saying Friday he will get into his first Grapefruit League game Wednesday, when he could throw as many as three innings. He won’t have enough time to be ready to start the season in the rotation, but Odorizzi is targeting the first homestand of the season (April 8-14) to make his first regular-season appearance in an Astros uniform.

“I’ve been able to kind of get my legs under me pretty quickly,” he said. “From throwing at home, transitioning is always different when you get here. It takes a good week for everything to set in and get into Spring Training mode, get all the soreness out. I feel like I’m on the uphill part of that right now.”

Odorizzi threw two innings Wednesday and said the next step is getting into a game. He’s taken the first couple of weeks of camp to work closely with pitching coach Brent Strom and the training staff to learn about his body and his routine. Odorizzi was on the injured list three times last year but chalked up the injuries to the start-and-stop nature of the 2020 season.

“This is new territory for me, obviously, so we're doing our best that we can to keep everything in check and on the right progression, and just be as honest as possible because this isn't like I had to rush to get ready,” he said. “It's more of ‘Let's take it easy and let's be ready to go when the time comes.’”

Part of learning curve for any pitcher joining the Astros is sitting down with the research and development team and going over the wealth of information that’s available nowadays. Odorizzi eats it up. In the offseason, he has access to information from Trackman and Edgertronic, so nothing is left to chance. Everything he does has a purpose.

Odorizzi mixes five pitches, relying mostly on a four-seam fastball (41.3 percent in 2020) and split-fingered fastball (23.7 percent). His four-seamer averaged 93 mph last year, up from 91.1 in 2018. Odorizzi doesn’t expect an overhaul to his arsenal after meeting with the front office but plans to implement subtle changes.

“It was stuff that I thought from a pitching standpoint that I could do relatively quickly by just a couple of tweaks,” he said. “Nothing was taken away from me. There was no pitch that was ‘Hey, scrap this, go heavy with this,’ so I guess I'm kind of unique when it comes to a lot of that stuff -- multiple pitches and not high in velocity and everything kind of plays off each other. They’re comfortable with everything that I have, and now we're just going to emphasize execution of certain things in maybe a little different way.”

Odorizzi has been around long enough to understand what works for him and what doesn’t.

“I'm at a point where I understand quite a bit of it now, and I'm always looking to gain more knowledge of it because data is good,” he said. “You just have to be able to apply it.”

Odorizzi, 30, is coming off a season in which he pitched only 13 2/3 innings with the Twins due to three stints on the injured list, but he was an All-Star for Minnesota for the first time in 2019. That season, he went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA (129 ERA+) and 178 strikeouts in 159 innings.

As he continues to build up for the regular season, Odorizzi said fastball command will be his key to know when he’s ready to compete.

“I’m just trying to progress on a steady uphill and being ready to go hopefully sooner than later, but I'm happy with where I'm at right now,” he said. “My body’s feeling good, arm’s feeling good, fighting through this Spring Training soreness that everybody gets and combating that. We'll be in midseason form as quick as possible.”