Buoyed by clubhouse support, Cecconi bounces back in a big way

June 19th, 2024

WASHINGTON -- There was no sugarcoating the start had last week against the Angels when he allowed seven runs on 10 hits in just three innings.

“That was the worst one of my career,” Cecconi said.

D-backs pitching coach Brent Strom, however, felt that what was holding Cecconi back was a mechanical issue that could be corrected.

Five days later, Cecconi incorporated those mechanical changes and the result was six scoreless innings Tuesday night as the D-backs cruised to a 5-0 victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park.

Following the start against the Angels that ballooned his ERA to 6.70, Cecconi relied on a support system in the D-backs clubhouse to boost his spirits while he worked on his mechanics.

“I had a lot of people in my corner this week,” Cecconi said. “You know, telling me they believed in me, giving me food for thought, helping me out.”

It started with Strom immediately after the last game, but it continued the next day when D-backs manager Torey Lovullo called him into his office for a chat.

Lovullo’s greatest strength as a manager is the ability to connect with his players. He knew that Cecconi needed both encouragement and a push.

“I'm better than that and I'm going to be better than that and to focus this week on what I need to focus on,” Cecconi said of Lovullo’s message to him.

Assistant pitching coach Dan Carlson offered some thoughts to Cecconi this week, while veteran catcher Tucker Barnhart sat down with the rookie.

“Tucker literally sat there and went through a lot of stuff with me about pitching and just executing pitches and shared thoughts and all sorts of things that helped me direct my focus today,” Cecconi said. “Any kind of encouragement from a manager or a pitching coach or a veteran catcher is always going to give you confidence.”

Cecconi explained that the mechanical issue he had was not being directional toward home plate. He was spinning off, causing a major lack in command of his pitches.

As a way of rectifying that, he adjusted the placement of his right foot on the pitching rubber. The difference was noticeable Tuesday not just in the outs he got but in the fact that he was able to locate his pitches on both sides of the plate.

“We corrected it the first few days this week,” Cecconi said. “So that way I could just get back to thinking about executing pitches and go out there and not have to think about mechanics during the game.”

The Nationals didn’t get a hit off Cecconi until the fourth and only got one runner as far as second base before Lovullo decided to remove him after six innings and 70 pitches on a hot and muggy night.

“He was outstanding tonight,” Nationals left fielder Jesse Winker said. “He was commanding both sides, up and down. He’s very talented and he had a great night tonight, so hats off to him.”

With the win, the D-backs moved to within one game of the .500 mark at 36-37 -- and they now find themselves in the third NL Wild Card spot. That’s an accomplishment for a team that has dealt with numerous key injuries and has yet to play its best baseball.

“I’m proud of that,” Lovullo said. “But we’ve got a long way to go and a lot better baseball to play.”

The win was the 10th consecutive game that the D-backs have played in that has been decided by five or more runs, marking the longest streak in the Modern Era (since 1900), per Elias Sports Bureau. Over that stretch the D-backs are 6-4.