Henry earns first win in second big league start

Lefty credits preparation, trust from coaching staff for improved outing

August 10th, 2022

PHOENIX -- Walking from his nearby hotel to the ballpark Tuesday afternoon, Tommy Henry could feel the difference.

Gone were some of the nerves and anxiety he experienced on Wednesday when he made his first big league start against the Guardians in Cleveland.

"I don't really know what that's a product of," Henry said. "Some days you feel more nervous than others, more anxious than others. Today, I felt pretty at ease. I think that's a combination of preparation; it's the feeling of the trust that the coaching staff and the players around you instill. I was ready to go. I was excited to play and have a little bit of fun out there."

The results were quite a bit different, too, as Henry allowed just one run over seven innings in the D-backs’ 6-4 win over the Pirates at Chase Field.

Henry picked up the win and afterwards he went through the rookie tradition of having his teammates shower him with, well, everything.

"I think the better question is what didn't we shower him with," outfielder Jake McCarthy said with a smile. "We're talking about a collective effort -- just everything from the kitchen, everything from the bathroom, so probably should shower a few times tonight."

Henry's eyes were noticeably red and he was asked what caused that.

"I don't know," Henry said. "I just closed my eyes and braced for impact. But it was pretty cool being part of a tradition like that. I don't know how my hair looks. I've had a battle trying to get the combination of like shaving cream and oat milk or something that clumped up out of it. So yeah, not my best form right now. But it's all worth it. It was a lot of fun."

Outside of just feeling more comfortable, the difference for Henry from his debut in which he allowed four runs over five innings was the sharpness of his breaking pitches, particularly his slider.

Against the Guardians, Henry's slider lacked bite and the hitters took advantage. His curveball was OK, but it's a pitch he doesn't use as often, throwing it five times in that game as opposed to 21 sliders.

Over the last four days, pitching coach Brent Strom has worked with Henry to refine the grip he uses on his breaking pitches, having him hold the ball deeper into his hands rather than out on his fingertips.

The results showed up in the numbers. Whereas he had gotten just two swings-and-misses out of 15 on his slider against the Guardians, the Pirates swung and missed four times out of 15.

"Shout out to Strom," Henry said. "It's something we worked on all this week in preparation for this outing and for outings going forward. It was nice to see a little bit of positive feedback from the work that we put in."

Henry, who was selected by the D-backs in the second round of the 2019 MLB Draft, was a polished college pitcher from the University of Michigan who had pitched well on a big stage like the College World Series.

Still, nothing prepares a player for his first big league game and when his debut was over, Henry vowed he would feel more comfortable and pitch better the second time around and he delivered.

"I'd say [I felt] pretty significantly different," Henry said. "I felt like I could breathe a little bit today, settle in a little bit. And I think that comes with being more familiar with everyone, familiar with the routine, the guys, coaches, everything. Just being a little bit more familiar."