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Moronta adds changeup to mix, eyes closer role

@mi_guardado
March 9, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reyes Moronta enjoyed a quietly dominant season as a rookie reliever for the Giants last year, but he won’t be content to rest on his laurels. Moronta spent the offseason improving his changeup, and he hopes his new weapon will help set him up for another big

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Reyes Moronta enjoyed a quietly dominant season as a rookie reliever for the Giants last year, but he won’t be content to rest on his laurels. Moronta spent the offseason improving his changeup, and he hopes his new weapon will help set him up for another big year out of the bullpen.

“I worked on it a lot over the offseason,” Moronta said in Spanish. “I think it’s a pitch that’s going to help me a lot. Getting outs in the big leagues is a little harder once hitters start to become more familiar with you. They know that you have two pitches, so when you add a new pitch, it helps a lot.”

Moronta, 26, used his fastball-slider combination to great success last year, posting a 2.49 ERA over 65 innings in 69 appearances for the Giants. He limited opposing batters to a .154 average, which ranked fifth in the Majors among qualified relievers, behind only Jose Leclerc (.123), Josh Hader (.131), Aroldis Chapman (.136) and Craig Kimbrel (.145).

While he issued 37 walks, Moronta also racked up 79 strikeouts (30.2 K%) and ranked in the 98th percentile in hard-hit rate.

Moronta, who gave up one run in the eighth inning against the Cubs on Saturday, could become an even more uncomfortable at-bat now that he has a changeup to pair with his blazing fastball and sharp slider. According to Brooks Baseball, Moronta threw only two changeups over the entire 2018 season, but he’s begun flashing the pitch in his first two exhibition appearances of the spring.

“Moronta, you saw a couple really nice changeups,” manager Bruce Bochy said after Moronta’s Cactus League debut last week. “He got a strikeout on one. That was nice to see him use that. That could be a big pitch for him now that he’s been around a little bit more.”

In addition to diversifying his arsenal, Moronta also focused on improving his conditioning over the offseason. He shed about 15 pounds and said he feels in much better shape compared to last year, when he was listed at 241 pounds.

“I feel lighter,” Moronta said. “I worked on that because I noticed that I was overweight, and that doesn’t help me. I decided to lose weight to be healthier during the season.”

With his electric stuff and fearlessness on the mound, Moronta profiles as the closer of the future, and he made no secret of his desire to eventually ascend to the ninth-inning role for the Giants.

“That’s always been my dream, to be the closer,” Moronta said. “I’m just waiting for them to open the door for me to close. I’m going to keep working hard. I was a closer in the Minors, and I think I have the ability to do it, but I know it’s up to the team and not me.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.