Allen: 'No panic button to push' over velo dip

April 24th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- was nearly untouchable this spring. He put in countless hours of work in the gym and on the rubber to completely reinvent himself for the 2021 season. He was an option for the rotation entering the year, but he wasn't a leading candidate. However, he made himself irresistible for the Indians and earned the fourth starting spot out of camp.

But ever since, Allen hasn't quite looked the same.

The second game of the four-game set against the Yankees felt all too similar to the series opener for the Indians. The offense came storming out of the gate to put up three runs, but the offense was nonexistent for the rest of the game, as Cleveland fell, 5-3, to New York on Friday night at Progressive Field. And for the second straight outing, Allen couldn't escape the third inning.

The problem? His fastball.

In his first two starts, Allen struggled to find his footing through the first two innings, but he settled in to go five frames in each outing. When he toed the rubber in Cincinnati last time out, the opposite occurred, as he cruised through the first six batters he faced but gave up five runs (three earned) before recording an out in the third. It was then that he noticed that his fastball velocity started to dip.

He averaged 93.2 mph on his heater through the first two innings, but when he ran into trouble, that average velocity dipped to 91 mph.

"I was trying to be too fine, not being aggressive," Allen said.

So, Allen ramped up the intensity between outings over the last week in an attempt to bounce back against the Yankees on Friday. But that extra work may have played a part in the fact that his velocity still floated around 92 mph (when he averaged closer to 93 mph in his first two outings) and didn't see much more success with his heater.

"Not alarmed by it," Allen said. "I threw a little more this week to iron out some things than I had done in previous weeks. So no panic button to push over the velo. It'll go right back up. Obviously, not ideal when you're trying to blow away hitters and you don't have your best fastball."

The bigger issue is that his fastball hasn't been its best for the majority of the season. Even after giving up two long balls on sliders to Aaron Hicks and Rougned Odor, Allen still has held opponents to a .192 average (5-for-26) against his secondary pitches. But against his four-seamer, opponents are hitting a whopping .323 (10-for-31) on the year.

"He went back out [for the second] and fastball velocity seemed to dip just a little bit," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And then his command of his offspeed, he started throwing some balls that were catching too much of the plate. Shoot, at one point they squared up I think about six out of seven balls. They didn't have all hits to show for it, but they really were getting some pretty good swings."

Collectively, Cleveland's pitching staff didn't struggle with command as much as it did on Thursday (permitting a season-high nine walks), but Allen couldn't keep New York off the scoreboard, giving up four runs in 2 1/3 frames. He's now pitched to a 14.54 ERA over his last two outings, allowing seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. His struggles on Friday played a large role in handing the Indians their seventh loss in their last 10 games.

The Indians' offense certainly hasn't made it easier on the pitching staff. Cleveland has been held to three-or-fewer runs 10 times in its 18 games this season, and it has only won one of those contests. But the Indians believe that as the bats attempt to get hotter, Allen will be able to better keep his opponents off the scoreboard with continuous work.

"I don't think we ever thought it would be perfect," Francona said of Allen, a 23-year-old, joining the rotation. "And as long as he's willing to work, which he is, [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] and the guys will get after it with him."