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Blue Jays latest to embrace spin-rate machine

Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, left, and pitching coach Pete Walker, right, arrive spring training baseball practice in Dunedin, Fla., on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) (Nathan Denette/AP)
February 15, 2019

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have followed the lead of several other teams around Major League Baseball by using a Rapsodo machine to analyze spin-rate data.When right-hander Aaron Sanchez took the mound at the Bobby Mattick complex on Friday afternoon for his bullpen session, he was watched by a

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have followed the lead of several other teams around Major League Baseball by using a Rapsodo machine to analyze spin-rate data.
When right-hander Aaron Sanchez took the mound at the Bobby Mattick complex on Friday afternoon for his bullpen session, he was watched by a Rapsodo camera, which is used to understand how much movement, velocity and spin pitchers are getting on every toss.
The Pirates, Mariners and Indians are just a few of the teams that have started to use the Rapsodo machine this spring. It is popular in college programs as well with coaches using it to give athletes precise information about their mechanics so that even the slightest variance can be measured.
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"So far, so good," manager Charlie Montoyo said when asked if his pitchers have been receptive to the idea. "Everybody has been so far."
Sanchez seemed a little bit noncommittal on the topic but said that he gets all of his information from the coaching staff and then determines what to do with it. Others, such as reliever Ryan Tepera, have been openly talking about embracing the technology and getting a better feel for exactly what their pitches do and what changes need to be made.
"That's the new phase of baseball that we're in," Tepera said. "In the offseason, I work out ... where a couple of guys play around with the Rapsodo and all that. I just bought a house, which has a batting cage/pitching mound in my backyard, and I was able to go out there and critique some stuff mechanically and look at different numbers.
"I think it's something that's always interested me. I look forward to [having a chance to use it] in Spring Training."
Late risers
One notable change the Blue Jays made to their Spring Training routine this year is pushing back the start time of their workouts. For at least the last decade, Toronto typically began each day by busing players over to the Bobby Mattick complex at 9 a.m. ET. The first two days of camp, that same bus was scheduled two hours later.
The thinking is that a later start will let the players get more sleep. Many athletes are used to being nighthawks because of the regular start time of games, so this moves things a little closer to a normal schedule while still providing plenty of time to get a workday in.
"It's based on evidence," general manager Ross Atkins said. "It's the most important thing you can do in recovery as it relates to performance."
Slow and steady for Phelps
The Blue Jays intend to take a cautious approach with right-hander David Phelps this spring, and although they remain optimistic that he'll be ready for Opening Day, they're also not going to force it.
Phelps, approximately 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery, signed a one-year deal with the Blue Jays during the offseason, and is expected to become a key setup man for closer Ken Giles once fully healthy.
The 32-year-old hasn't pitched since 2017, when he posted a 3.40 ERA over 55 2/3 combined innings for the Marlins and Mariners in 2017. He has a 3.89 ERA over parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues.
"We're going to need David Phelps to compete in the American League East," Montoyo said. "I really want him to get back to where he was. I talked to him yesterday, 'Whenever you're ready, you're going to let us know.' Whenever he's ready, he'll be there. We don't know if he'll be ready for Opening Day or not, but if he is, great. If not, we're going to be patient with him."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.