DENVER -- Rockies reliever Bryan Shaw saw his ability to spot pitches leave him for two games during the past week. But the right-hander received help, at least in the way of a gift and some inspiration, from the NFL's Denver Broncos.Shaw's unique cut fastball made him an important setup
DENVER -- Rockies reliever Bryan Shaw saw his ability to spot pitches leave him for two games during the past week. But the right-hander received help, at least in the way of a gift and some inspiration, from the NFL's Denver Broncos.
Shaw's unique cut fastball made him an important setup man in recent seasons with the Indians and earned him a three-year, $27 million contract with Colorado this past offseason. Part of his unique preparation method is to throw a football. A quarterback at Livermore (Calif.) High School, Shaw figured that his pitching-hand angle and motion were quite football-like -- possibly a reason hitters struggle to pick up his pitches.
When several Broncos -- including star pass rusher Von Miller and newly signed quarterback Case Keenum -- visited the Rockies before Tuesday night's 8-0 victory over the Padres, Marquette King -- the former Raiders punter who has joined the rival Broncos -- presented the Rockies with two footballs. One is a "K-ball," limited to the kicking game under NFL rules. The other is now Shaw's training ball.
After giving up five runs on six hits with a walk and a home run in the two games against the Cubs last weekend, Shaw struck out all three Padres batters he faced on Tuesday. He didn't get to use the football pregame -- rainy, wet conditions prevented him -- but he attributed some magic to it.
"I got the ball yesterday, and yesterday felt good -- I got to hold it," Shaw said before Wednesday's game, when he walked two and gave up a run in one inning of a 5-2 Rockies win over the Padres.
Shaw isn't the first to find function in a football. Former Rangers and Padres pitching coach Tom House used it with Major Leaguers and crossed over to work in football with players such as Tom Brady and, before he became a Mets Minor League outfield hopeful, ex-Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
Often, it just breaks up training monotony. So don't be surprised if a bunch of Colorado pitchers spent afternoons punting and kicking field goals.
Shaw, who received balls from the Cleveland Browns when he pitched for the Indians and brought a football with him when he came to Coors Field to finalize his contract in December, uses it for both.
"The way I throw my fastball, my cutter, it kind of mimics throwing a football," he said. "So I like throwing that before playing catch, to kind of loosen my arm and get the motion going, kind of get the feeling down and obviously move on to playing catch with a baseball."
Two outings -- three runs in one inning of an April 10 loss to the Padres and five runs in Saturday's 16-5 loss to the Cubs -- have driven Shaw's ERA to 7.11 and accounted for seven of the 17 hits off him in 15 appearances. Shaw has made 70 or more appearances each of the past five years, so he has ample chance to improve his stats.
The proper pitch action returned against the Padres. Shaw noted that Wednesday's two-walk, one-run appearance was because he went for strikeouts rather than weak contact, which is his norm.
"I'd been a little more missing middle than I'd like," Shaw said. "And if you leave pitches middle, they hit them. So I'm focused on getting back to getting out front, driving -- all the little things -- and working the outer thirds."
The ball Shaw packed for the flight to Miami to begin a nine-game, 10-day road trip should help him hone the proper mechanics.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.