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Cards staff embracing new pitching technology

Cardinals lose prospect Urías on waivers; Edman prepped for utility role
@anne__rogers
February 11, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- On one of John Brebbia’s final pitches during his bullpen session Monday, he let out an excited yell soon after his ball landed in his catcher’s glove and he heard a number called out behind him. The feel matched what was real. Brebbia was using Rapsodo technology

JUPITER, Fla. -- On one of John Brebbia’s final pitches during his bullpen session Monday, he let out an excited yell soon after his ball landed in his catcher’s glove and he heard a number called out behind him.

The feel matched what was real.

Brebbia was using Rapsodo technology during his bullpen Monday to help see the data on his pitch velocity, spin rate, spin axis and more. Brebbia wore a censor on his right elbow, and Jack Flaherty, alongside some of the Cardinals data coordinators, was calling out the results of each throw.

It’s part of the technology infusion that the Cardinals -- and most of baseball -- have utilized recently. Brebbia wants to use it frequently this spring as he looks to secure a bullpen role for the third straight year with the Cardinals. The right-hander had a 3.59 ERA in 72 2/3 innings across 66 games last year, mostly in a middle-inning relief role.

As the 29-year-old tries to mold his traditional view of baseball with the technology, he remembers a phrase he heard years ago when he was in the Yankees’ farm system.

“It was one of the coordinators that said, ‘Real is not feel and feel is not real,’” Brebbia said. “And I thought that was interesting because maybe I really feel like I’m getting out front, I really feel like I’m turning that pitch over, so why isn’t it moving? Well, now we have the data to say, ‘No, John, you idiot. You are not doing this, you’re not doing that, so what you were feeling was not actually real.’

“I think it’s a really cool thing to be able to associate actual hard data, because then when I’m on the mound, hopefully those adjustments can be made quicker.”

Cardinals Spring Training FAQs

There’s a delicate balance between relying solely on data and relying solely on feel, though. Brebbia tries to entertain both. The goal is always to improve as a pitcher.

“I’m still very closely tied to how traditional baseball works and I think that’s where I’m at my best,” Brebbia said. “Using all this stuff, I’m extremely curious about it and I want to learn as much as I can. But as of right now, it’s an accessory to try and help refine or tweak or fine tune something that ultimately takes place between my mind and my body.”

Urías claimed off waivers
After designating infielder Ramón Urías for assignment Thursday to make room for left-hander Ricardo Sanchez on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals lost Urías to the Orioles, who claimed the 25-year-old off waivers.

Urías was listed as the Cardinals’ No. 29 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30. He never reached the big leagues with the Cardinals after signing out of the Mexican League in 2018 and hitting .263/.369/.424 in 96 games for Triple-A Memphis last season. He would have likely had a hard time finding Major League playing time this year, too, with Tommy Edman, Edmundo Sosa and Yairo Muñoz projected as the Cardinals’ utility infielders. With the Orioles, Urías has a chance to crack the Major League roster.

Notes
• Kwang-Hyun Kim’s first bullpen session highlighted Cardinals pitchers who threw off the mound Tuesday. On the eve of their first official workout, Brett Cecil, Jake Woodford, Matthew Liberatore and Seth Elledge also threw bullpens Tuesday morning.

• Edman arrived at camp Tuesday morning holding four different gloves and a cup of coffee in his hand. He’ll probably need all of them for what the Cardinals have planned for him this year.

The versatile defender is planning on getting playing time at six positions -- second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots -- this spring, and the Cardinals want Edman be a true utility player when the season opens, moving around the field and getting his bat in the lineup every day.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.