Paddack continues to boost fastball velocity in win over Rockies

June 11th, 2024

MINNEAPOLIS -- How exactly does a Major League pitcher add 3.5 mph of average velocity to his fastball in less than a week?

revealed after his start at Yankee Stadium last Wednesday that he owes much of that to a conversation on the airplane with one of his teammates.

“Cole Sands gets a big shout-out,” Paddack said after that start. “He broke down some mechanical stuff for me that helped him this past offseason gaining some velocity.”

While Paddack’s declining velocity jumped from a 91.5 mph average to a 95.0 mph average in that start against the Yankees, he still didn’t see strong results against the tough Bronx Bombers lineup -- but certainly he did on Monday against the Rockies, when he threw 6 1/3 scoreless frames with some of his highest-caliber stuff of the season to lead Minnesota to a 5-0 win.

“This whole week, I just told myself, ‘Continue to stay on the gas,’” Paddack said. “Everything has been sharp. My velo is back, my stuff is in a good spot, I’m in a good spot mentally.”

His average fastball on Monday was up to a season-best 95.2 mph, his highest mark in a game as a starting pitcher since 2021, before he came to the Twins’ organization in a trade and underwent his second career Tommy John surgery. All of his other pitches were up more than a mile an hour, including the curveball that emerged as his most reliable secondary pitch.

And it all started when Paddack talked to seat-mate Sands while the team was in transit from Houston to New York on the club’s last road trip.

Sands has gone through his own journey of velocity discovery over the last two seasons, working with Tread Athletics to boost his own fastball from a 91.6 mph average when he debuted in 2022 to a 95.4 mph mark this year, which has helped him take the next step from up-and-down mop-up man to leverage reliever at times this season.

As part of that work, Sands got sucked into the world of breaking down pitching mechanics.

“You can probably ask any of the guys in here if they played with me over the last five years, I was super into mechanics,” Sands said. “I would watch a lot of video. I would do a lot of dry work.”

Paddack pulled up the video of an arbitrary pitch from his previous start and showed it to Sands, who immediately spotted a nuanced issue that had actually held Sands back in the past, too: Paddack was lifting his back heel too early as he started his movement toward home plate.

By getting up onto his toe too early, Paddack was using his quadriceps instead of his stronger glutes to propel his lower half and prime his delivery, which caused added strain in his arm and some pec soreness. That also caused his momentum to subtly fall more toward third base than toward home.

“I just told him one thing that kind of helped me over the past two years,” Sands said.

Paddack stood up and went through his delivery mechanics with Sands, who told him to keep his heel driven more into the ground and feel more like he’s coiling his lower half to build tension, with the right heel down, that knee feeling like it’s pointing toward second base, and the left leg crossing over his body as part of the leg kick.

Paddack felt an immediate difference -- and was so encouraged by it that he spent the off-day in New York in his hotel room, with mirrors placed around him, just doing his delivery over and over again to lock it in.

“Dude, [the mechanics] feel so good,” Paddack told Sands the next day.

They just needed to see it in action -- and on the first pitch of Paddack’s start in New York, he fired 95.7 mph, which got Sands’ eyes popping out of his head.

“I'm like, ‘That's crazy!’” Sands said. “I didn't even expect that.”

And on Monday, as Paddack locked it in, he hit 97.6 mph, his hardest pitch of the season, while sitting 95 mph with the fastball -- and The Sheriff’s mojo was back.

“I just felt like myself out there tonight,” Paddack said. “It was fun. I was able to get that emotion back that I feel like I hadn’t had the past couple starts.”