OAKLAND -- Daniel Mengden is a throwback on the mound, not just because of his stirrups and handlebar mustache, but also because of an old school windup that often features double and triple pumps. That windup might look noticeably different this season.
Over the three months baseball was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mengden and A’s pitching coach Scott Emerson devised a plan to modify his delivery. The many moving parts have led to inconsistencies from Mengden, so he is cutting down on the triple pumps and removing the slide step into his windup.
“It’s something we had talked about in the past. Some players are always hesitant to make changes,” Emerson said. “Daniel tweaked his delivery. He was in contact with me, sending video throughout the process. I think his delivery looks a little bit different. The timing mechanisms are the same, but it’s a quicker pace rather than the long lean over. He still goes over his head, but you’ll notice the adjustment.”
The condensed delivery will allow Mengden to work at a quicker pace, which has been an issue for him at times in the past. The main goal in the adjustment is to create more consistency in his time to the plate by keeping his release point the same.
“I’ve been trying to shorten up my arm action just a little bit,” Mengden said. “I felt weird last year. I’m trying to be a little more fluid with not as much movement back and forward. Trying to keep everything smooth and repeatable.”
A’s manager Bob Melvin mentioned Curt Schilling and Greg Maddux as pitchers he’d seen whose success relied heavily on maintaining that consistent arm action.
“When he’s pitched his best games for us, he’s had great rhythm and his times to the plate were consistent,” Melvin said of Mengden. “Great pitchers I’ve been around in the past are really consistent with their times to the plate, which means their arm is in the proper spot all the time. Curt Schilling, fastball away out of the stretch was 1.22-1.25 seconds every time, and it wasn’t a coincidence the ball went exactly where he wanted to all the time.
“It’s more conducive to throwing strikes, being around the plate and being more consistent.”
A fine-tuning of his mechanics along with surgery in February to clean up a small spur in his right elbow has Mengden feeling optimistic he can get things back on track in what is a crucial year for him as he’s now out of Minor League options. He’s gotten off to a good start in Summer Camp, looking sharp early against some of the A’s top hitters during simulated games.
“The ball was jumping out of his hand,” A’s first baseman Matt Olson said of Mengden. “He threw me a really sharp curveball. He looked like he was commanding well. His arm looks real whippy, something where you don’t think it’s going to be on you and then it’s on you real quick.”
There were ups and downs in 2019 for Mengden, who went 5-2 with a 4.83 ERA in 13 games (nine starts). While the 27-year-old righty envisions himself as a starter longterm, he’s well aware that with an A’s rotation that appears to be set, there’s a good chance the club will utilize him in the bullpen as a swing man, similar to the way Chris Bassitt was used in 2019.
Whatever role the A’s throw at Mengden, he’ll be there to answer the call.
“The way I look at it, I always try to view it as, ‘How can I help my team win a championship this year?’” Mengden said. “It doesn’t really matter what my role is. I want to be a starter, but if my role is in the bullpen, that’s another thing I’ll be willing to do. If my job is to eat innings or make a spot start, whenever Bob puts the ball in my hands, I’ll be ready to roll.”