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Leone searching for answers: 'Just be better'

Righty allowed 6 runs in two-thirds of an inning on Sunday for 2nd time in 10 days
@LangoschMLB
May 6, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Perplexed as to how he could feel so good while being hit so hard in Sunday’s 13-5 loss to the Cubs, Dominic Leone buried himself in video on Monday. Specifically, he cued up clips from Sunday’s debacle and from his outing on April 26. Leone allowed six

ST. LOUIS -- Perplexed as to how he could feel so good while being hit so hard in Sunday’s 13-5 loss to the Cubs, Dominic Leone buried himself in video on Monday.

Specifically, he cued up clips from Sunday’s debacle and from his outing on April 26. Leone allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning in each of those appearances. What Leone didn’t find was any evidence that he had been tipping pitches, something that he had wondered about out loud after exiting Sunday’s game.

Rather, he found more nuanced issues. Leone also studied “some numbers and some trends” with catcher Yadier Molina, so the two could game plan how to get back on track.

“More or less just location really,” Leone said of his trouble spot. “It’s not even balls missing [over the] middle of the plate. We went back and watched the two explosive outings, and nothing was really left middle-middle that did damage. It’s tough because sometimes you almost look for something where you can say, ‘That’s it. That’s exactly what it is mechanics-wise.’ But there really isn’t anything.”

The graphic below shows the Statcast pitch location for each of the 14 hits allowed by Leone since April 26.

Statcast pitch chart showing the location of all hits Leone has allowed since April 26

One thing there has been too much of is unfavorable counts. Kris Bryant’s grand slam on Sunday came after he had worked ahead, 2-1. Leone walked two others in the outing and served up a double to Javier Baez on a 2-1 pitch.

Between the two rocky outings, Leone did have a pair of scoreless ones. Those, along with video evidence, have the right-hander convinced that he’s not all that different than the pitcher who started the year quite strong. Prior to this run of trouble, Leone had allowed two runs over his first 11 1/3 innings this season.

“I hate to drop the blame on some terrible luck, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Leone said. “Guys aren’t missing anything out of my hand. But at the end of the day, I have to go out and execute. I have to stay aggressive, stay on the grind and just be better.”

Martinez on the move

After throwing six pitches (five strikes) in a scoreless inning for Class A Peoria on Sunday, Carlos Martínez returned to St. Louis to check in and play catch at Busch Stadium. Next, he’ll head to Memphis, where he is likely to make his first rehab appearance in relief for the Triple-A club on Wednesday.

While Martinez’s velocity did not register in the upper-90s in Sunday’s appearance, he did utilize three different pitches -- his fastball, slider and changeup -- while inducing three ground-ball outs.

“It was a good first time on the mound for Carlos,” Shildt said. “He felt good. He recovered good. The ball was coming out clean. The ball had movement and life. And ultimately, that’s what you evaluate.”

Spa day

The Cardinals’ relievers walked into the clubhouse on Monday to find a gift from Leone hanging at their lockers. The reliever purchased full-length robes featuring the team’s bird-on-the-bat logo and the individual player number on the front for everyone in the ‘pen.

“Got to keep the bullpen guys comfy,” Leone said. “A little relaxing lounge gear when we’re getting ready for games. I just said, 'Make it look like the home whites.' It’s one of the best uniforms in baseball, so why not have them in the clubhouse?”

Dakota Hudson, who made one early relief appearance before returning to the rotation, has asked if he qualifies for the wardrobe addition. Leone acknowledged that infielder Jedd Gyorko, who pitched in relief last month, is deserving, too. That means another run of orders is likely forthcoming.

“There’s definitely some jealousy going on,” Leone said. “It’s obviously very high quality.”

Worth noting

• Dabo Swinney, head football coach at Clemson, visited Busch Stadium as a guest of Shildt on Monday. The two first connected earlier this year when Swinney accepted an invitation to speak at Spring Training.

• The Cardinals activated outfielder Justin Williams from the 10-day injured list and optioned him to Double-A Springfield. Williams had been recovering from an injury to his right hand that he sustained when he punched a television in December. Williams is the Cardinals' No. 13 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Jenifer Langosch is a senior content manager at MLB.com. She previously covered the Pirates (2007-11) and Cardinals (2012-19). Follow her on Twitter.