DETROIT -- Jonathon Niese has been working on changing his delivery, and he took another step toward his goal on Monday. Niese allowed three earned runs on five hits over six innings with five strikeouts in a 7-4 win over the Tigers.
Niese said he and pitching coach Ray Searage have been trying to keep his delivery tighter and keep him leaning back. The result was better than the line, as noted by manager Clint Hurdle.
"He had 17 out of 24 first-pitch strikes, in front of counts, and he got 11 guys out in three pitches or less," Hurdle said. "He pitched a good ballgame."
Against a Tigers lineup with good hitters from top to bottom, Niese was pleased with the performance. He held Miguel Cabrera to 0-for-3 with a strikeout and double play, and he didn't put a runner in scoring position until the sixth inning, though he did allow two solo home runs.
"It was another great step forward," Niese said. "I battled when I needed to in the last inning. My stuff was crisp. [Catcher Francisco Cervelli] called a great game. Ray and I are working on some stuff in the bullpen, changing my delivery, quieting everything down, so I can stay back and stay on line. Today was a good step in that direction, as far as executing what we're working on."
It was evident in Niese's cutter. He was confident in the pitch and threw 27 cutters, according to Brooks Baseball's PITCHf/x tool, and 15 went for strikes.
"With that new delivery, I was able to stay on top of it," Niese said. "I feel like my cutter, I'm able to manipulate it in different ways, sometimes make it more of a slider, and other times more of a cutter. I feel good with that pitch."
Hurdle agreed, saying the angle on it was much better Monday.
The goal of Niese's delivery adjustment is to keep everything on a line. The pitcher explained that his tendency is to lean forward. By leaning back, it keeps everything straighter and puts less on his arm.
"It just allows my arm to catch up," Niese said. "A lot of times, I lean forward and allow my arm to drag, and my stuff isn't as crisp. If I stay back a little longer, my stuff is more downhill and more crisp."