Roark dominating after delivery alteration
Righty using more abbreviated windup, hasn't allowed an earned run over 8 IP this spring
JUPITER, Fla. -- Add Nationals right-hander Tanner Roark to the list of pitchers switching to a more simple delivery instead of a full windup. Roark used a modified windup during his four scoreless innings during Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Cardinals, a sort of abbreviated delivery from his usual starting point.
He started more straight on toward the plate with his shoulders facing third base, instead of a full windup where he begins with his shoulders facing the plate. He is still taking small steps and going through a windup, so he has not completely ditched his previous delivery like his teammate Stephen Strasburg, who started pitching exclusively from the stretch last season.
Instead, Roark compared his modified delivery to David Price of the Red Sox, or Noah Syndergaard of the Mets.
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"Simple, so you don't have to think too much," Roark said of his new delivery. "You don't have to worry about much. If something is off mechanics-wise, it should be an easy fix."
Thinking too much was a problem that plagued Roark throughout the first half of 2017. His season got off to a rocky start after pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, and his ERA snowballed to 5.27 by the All-Star break. He settled down and looked more like himself during the second half of the year, with a 3.90 ERA the rest of the way, but Roark still believes he got in his own head.
So, during the offseason Roark devised a plan to modify his windup. It lines up with the philosophy of pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, who has been stressing the importance of throwing strikes on the first pitch of a count and keeping it simple with his staff.
"I think it's about consistency, throwing strikes," manager Dave Martinez said. "We preach a lot about getting ahead of hitters and throwing strike one. ... I think there's less energy involved as well. They like it. It's working out well so far."
The change has produced strong results this spring. Roark has yet to allow an earned run through eight innings and continues to feel stronger as Spring Training continues. Where at times he had the tendency to get off-balanced from his usual windup, this adjustment should help correct that. And, although he is still getting used to the new delivery, he has plans to continue using it for now.
"It feels simple -- what I want out of mechanics," he said. "You have a tendency to think too much sometimes. Sometimes if you get stuck in a rut or keep overthinking it just adds, adds, adds. So, simplifying mechanics, you can find easy fixes."