DENVER -- As Mike Dunn pitched his first 1-2-3 scoreless inning since returning from the disabled list a month ago in Tuesday's 11-3 win over the Indians, the Rockies reliever felt reassured.
Admittedly playing with a subconscious apprehension of re-flaring his back after spasms shelved him six weeks ago, Dunn felt he may have created poor mechanical habits that had led to a 9.00 ERA in 13 outings between his May 3 return and Tuesday.
"I think my last couple outings before I went on the DL, I was a little out of whack and when I came back, I was a little more closed off and getting a little bit more rotational and not even noticing," Dunn said. "And when things are going well, you don't really look at stuff like that."
Dunn said he initially felt his mid-back spasms -- an injury he'd never suffered before -- throwing sliders while warming up for an outing, then again during a bullpen session three days later, a telling concern given his slider accounts for 43.3 percent of his pitches. Batters were slugging it .222 before the DL, and they have slugged it .773 since his return, according to Statcast™.
"When I came back, I didn't have any discomfort," Dunn said. "Everything felt good, but my mechanics were a little off that I think that my body was trying to protect itself from getting hurt again or something like that. Your body does weird things sometimes, and you don't catch on to it until too late."
When Dunn was placed on the DL on April 26, he had entered nine of his 10 outings pitching with a tie or lead, and he was a significant factor in the bullpen's collective success in April. Rockies relievers had a 1.95 ERA when pitching with a tie or lead after Dunn made his final appearance before being shelved, and Dunn made six appearances in the eighth inning -- four preceded a Greg Holland save.
Since his return, Dunn has been the eighth-inning setup man for just one of Holland's 11 saves since, and he's entered six of his 14 outings when the Rockies have either been ahead or behind by four runs or more.
"Obviously, yeah, you want to get back to where you're pitching when you've got the lead and stuff like that, but you've got to earn the trust of the coaching staff and your teammates as well," Dunn said.