Fast times: Lowe encouraged by velocity bump

Courtesy of an intriguing, yet simple, adjustment, Tigers righty sees results

July 2nd, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG -- The adjustment for Mark Lowe was simple, yet it sounded crazy: Throw like a catcher.

Don't rear back as much. Don't waste motion. Just get your arm up in a position to release the ball sooner. Lowe tried it earlier this week, and he actually threw harder.

"Just waiting for that right phrase for somebody to say that I can think about that's simple," Lowe said. "That's the way I've always been. If it's one simple thing, that's the best thing for me. And that's to throw like a catcher. And it was there. ...

"For whatever reason, that's four or five miles an hour. It doesn't make sense."

By throwing like a catcher, Lowe looked more like a viable pitcher. And even with a home run allowed to break up a shutout, an otherwise meaningless ninth inning in the Tigers' 10-2 win over the Rays on Friday looked a little more important.

"I was very encouraged by the velocity and the way he attacked the hitters," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Lowe's resurgence last year -- the work that earned him a two-year, $11 million deal from the Tigers last December -- came with a fastball that averaged 95.5 mph, his highest velocity since 2011, according to Fangraphs. His fastball slowed this year to just over 92 mph, the velocity he showed during his injury-induced struggles in 2013 and '14.

He was healthy, he insisted, but he wasn't throwing nearly as hard. The resulting struggles took him from setup duty into a mop-up role, saved for low-pressure situations to work out his issues.

Short of injuries, it was the biggest struggle he had encountered in his career.

"This is the first team that's really made a true investment in me, like, 'We want you here for two years.' And I haven't done a quarter of my job," Lowe said. "I had one good month. And it's tough to go home at night and deal with that, when you expect a lot out of yourself. You're working with your teammates here every day, and you know they expect something out of you, too. When you bring that to the table, it's a tough pill to swallow.

"It had been two months, and I was searching. So I didn't know if maybe it's going to come back next year. I was hoping it would come soon. I didn't know it was going to be overnight like that once I got my arm in the right spot."

Teammate Francisco Rodriguez could tell the difference playing catch with him Tuesday. Others noted the difference when he threw a bullpen session here on Thursday, making him eager to take it into a game.

His first pitch Friday was a 93-mph fastball that Logan Forsythe hit for a leadoff single. His next three pitches to Brad Miller registered at 95-96 mph.

"He got a home run," Lowe said. "It wasn't a bad pitch, and I had a good feel for it."

Lowe retired the side from there. By the end, he was pumping fastballs, making sure he could maintain the velocity. It stayed at 94-95.

The relief was evident. It doesn't mean he's back yet, but at least one of the key ingredients might be.

"It was refreshing," he said. "The last two months, I've been working, working, working, trying to find something. And finally, a light at the end of the tunnel."