Crew starting pitchers ID top priorities
PHOENIX -- Freddy Peralta was the first of the Brewers’ projected starters out of the chute in Cactus League play on Sunday. When he underwent a recent physical exam as part of the team’s annual intake, new technology at American Family Fields of Phoenix assessed players’ physical strength with a series of exercises and identified areas of improvement. Peralta and the athletic training staff developed a plan.
His unofficial season debut against the Padres was the latest step in executing it before Opening Day.
"I feel strong for the start of the season," Peralta said after throwing 40 pitches and striking out a trio of batters in 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Padres. "That's my goal for this year, just to stay healthy and strong and help the team to win."
MLB.com asked each of the Brewers’ six primary starters to identify their top priority in Spring Training, and this is what they said:
Brandon Woodruff: Consistency
“For me, it's always the consistency of everything. I've already had conversations will ‘Hookie’ [pitching coach Chris Hook] kind of breaking down what can I do better, and we're supposed to soon get into more of those meetings. I know what I do well. It's all about really tightening that up, getting super consistent with that. That's what it comes down to. Because at the end of the day, there's no secrets of what hitters and pitchers are trying to do. It's just being consistent, not getting predictable.
“The slider, for me, is always the pitch that I try to really, really fine-tune. Everything else kind of comes a little bit more naturally. The curveball has evolved. I didn't even throw it in '19, in '20 I threw it a little bit and last year, I think, it turned into one of my most-used secondary pitches. But getting consistent with it is the thing -- for everything. Being super consistent. At the end of the day, you've got to the ball where you want to, and good things happen.”
Corbin Burnes: Mental strength
“I still have a lot I want to accomplish. For me, last year was a good continuation of what I did in 2020, but I still have a lot of things that I think I want to work on mentally, as far as preparedness and going into starts. I only made 28 stars last year, so obviously getting the full season this year and 30-plus starts is a goal of mine. And staying healthy is always the key goal. But, yeah, [mental preparedness] is something that’s becoming more and more prominent in sports. …
“So I've got a few tweaks I'm going to do this year to feel better prepared for situations that might come up. The first thing that comes to mind is throwing the first inning of the postseason last year. That's one of the things that I had never done before, I've never come across that in the past, so, obviously, that's a huge confidence-builder going into this year and into future postseasons. There are just little things like that that I think I can be better prepared for -- that I will be better prepared for this year -- to make those outings go that much smoother.”
Freddy Peralta: Physical strength
“My goal right now is to stay healthy for the whole year and get stronger in areas I need to get stronger, and to be better during the whole season. When I got here, we have all of these tests. We have to make attempts on different things like jumps and side to side [lunges] that let you know if you can be better, even a little better. Like me, when I got here and did my exams the other day, they said that if I do more exercises for my right leg, it can be stronger. So that’s what I’m planning to do right now. There is a new machine they are using to see how strong you are right now. That’s what I’m focusing on: getting everything ready to be stronger and be ready for a full season.”
Eric Lauer: Pick up where he left off
“I would say the thing I’m focused on is making sure my mechanics are the same way as when I finished last year. Pretty much pick up where I left off and don’t stray from that. You’re always pushing for something. You’re always thinking, ‘I need to get better in this way.’ But sometimes you need to stop doing that to realize, ‘Hey, I was in a pretty good spot. Let’s build off that and not do too much, not try to create stuff.’ That can be bad.
“I was in a good spot. I felt like I was strong. I felt like everything was working for me. Just try to get there again and be that and move it through the whole season. I finally got to that spot where I can be comfortable. I want to find that spot and just stay there.”
Adrian Houser: Offspeed
“I think it would be a mix for me of just refining the changeup and the slider. I've been kind of changing the grip on the slider and changeup this offseason, and I think we're heading in the right direction with it. I'm just getting some numbers on it here, finally, getting some feedback on it and going from there and kind of fine-tuning those. [That feedback from tracking technology] is huge. You know if you're on it right or not, and when you do feel the good one, it's like, 'OK, what was that one?' And you kind of get that feel and replicate that. I tried to do a little bit of that in the offseason, but the Rapsodo didn't work where I was at, so it's nice to get here and get some numbers on it. It's the vertical movement and the horizontal movement, trying to get the slider and the changeup to be less vertical, have more depth to them.
“I think it would help with the walks. I think it would knock the walks down. I think some strikeouts would go up if I can get a little bit more swing and miss with the slider. Obviously, with the sinker, we're trying to put in play early, but if we get to 0-2 or 1-2 or something, it would be good have a good put-away pitch with that slider if we can get it down where we want it to be.”
Aaron Ashby: Attack the zone
“For me, I would say kind of along the same lines [as Woodruff]: Being consistent. Making my misses smaller and just really being intentful with my throwing program and having that conviction behind everything I'm doing. There's always things to improve on and things that I want to do this year, but I think just really honing-in the sinker down in the zone, slider down, changeup down, just getting everything kind of more honed in.”
Woodruff, listening in, interjects.
“When he gets ahead and stays ahead, he's going to be really good,” Woodruff says of Ashby. “It's literally that simple. Keep it as simple as possible. Get ahead and stay ahead, and he's going to be fine.”
Said Ashby: “Everything has to be strike to ball, not ball to ball. When big league hitters can check off a pitch, it makes your job a lot harder as a pitcher. So when you get the zone early, stay in the zone and then expand from there, it makes your job a lot easier.”