ARLINGTON -- An 11-year MLB veteran, Jake Odorizzi knows he’s not the same pitcher he was 10 or even five years ago, whether the difference is strength or endurance or simply his stuff in general.
“I think in ways I’m better, and then in ways, you can merge the two together,” Odorizzi said on a Zoom call on Monday afternoon. “So the experience I've had over my entire career has definitely made me a better pitcher. If I would have known what I know now at a younger age, that’s like a career-changing thing, but it only comes with experience.”
Whatever the differences, Odorizzi now joins the Rangers, with all the extra experience and growth, after a trade that sent Kolby Allard to the Braves last week. He calls it a “tremendous landing spot,” as the right-hander comes off an injury-plagued season in 2022.
Odorizzi, 32, combined to go 6-6 with a 4.40 ERA over 22 starts between Houston and Atlanta as he struggled with lower leg discomfort that kept him on the injured list from May 17-July 3. He pitched to a 5.24 ERA and a 5.14 FIP over 10 starts with the Braves and did not appear in their postseason run.
The right-hander felt like he was hitting his stride before the ankle injury, but he was never able to fully get back on track when he returned to the mound. Now, Odorizzi said he’s fully healthy and ready to hit the ground running with Texas.
“The biggest thing was the landing,” he said. “So I was leaning a little softer than I wanted to, not able to twist and stay as firm on that front side. So just a little bit of bad habits to fight through. At some points I was able to, and other points the consistency wasn't there. I don't think there was a full amount of trust in the ankle at that moment. It feels a lot better now. It's just a matter of needing probably an offseason to recover and be back to normal, but it feels great now and I've already started offseason workouts.”
Odorizzi no doubt adds pitching depth for a Rangers club that’s in desperate need of it. He’s posted a career 3.99 ERA (103 ERA+) and when healthy, he is an upgrade to almost every spot in the Texas rotation.
With Jon Gray as the only established starting pitcher under contract at the moment, Odorizzi figures to slot into the back end of the Rangers’ rotation. It’s the first step in addressing a rotation that ranked 26th in MLB in ERA (4.63) in 2022. But with free agent Martín Pérez reportedly preparing to accept the Rangers’ qualifying offer, Odorizzi could once again join him in a rotation for the first time since they were teammates in Minnesota in 2019.
Odorizzi also rejoins two other former Twins on the Rangers, as both catching coordinator Bobby Wilson and catcher Mitch Garver have been batterymates with the right-hander during his time in Minnesota between 2018-20.
“That's huge for me as a pitcher on a one-year deal,” Odorizzi said. “It's nice to have some familiarity behind the plate especially. [Garver] and I have worked together my entire time in Minnesota, so he knows me very well. ... I know he does a great job back there. That gives me a better starting point for joining the team.”
Odorizzi added that he’s excited to join both a rotation and a ballclub that’s “on the way up” as Texas prepares to continue assessing both the trade and free-agent pitching markets this winter.
“I know last year didn't go as they wanted it to as a group,” Odorizzi said of the Rangers. “I can understand that, but I think just continuing to grow, each player trying to do their own thing within themselves, and then you have an ownership group and a front office that showed last offseason that they're willing to spend. … We'll see what the team looks like come Spring Training time, but with the effort they're putting in, they definitely know the direction that they're trying to go and take this team.”