Sheer dominance from 'Glas you want to see'

Rays' top returning starter uses whole arsenal to K 7, allow 1 hit in 4 innings

March 12th, 2021

With Charlie Morton in Atlanta and Blake Snell in San Diego, is the Rays’ top returning starting pitcher.

Tampa Bay doesn’t want Glasnow to feel like he has to be The Guy in its rotation, though. The Rays have plenty of talent and depth behind him, and manager Kevin Cash acknowledged it would be “pretty impossible” for one person, talented as he may be, to fill the void left by two veterans.

All the Rays want from Glasnow? “Just go out and be the special pitcher that he’s capable of being,” Cash said.

Glasnow showed his potential to be special on Thursday afternoon during the Rays’ 2-0 loss to the Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla. The right-hander flashed a full four-pitch mix as he struck out seven, walked one and allowed only one hit over four easy innings against Atlanta’s projected everyday lineup.

“That's the Glas you want to see out there,” catcher Kevan Smith said.

It was all there from the start. Leadoff hitter Ronald Acuña Jr. reached on an infield single rolled down the line to third baseman Mike Brosseau, then Glasnow retired 11 Braves in a row. The streak ended with a four-pitch walk to Marcell Ozuna with two outs in the fourth inning, but Glasnow responded by striking out Travis d’Arnaud.

Overall, Glasnow threw 52 pitches, 34 for strikes. All the more encouraging? They weren’t all fastballs and curveballs, although he fired a bunch of 97- to 98-mph heaters, touched 99 on the stadium’s radar gun and mixed in his curveball as well. Glasnow used his new cutter-slider more than anything else in his arsenal and dropped in some changeups for strikes.

“I felt really good. Timing was good. I think just incorporating the slider and the changeup made everything a lot easier,” Glasnow said. “I think just the confidence of knowing that I have some other stuff I can throw for strikes kind of gets hitters off-balance, and I just have more confidence going into the at-bat.”

Glasnow's confidence was apparent in his willingness to throw all his pitches. His dominance was evident in the uncertain, occasionally ugly swings taken by some of the All-Stars in Atlanta’s lineup. With Acuña on base in the first inning, Glasnow struck out Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman and Ozuna, all swinging and the last one lunging for a slider.

“Not thinking, trusting his stuff, just being athletic and just being confident with all of his pitches,” Smith said. “I think we went into today with a pretty good strategy to work in some other pitches earlier in the count to get ahead on guys, and I think that was just an overall good confidence-booster for him moving forward.

“And you always love seeing funky swings from a lineup of that caliber.”

Between a flyout and a groundout in the second, Glasnow struck out Dansby Swanson on three straight offspeed pitches. He froze Jake Lamb during a quick seven-pitch third inning. And he threw everything at the heart of Atlanta’s lineup in the fourth, forcing in-between swings from Albies on a changeup and a breaking ball before getting d’Arnaud to take another breaking ball for a called third strike.

“That was outstanding -- I think our best pitching performance so far this spring,” Cash said. “The slider looked good early on. The fastball was there. He was able to get back in the count. To show that much trust with the new pitch is very encouraging.”

Glasnow said he has been working a lot on his new offering with pitching coach Kyle Snyder between outings. While most refer to the pitch as a slider or cutter-slider, his mentality when throwing it is to get behind it like a cut fastball. That leads to late movement and velocity readings in the 86- to 90-mph range, an ideal middle ground between his fastball and curveball.

You can typically bank on a good outing from Glasnow if he’s able to land his curveball for strikes early. Having a reliable third pitch like that should keep hitters from sitting on his fastball or, at least, give him more time to find his curveball command. Being confident and capable enough to throw that new breaking pitch when most hitters are gearing up for a fastball, Smith said, is a “game-changer” for someone like Glasnow.

“I think when you're hitting against him and you're worried about elevated heaters and curveballs, when he can show that he can throw that cutter-slider for a strike and use it as a put-away pitch, that just throws a whole 'nother wrinkle into it,” Smith said. “And then he was throwing some pretty good changeups to righties and lefties. When you look up at the board and see 91-92, you start questioning what the heck that was.”

Yes, it’s only Spring Training. And yes, Glasnow has already shown that he can be a pretty dominant starter. But if he can consistently command his entire arsenal the way he did on Thursday during the regular season, he’ll be The Guy whether he feels like he has to be or not.

“It's hard for me to get out of that ‘what I'm working on’ mindset. Today, the only goal was I need to treat this like a regular game,” Glasnow said. “So it led to a lot more consistent times for me, and that's something Kyle always talks to me about. So I'm just happy I executed that and then the stuff just follows along. So I'm definitely encouraged by today.”